5 Tips For High School Swimmers to Get Recruited

College Swimming advice courtesy of former college swimmer Zach Kent, co-founder of iSwim.

D1? D2? Close to home? Scholarships? Who is the coach? Juniors, July 1st is just around the corner, if you don’t think so it’ll creep up on you fast!! After taking 9 recruiting trips, taking close to 30 recruiting calls, and sending emails to every college coach and their mother let’s help you GET RECRUITED!

ONE – Be a salesman

A great salesman knows how to get the consumer to see the highest value in a product.  In this case you are the salesman, the coach is the consumer, and what you’ve done in your life up to this point is the product! Let me give you a good example of how to send times to a coach and not so good example…


2012                 2014

50 Free    22.4                  20.94

100 Free    48.7                  45.56

200 Free  1:43.6               1:39.87

100 Fly     53.33                  49.87

200 Fly    1:54.56              1:47.89

Key Points

-Improvements!! If you’re improving a ton, SHOW IT!!

-Specific times, it doesn’t hurt to put in your times to the exact hundredth of a second

-Most impressive times are listed and put them first


50 Free 20

100 Free 45

200 Free  1:39

100 IM  1:34.5 (when I was 12)

100 Fly around 50

Key Points

-Believe it or not a college coach doesn’t care what you went in the 100 IM at 12

-“Around 50” do I really need to explain myself? C’mon folks

-Don’t leave off your best race (200 Fly) just because you don’t want to swim it


Once you have that beautiful email set up send it to every college coach you can. There’s no harm in sending an email to a school that’s “out of your league”, maybe you’ll be surprised and get a response. There’s also no harm in sending an email to some slower schools, you may enjoy being one of the faster swimmers in the conference. A couple tips…

No college coach wants to see this…

iswim screenshot, for "recruiting" post

Double, triple, and quadruple check this before sending to a coach.

THREE – Use Social Media Wisely

Employers, college admissions, and coaches inspect social media profiles every year. When a coach pulls up you Twitter Account, what is he going to see?



FOUR – Grades, Grades, Grades

A smart student is a recruitable student, you can ask any coach in the country and they will agree. If we have @SwimBroJoe (1.3 GPA) and @SwimmerJames (3.6 GPA) with the same times and I can only take one….it’s a no brainer. Perform in school as well as in the pool to give you an edge over the other thousands of seniors looking for a college swim team each year.


The easiest way to catch a coaches eye…is to SWIM FAST! It may seem obvious, but it’s as true as true can be. If you’re an 18 year old guy and you go a 19.8 50 Freestyle, it’s safe to say you’re going to be getting some phone calls.

Remember, there is a place for almost every swimmer in college. The key is to find the right fit for you. Get started early and sell, sell, sell!

iSwim, logoAbout iSwim

iSwim provides swimmers the opportunity to show their personality through both traditional and unique swimwear and every day apparel. Established by swimmers for swimmers, iSwim understands what swimmers truly want.

iSwimWithIssues: The twitter account that started it all in the fall of 2012. Our ‘iSwim’ brand takes on a more “love/hate” approach to swimming.


iswim (courtesy of iswimwithissues)

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6 years ago

Something as simple as setting up your voicemail and returning calls goes along way!

6 years ago

Also very important for student-athlete to do their research regarding level of swimming at the college. If you go a 59.00 for a 100 free (women), don’t apply to a college where the slowest swimmer on the team is a 54.00! Look up the meet times and have a basic understanding of what you would need for times to be recruited.

Reply to  StuartC
6 years ago

I’d be interested to hear opinions from different college coaches on this.
Where exactly should I be on the school’s depth chart to be considered for the team? For scholarships? Or is this based more on conference/NCAA scoring ability?
How many events are you looking for in a swimmer? How well does a very fast time in one or two events offset low versatility, and vice versa?
How much do academics offset times and vice versa? For example, would a coach be more interested in a swimmer who would be near the top of the depth chart but might struggle academically, or one who would be in the middle of the depth chart but is an excellent… Read more »

Reply to  austinswimmer
6 years ago

I was recruited by schools in the Big 10 and Big East (this is mid to late 2000s when the Big East was still a major conference). I aimed at schools where I would be their 2nd to 4th fastest swimmer in 2-4 events. If you are lower than 4th, you aren’t going to be swimming in dual meets because teams have 4 spots max in an 8 lane pool. I got a moderate swimming scholarship and a significant academic one and was able to contribute to the team significantly. I would also look at what year people ahead of you on the depth chart are. If all 3 are juniors and seniors, the team might desperately need someone in… Read more »

Reply to  dmswim
6 years ago

Another important factor to look at is how you’d place at their conference or even national meet.

6 years ago

Also curious how hard it is to walk on to various programs.
Does walking on to Division 1 still happen?
If a student/swimmer chooses a school based on academics first, then tries to walk on (say their times are at the level of the teams slowest “Depth swimmer”), is it likely the coach will make/find a spot for an academically strong student?

Reply to  luvswimming
6 years ago

This varies a lot by the school and the coach. I would first look at squad size. Does the team already have 40 swimmers on it? If so, they likely aren’t going to have much room for unrecruited walkons. At my school, our team size was pretty small so our coach was willing to take a lot of walk ons to fill out the roster. Next, I would look at the team’s event weaknesses. If the team only has 2 or 3 people who swam the 1000 last year, even if you would be the slowest, you can still be an asset if you have a decent 1000. Also, how long have you been swimming? Have you been improving? Some… Read more »

Reply to  dmswim
6 years ago

Hi there, I saw your comments and I have a question for you. I was admitted at this great Big 10 school and I really want to swim for them, but the coach said my times are on the low end of the scale. He said that he cannot promise me a spot on the team because they have limited roster spots for next year and they have restrictions for team size.

