5 Reasons To Swim DIII In College

Courtesy of Aaron Schwartz, a SwimSwam intern. Follow: @aaronnschwartz

Every swimmer dreams of swimming Division 1. It’s just what you do. As some get closer to recruiting season, however, they start to see the benefits of Division 3, but some still want to swim D1 solely because it is D1 and not because it is the right fit. If you are deciding between D1 and D3 swimming, read these 5 reasons why I believe Division 3 is the right fit for many swimmers.

  1. The swimmers are there because they want to be.

One of the nicest aspects of D3 swimming is the absence of swimming scholarships. Now that statement may seem pretty counterintuitive, but it really is a blessing in disguise. Since the athletes are not being paid to swim, they are swimming purely because they love the sport. This nurtures a much more positive and productive environment as opposed to schools where the athletes are only swimming to maintain their scholarship.

  1. The team is closer than you could imagine

At a meet, I observed the Cal team, and noticed that the men’s and women’s team were completely separated, something that seemed very odd to me. I have seen this behavior associated with other D1 schools before, and in my opinion, it is not an atmosphere I would like to be a part of. A real team integrates the men and women into one team, which provides the framework for a stronger and more supportive atmosphere. Due to the fact that most D3 schools have a smaller student body, you will be forced to be close with your team, which is not a bad thing by any means. I have met some of my best friends from just a short time being on a D3 team, and I can attest to that a D3 team is truly a family.

  1. There is a balance between academics and swimming

In D1 swimming, usually the swimming takes over your life and balancing academics and swimming becomes an impossible task. At a D3 school, the coaches understand the importance of academics better and so this balance becomes much easier to maintain. It is also possible at D3 schools to get an excellent education to prepare you for the future, where at D1 schools swimming takes up so much time that student athletes are forced to pursue “easy” majors. If you are looking to get a great education without swimming getting in the way, but still grow as a swimmer, a D3 school may be the perfect place for you.

  1. You’ll stand out.

If you are deciding between a faster D3 and slower D1 school, heed this warning. At the D3 school you could be the star or at the top of the team but still have competition from your team and other teams. You can win events and really make an impression in the program you belong to. Who knows, maybe you will even break a couple of records. At the D1 school, unless you have an incredible breakout your first year, you will most likely be at the bottom half of the team, barely contributing any points to the team. It’ll be a struggle to even make conference and you probably will never make a real mark at the school.

  1. Making NCAAs is actually realistic.

Let’s be honest. Unless you are a top 50 recruit in your class, making D1 NCAAs is extremely difficult, and most people who swim D1 never even come near the cuts. On the other hand, if you are swimming for a D3 team, making nationals is by no stretch of the imagination easy, but it is definitely reachable and a realistic goal for many at the faster schools. You are going to want to be on that relay that wins nationals, and unless you can go under 20 in your 50 freestyle split, you will never be on that D1 team’s relay. Instead you can win it with your closest buddies at D3 NCAAs and get a nice shiny ring. Just sayin’.

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A few more…..
6) You can take a semester (or year) abroad with full support of the coach
7) You can participate in another NCAA/Intramural sport in addition to swimming in the Fall or Spring
8) You don’t need to worry about swim team cuts….most Div 3 programs are expanding not contracting
9) Quite a few Div 3 programs have strong endowments and some have no-loan policies so you may actually receive more money from Div 3 program than Div 1 scholarship program


Your reasons are actual reasons that do not come at the expense of D1 programs, through opinion, like the author. Thank you. I struggle with #6 from my internal competitor stand point, but understand..


Some good points but perhaps over stated a bit.

– D3 teams do not have unlimited pool space and resources. There may very well be cuts.
– I would like to know of all these schools with no loan policies. From my experience this is not common.


Well stated. Thank you.

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