Most of the country’s top high school swimmers look to attend a swimming university that will help them reach their potential in and out of the pool. Fortunately, potential collegiate swimmers have plenty of options. There are nearly 450 swimming universities that sponsor the sport on the men’s side and almost 600 that offer women’s swimming. This selection and variety ensure plenty of options for a variety of geographical, athletic, educational and other priorities to be met at a swim university.
College swimming is one of the NCAA’s oldest sports. The first NCAA Men’s Swimming and Diving Championships were held in 1924, making it the second-oldest national championship event that the organization runs. It started up three years after its first, the NCAA Track and Field Championships. The inaugural NCAA Women’s Swimming and Diving Championships took place in 1982, after the NCAA took women’s sports under its wing as well. Of course, this sport’s overall history goes well before that, including it being a sport at the first Summer Olympics in 1896.
The college swimming schedule is a challenging one. It starts in October for most teams before culminating in the spring. Conference championships are claimed in February while the NCAA Swimming Championships for D1 swimming, D2 swimming and D3 swimming take place in March. Although the number of meets that each swimming university competes in prior to those championship events vary, they generally number around 10.
The competition for places on NCAA swimming teams is extensive. Of the 314,529 high school swimmers, 22,545 of them will find a spot on a college swim team, about 7%. Those with D1 aspirations will need to be amongst an even more select group as only 3% make the jump from high school swimming to a D1 swimming university.
What to look for in a swimming university
Early on in the college swimming recruiting process, it’s important to keep your options open. Even if you have one that you’re focused on, do also consider others. A lot can change during your time in high school, and you might even discover that a swimming university that you hadn’t considered initially ends up being the best overall fit for you. But, as you near your college swimming recruiting decision, you do want to start narrowing that list. This will generally happen in your junior and senior years.
Much of this narrowing process will come naturally as you speak to coaches and get a feel for how you may or may not fit in their programs and at their institutions. Of course, the quality of the coaching is important. Also, see what times swimmers in your event are posting there in order to get a feel for how you’d fit in from a competitive standpoint. Consider the quality of the facilities. Fancy is nice and all, but what’s important is how those facilities will help you improve. You want to be at a place that pushes you to get as close to your potential as possible.
You do want to ensure that you take a holistic view of a program. Top times by current swimmers is great, but some of the nation’s best coaches are not always at schools that place highly at the NCAA Swimming Championships. More importantly, find a coaching style that will bring the most out of you. With that said, ensure that everything else that the swimming university has to offer fits and helps you. You’re going to spend plenty of time there out of the pool, and you want the academic and social aspects of your time there to help you grow as well.
Some prospective collegiate swimmers consider the NCSA Power Rankings for swimming universities. These consider not only the quality of each swim team but also that school’s academic ranking, graduation rate and college search activity. Here are the NCSA Power Rankings’ top 10 men’s programs:
- North Carolina
And these are its top 10 women’s programs:
- North Carolina
Swimming universities: D1, D2 and D3
As you narrow your list of swimming universities, it’s likely that most will fall into one of the three NCAA divisions. D1 swimming is where nearly all of the nation’s top swimmers end up. D2 swimming offers tremendous swimming and education opportunities as well. D3 swimming is designed more for those who want to have more balanced swimming, educational and social experiences while in college.
One of the most important things to consider when considering Ivy League and NCAA D3 swimming schools is that they don’t offer swim scholarships. In fact, they don’t offer any athletic scholarships whatsoever. However, don’t dismiss them as they do tend to provide a considerable amount of financial aid to their general student bodies. Talk with the coaches at Ivy League and NCAA D3 swimming institutions about how you could fund your education there.
Also consider how many teams are in each division:
- NCAA D1 – 143 men’s teams, 200 women’s teams
- NCAA D2 – 58 men’s teams, 77 women’s teams
- NCAA D3 – 200 men’s teams, 242 women’s teams
Swim university rankings
The swimming rankings that most in the sport follow are the ones released by the College Swimming & Diving Coaches Association of America. A D1 swim team will see a new swimming rank once a month with the in-season ones during the 2019-20 season coming out in the preseason and then on Oct. 23, Nov. 13, Dec. 11, Jan. 22 and Feb. 19. Conversely, a D2 or D3 swimming team will also regularly be able to check out its swimming rank, just slightly less often, four times before and during a season. These swimming rankings are voted on by CSCAA coaches and members of the media.