If I attend their school, the try out period would be the first couple weeks of the season. After the first two weeks of the season, they would make cuts for those who are no longer on the roster.

If I can manage to reduce my times… Read more »

6 years ago

I would be cautious with this. If you can get your times to where you are scoring at the conference meet or in the top 3 on the team’s depth chart, I would say go for it. Also, train hard over the summer and the weeks leading up to the try out. Those first few weeks are going to be very tough as a way to weed out the weaker swimmers. If you definitely want to swim in college, I think this option is quite risky. If you like the school otherwise and would be happy even if not swimming, I would go for it. You won’t be able to train with the team if you don’t make the first… Read more »

Thomas The Train
6 years ago

The mantra I tell my daughter and her friends to remember:

1. Do well in School

2. Swim fast in the Pool

3. Don’t act a Fool

This will help them get the opportunities in life they are looking for.

6 years ago

Check your times against NCAA I, II, III, and NAIA. Be realistic and choose a school where you can succeed academically and athletically. Swimming at the collegiate level is basically the same spirit, practice schedules, and coaching, so don’t be upset if you can’t be a D1 star. There’s a place for everybody.
“But it costs too much to go to a private school!” At least 80% of students at D2 and D3 schools are on some sort of financial aid. If you qualify academically and the college expresses interest in you, they will make an attempt to work with your budget. Some schools are much more generous than others, but that’s a topic you’ll have to explore on… Read more »

SSC/Haven swim
6 years ago

Hi I am a current 9th grader and I am just curious when should you start trying to get recruited? Is it a little early to think about college when I have just started high school? Also, how fast should you be going in an event like the 200 Free if you want to be getting looks buy bigger schools (I am 1:48.96 now and I know that won’t get me looked at, but what should I be shooting for by the end of my highschool career)? One last thing is that do colleges look more at what classes you take or your GPA because someone could take “joke” classes like gym or art and will probably have a better… Read more »

Reply to  SSC/Haven swim
6 years ago

Hi SSC/Haven swim – it’s not too early, but it is too early to start putting pressure on yourself. At this point, you should still be focused on setting goals that will help you get as fast as possible. I would say that during your junior year would be a good time to start picking out target times that will get you on the team at this school or that school. Coaches will begin making lists of freshmen or sophomores, but

Colleges will consider the level of difficulty of your classes like any other would, but I wouldn’t count on all coaches taking that same time (especially not in the first pass). On some level, it will be up… Read more »

Reply to  Braden Keith
6 years ago

Hi Braden,

You might want to direct some of the folks to some of the articles that I have sent you.

Reply to  SSC/Haven swim
6 years ago

its never too early to start looking at where you’d like to go and express interest. Just know some of the NCAA rules don’t allow for coaches to talk to you or contact you in certain situations. Just so you don’t feel like coaches are ignoring you, sometimes rules state they cant talk to you.

As for how fast should you be? I cant tell you what colleges look for time wise. what I can tell you is don’t put so much emphases on that. just relax, train your butt off to just get faster. set goals like you normally would but don’t focus so much on getting that one time to make it in college. (btw as a 9th… Read more »

6 years ago

In your article you say” Remember, there is a place for almost every swimmer in college. The key is to find the right fit for you. ”

How true is this?? I hear that is is not likely that a swimmer will get to swim in college.

Reply to  Amy
6 years ago

Amy, it is 100% true if you expand your horizons beyond D1 majors, the Teaxs’, Cal’s, Stanford’s of the world. Of course…if every swimmer TRIED to swim in college, then the landscape would swim. There are college meets that have girls going 36’s in their 50 frees and boys going 27’s.

Reply to  Braden Keith
6 years ago

Where would these schools be exactally? I’m fine with being just a swimmer for the roster, but where would I find these schools? A certain division? Certain region?

Reply to  JessSwims
6 years ago

JessSwims – check out NAIA, and lower-level Division II and Division III schools.

6 years ago

If you really want to swim, don’t discount Div III. My son always wanted to go to a big D I but wasn’t fast enough. He now swims D III and can’t picture himself anywhere else. He is in the top end of his team and conference and this has given him a lot of confidence he never would have gotten elsewhere.

For those kids looking to go D I or D II, understand what freedoms you may be giving up being a scholarship athlete. Friends of my son that are D I swimmers have less control over schedules, breaks etc. Parents have even had to wait a day or two to talk to their child face to face at… Read more »

Reply to  D3Swimdad
6 years ago

Good points and note that there are many, many, more Div3 programs than Div 1. You also can find any kind of school in Div 3(large, small, urban, rural, engineering, liberal arts). Athletic scholarships for swimming are very much an illusion except for the 1 percent (and even in those cases full rides are very rare). Some Div 3 schools offer financial aid packages that make them cost competitive with public financed in-state schools.
Re comments about “seeing swimmers face to face during meets” as father of a Div 3 swimmer I rarely had any face to face time during conference and/or nationals. Maybe a short hello between sessions and the usual requests for stuff or money. Most of… Read more »

Reply to  newswim
6 years ago

I wouldn’t count out NAIA schools too – they have TONS of scholarship money at that level, and many of those schools give very good educations, if only in a limited range of subjects. If you want to be a nurse, for example, there’s a lot of very good NAIA nursing schools.

Reply to  Braden Keith
6 years ago

Or, say, an artist 😉