A couple months ago I sat in on a panel about college recruitment process for swimmers. As a former D1 swimmer at the University of Georgia, I went through the college recruiting process at an early age. Now, the NCAA has changed the rules up from when I was recruited and allows collegiate coaches to contact swimmers EVEN EARLIER than before. If you’re unsure how to even go about the college recruiting process, this post is for you!
Let’s dive in!
Originally when I was recruited, coaches were allowed to contact swimmers starting July 1st after their junior year. I remember specifically waking up on July 1st—hoping to get some calls and the first school to call me at 8AM, sharp, was the Army at West Point.
As I went through that day, I got an array of calls from different schools and eventually had to start narrowing down who I liked/wanted to call back and eventually, who I wanted to “officially” visit.
For those of you who don’t know the difference between an “official” and an “unofficial” visit—it’s basically who pays the expenses. On an “official” visit, it is at the school’s expense and the team/coaches are inviting you (as the swimmer) to come visit the school/see their program. Everything from your lodging, transportation, and food while being there is paid for. Each student is allowed 5 “official” visit(s) per year.
“Unofficial” visits are paid for you at your own expense. You could drive right now into the campus of a university and look around. You could walk into the admission office or career center and have a conversation with an employee of that university without requiring an invitation. These visits are all paid for by you and there is NO limitation to the amount of unofficial visits you take. It is possible during unofficial for you to contact the swim coaches and see if you could swing by a practice and/or meet with them. It just needs to be after June 15th of your Sophomore year, due to NCAA rules so the coaches are officially allowed to talk to you.
Here’s a quick timeline of how the NCAA rules have changed over the past few years:
For me, I had a very different recruiting process than you may. I was lucky enough to have schools calling me and offering me to come on ‘official” visits, whereas—that isn’t always the case for everybody. What I did do for schools I was interested in was narrow them down to 5 and take all 5 of my “official” visits. Plus, I ended up taking 2 “unofficial” visits as well.
From there, I created a list of things that were important to me no matter what school I picked (i.e. climate, distance from home, academic rigor, scholarship ability, impact I could have on the team, school size, etc.) and after each visit I took, I ranked on a scale from 1-10 (on each criteria) what I felt like the school ranked.
So each school essentially had up to 100 points it could generate and I sorted through all my criteria one by one to give each one a “grade.”
University of Georgia won my ranking system with a whopping 92 points, so I ended up committing and swimming there.
What About the Swimmers Who AREN’T Getting Chased by Schools?
1.) Advocate for Yourself!
I cannot stress how important this is. This is the first step in a very long process of life and work, where as a young swimmer you need to stand up and “show” these coaches why you’d be a great fit for their program.
Each school has a website about their team and on the website, you can find a questionnaire. That questionnaire is sent to the coaching staff alerting them that you are interested in their school. This is a great first step to do during YOUR sophomore year, before the coaches can reach out to you to give them a heads up you are interested in them.
You have to remember as a swimmer, there’s TONS of you and only a handful of coaches at each school. Don’t expect these coaches to be running around and chasing you down—it should be quite the opposite. If you really want to swim for them, tell them. Show them. That in itself will teach you many life lessons along the way.
Also, don’t let your parents run this process. If you’re the swimmer, advocating for YOURSELF is huge. Coaches want to see you take initiative in this process—they don’t want to hear from your parents. If you’re reading this blog, open up your internet browser, find a school you like, and fill out a questionnaire now! Don’t wait for mom and dad to push you to do so. Own your swimming and you will own your success!
2.) Explore What You WANT to Study!
Another great way to look into schools is to have a GENERAL idea of a couple career paths you may want to study. This will help you understand:
a.) Whether the schools you’re interested offer the subject matters you want to study
b.) Whether you’re going to require continuing education post college, which may change your financial needs in college
You want to balance this with the opportunity of swimming at a big school or a small school. It’s essentially like being a BIG fish in a SMALL pond or a SMALL fish in a BIG pond. If you know you’re wanting to go to medical school, but the big D1 university is offering you no scholarship—while a couple D2 universities are offering you FULL scholarships, maybe you consider the D2 option knowing the debt you’ll accrue through the years of undergrad and medical school.
3.) Don’t Think that JUST BECAUSE You Aren’t at a D1 University—You are a Failure!
Did you know most top D2 schools are FASTER than lower end D1 schools? I feel like a lot of swimmers forget that. Sure, everyone wants to have that big time college experience—but that may not be in the cards for you. After all, every college is fun and you’ll have a great experience no matter where you go.
There’s been tons of Olympians and National Team members that have come out of an array of different programs—so think of college as a stepping stone, not necessarily the LAST STEP in your swimming career!
4.) Look on CollegeSwimming.com!
This is the greatest piece of insight I can give you. As a swimmer it’s up to you to know how “valuable” you are to a school, and collegeswimming.com allows you to understand just that. As your narrowing down schools, look at their conference meet times and see how you’d rank currently in their conference.
When it comes to recruiting, obviously, schools want swimmers who will score points and help them rank higher in their conference and nationally. If you’re confused on why you’re not getting a call back or why this other school is really hounding you to come visit, it’s normally due to how much of an impact you can make.
5.) Don’t THINK you CAN’T Change it!
Figuring out what school to go to can seem like a HUGE life decision. Arguably, it might be one of the biggest life decisions you have had to make by this point in your life—but at the end of the day, you can always change it.
As someone who has been an over thinker for the majority of my life. Hearing this advice really helped me understand that YES—this is a big decision, but if it isn’t the right fit—you can change it.
Also it is important to note that the age of swimmers swimming is getting older. So before swimming in college seemed like the final cap to a swimmers career, but now with the ISL and post-graduate training groups–your time swimming in college may just be a stepping stone to the NEXT BIG THING. It may not be the end of your career. Understanding this will also help keep this decision in perspective and help you make a great decision on which school to go too.
If you have any questions on the college recruiting process and/or would like to get in touch with me–feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Otherwise, best of luck and I hope this post was helpful!
Until Next Time,