Although a swimming college will face league opponents throughout its campaign, the conference season is focused on the championship meet in February. every swim university in the league will take part in that event, and that will be the lone decider in who wins that season’s conference championship.
Whether a swimming team will advance to the ncaa championships will depend on its athletes recording fast enough times to be selected. individuals qualify for those events with their point totals helping their teams out. those who achieve “a” qualifying times are definitely in while the next-fastest swimmers get added, depending on the size of the field.
Historically, Texas is the swimming college with the most national championships. the longhorns have 14 men’s trophies, including four straight from 2015-18, and seven women’s crowns, the most recent of those occurring in 1991. Stanford has the most national championships of any women’s swim university with 11, including a three-peat from 2017-19. California claimed the 2019 men’s title, its sixth.
Swim university schedules, results and news
One of the best sources for swimming results is CollegeSwimming.com while Swim Swam is a great news resource. The NCAA web pages for men’s swimming and women’s swimming are great overall resources too.
However, if you’re interested in a team in particular, it’s often best to head to its website. There is where you’ll find a team’s roster, coaching staff, statistics, schedule and related information. The schedule page is of particular interest to many as that’s where you can see when and where the team will compete and what the schedule will tend to look like for you should you compete there. This is also where you can read recaps and see results of all of its meets.
Here are some examples of official websites for many of the top swimming universities:
- Maine Black Bears
- UConn Huskies
- Wyoming Cowboys
- Denver Pioneers
- Arizona Wildcats
- West Florida Argonauts
- Utah Utes
- Rochester Yellowjackets
Swimming camps provide opportunities for exposure and to improve your skills in the pool, thanks to learning from many of the nation’s best coaches. Those instructing at these events help swimmers improve their times through stroke-specific training and by teaching what should be done out of the pool and what the big picture looks like training-wise. When you go to a camp, enter the experience with an open mind, ready to take in what’s being taught.
Recruiting and scholarships
As you make your way through the recruiting process, it’s important to keep in mind the timeline. Most importantly for prospective D1 swimmers, note that coaches are not allowed to contact you prior to June 15 between your sophomore and junior years. Starting on Aug. 1 of that same summer, you may make an official visit to a swim university, meaning that the school will pay for it.
As you narrow your list of schools, consider how many swimming scholarships are offered by each swimming university. These figures differ for men’s and women’s programs at the D1 level. Men’s teams can offer 9.9 swimming scholarships while women’s can provide up to 14. All D2 programs are allowed 8.1 swim scholarships per men’s and women’s teams. Coaches can split those up, offering some swimmers full scholarships and others partial ones as long as the total does not exceed those limits. Note that D1 teams average 28 swimmers while D2 and D3 squads average around 20.
Swimming Recruiting Resource
Many swimmers can feel overwhelmed by the recruiting experience. This is a feeling that’s experienced by athletes in every sport. It’s also what Chris Krause felt when he was a high school football player in the 1980s. However, he did not have access to resources such as what Next College Student Athlete has to offer. After struggling through his experience, he was inspired by it and founded NCSA in 2000 so that others wouldn’t have to follow in his footsteps. Ever since his dream became a reality, NCSA has helped more than 150,000 high school student-athletes become college student-athletes.
Many of the things that NCSA has done have been innovative. It provided a way for student-athletes to provide highlight videos to college coaches a year before YouTube was created. It created a recruit match system to help high school swimmers and other athletes narrow their options and help determine where their best fits may be. NCSA has also built a community that includes more than 35,000 coaches, helping them find their best fits too as they create rosters of athletes that are both talented and fit with the cultures of their teams and of their schools.
Over the past 20 years, NCSA has received numerous positive reviews from athletes, their parents and coaches, including averaging a score of 4.9 on Google Reviews, 98% of a perfect score of 5.0. Much of what it offers is education, allowing future high school athletes to understand exactly what’s going on during the recruiting process and what things that college coaches have done mean in the big picture. If you’d like to take advantage of what NCSA has provided to so many, fill out a free profile today. Feel free to call 866 495-5172 if you have any questions.