5 reasons why college swimming is the best (and why you should pursue it)

All swimmers should have goals to swim in college. Why? Because college swimming has so many lifelong benefits, and to put it bluntly…college swimming is the best! If you ask any collegiate swimmer, current or former, about their college swimming experience, I guarantee that they tell you they wouldn’t trade it for the world! You may think college swimmers are a little bit crazy, but fueled by their passion, college swimmers have made one of the best decisions a swimmer can make.

  • It is one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences you will ever have in your life

NCAABeing a full-time student is challenging in itself, but being a full-time student-ATHLETE is 100 times more challenging. You are not only going to class and studying, but you have a 20+ hour training schedule that you somehow manage to fit in to your week as well. On bad days you don’t get to go home and lay in bed until dinner like other college students… collegiate swimmers get their acts together so they can bring their A-Game at their next practice. How swimmers even balance all of the work that they do is beyond me, but they do it and they do a heck of a job! The sweat and tears and emotion that go in to college swimming seem unbearable at times, but with passion for the sport, a supportive team, and some serious determination you make it through. Yes it will be one of the hardest experiences of your life, but it is easily the most rewarding! The time and effort that you put in to your four years is not or was not easy and it is definitely not something just anyone can do. You are part of an elite group of athletes who swam in college and you should be very proud!! (It’s okay to brag about it every now and then too!)

  • College swimming is an experience you will be able to relate to and use in every work experience for the rest of your life

Competitive. Works well in teams. Self-motivated. Great communicator. Passionate. Receptive to criticism. Leader. Perseveres. Am I describing the perfect employee or a collegiate swimmer? The answer to that is BOTH! Every experience that you have gone through as a collegiate swimmer and everything that you learned in your four years all make you extremely valuable to any workplace you find yourself in. Remember that time you were sick and struggling through an entire day of workouts and class, but you pushed through your day anyways? You will do what you need to in order to overcome obstacles and achieve success. How about that one time you had to uncomfortably approach a teammate about their effort at workouts? You are an effective communicator and an honest leader who is willing to hold your co-workers accountable and who wants to see your team succeed. What about that one time you and your coach had a disagreement? You are not a weak individual and you know how to respectively and effectively speak up to authority. Everyone has their individual experiences as a college swimmer, and every single one of them is a great lesson that betters you as a person and a worker.

  • Those teammates of yours are a lifelong support system you are going to want at your wedding  

These people have seen you at your highest highs and at your lowest lows, and there is no other group of people you would rather share those experiences with. They start out as teammates but they become so much more than that over the course of four years. Your team becomes this unconditional support group that will help you and push you through whatever you have going on. They have seen you when you are sweaty, crying, angry, and stressed and it’s not even a little bit embarrassing. You share so much of your lives with these people and your relationships with them will hold value and importance for the rest of your life. I want to share my happiest moments with my teammates. I want them at my wedding, and you will too! 

  • The intense level of fitness and nutrition is something that you will learn in college swimming and will keep with you for life

Going from your average 4-5 hours of work out a day to the 30-45 minutes you can squeeze in during the work day is tough, and going from eating 5,000 calories a day to 2,000 is more frustrating than you can ever imagine. However, the fitness and nutrition that you learn as a college swimmer are two things that will stick with you for the rest of your life. You will always hold yourself to this higher standard because you know what you are capable of and you expect the best of yourself. Your routine may change after college, but the habits you developed over the course of four years of college swimming will not go away. College swimming created the framework for an active and healthy lifestyle. As your college years come to a close, that framework remains intact, allowing you to naturally continue your healthy habits.

  • A college swimming story will always one-up a typical college story, HANDS DOWN!

How many millions of cliché college stories are there out there? You will have friends, co-workers, and acquaintances for the rest of your life who will continually try to impress you with an “awesome college story.” Unfortunately for them, you went to college too, and you swam competitively! Take any one of their awesome stories and throw a tough dual meet, a killer practice, or any number of crazy experiences only swimmers go through in to the mix. Sorry friend/co-worker/acquaintance, but anything that you are about to tell me, I guarantee that I can one-up your story.

Elle Meinholz, headshotContributor Elle Meinholz fell in love with swimming at an early age. Born and raised a Wisconsin girl, she pursued her lifelong dream of swimming as a Wisconsin Badger from 2009-2013. She graduated from Wisconsin with degrees in English and Communications. A year out of college and out of swimming, she is now a full-time Admission Counselor at the Milwaukee School of Engineering in Milwaukee, WI. She continues to fulfill her passion for swimming through high school coaching, writing, living vicariously through her younger sister, and getting in a couple thousand yards when time allows. (Twitter: @ElleMeinholz) 


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6 years ago

I personally prefer club swimming to my division III college team. Club swimming actually offered me a supportive, competitive team atmosphere; college swimming is a bunch of marginally committed swimmers who are more interested in getting drunk than swimming well.

Sports mom
6 years ago

Sometimes it is about the experience. Swimming can open doors. Many doors. For many kids it’s s great choice

Gary Johnson
6 years ago

Great article!

Because of the 25 you per week commitment, many elite HS swimmers don’t have the top notch grades and several AP classes etc that their non-swimming peers may have.

But their swimming skills can still get them into a great college; a college to which they may not otherwise be admitted.

BS Swimmer
6 years ago

It is supposed to be a positive experience but not so with some schools. Mizzou has a bad habit of cutting athletes from the team a couple years into their program. For someone who works hard at the sport and the results just aren’t there (because of injury or illness) – this is not the way to be treated. It is terrible to see a dedicated athlete cut loose!

7 years ago

This all sounds so amazing and rewarding but I have a concern, what if you have zero experience earlier on before college? For example, I have always been fairly good at swimming but I have never actually joined a swim team. I wanted to in high school but was to scared/nervous that they would reject me on the spot because I had zero swimming experience when it comes to the more extreme parts of swimming like learning all the different types of strokes and a balanced diet to stay in shape. I am now going to a college and it will be my first year and they do have a swimming class but I’m still scared they won’t take me… Read more »

Reply to  Nicole
7 years ago

Varsity college athletics is almost exclusively for experienced athletes. It may not be for you. But hey, you can always ask the coach! Be brave enough to shoot them an email.

7 years ago

I have been around college swimmers for much of my life. The work they do is impressive, not many people can do what swimmers in college can do, and one major reason is discipline. Swimming is a rigid sport and it demands long hours, early rising, two-a-days and routine. When this regimine is combined with being a student, good results are often obtained in the classroom. It may be that disciplined study may be a byproduct of competitive swimming for many swimmers. So give it a year, college swimmers, and if its too much combining swimming with academics, focus on school. But all swimmers should give college swimming a try if they are mentally and physically able. The potential benefits… Read more »

7 years ago

The last comment is the best. Do something because you want to not because someone else says its awesome. There are very few people who csn say that they truly enjoy gaving their face in chlorinated water 20 hours a week.

7 years ago

Well, this is an old article, and comments from last November, but I’ll chime in.

College swimming was great. For three years. And then I realized that to get to where I wanted to be (professional school), my grades had to be 4.0-ish senior year. And that just wasn’t happening while swimming, no matter how organized, on top of it, dedicated, or serious I was about academics. That required that I give the time I was giving to swimming to academics. And to internships. And to working in a lab. And to getting documented leadership experience. And to community service.

So. College swimming may not be for everyone, and nobody should feel pressure to do it because it’s… Read more »

Reply to  GoPokes
7 years ago

I’d say, you should experience it for the first year at least. Then decide from there.

Reply to  mcmflyguy
7 years ago

It’s funny you said that. We met with the coach of a small D1 team, and that was one of the first things he said. He knows he’s not getting the elites, so he gets the best he can, stresses academics and goes from there. He said at least try it out freshman year, because it’s easier to try it and decide it’s not for you, then to not, decide you miss it and try to get back to that level.

About Elle Meinholz

Elle Meinholz

Contributor Elle Meinholz has been in love with swimming all her life. Growing up she swam for the Waukesha Express Swim Team and Catholic Memorial High School. The oldest daughter of two former UW-Badger swimmers, Elle went on to college to fulfill her lifelong dream of swimming as a Wisconsin …

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