7 Tips for Swim Parents on the College Recruiting Process

by SwimSwam 25

September 26th, 2017 College, Lifestyle, Opinion, Pac-12

Courtesy of Elizabeth Wickham

I’m sharing seven tips on how you can help your swimmer through college recruiting. I hope this helps you wade through pools of confusion and simplifies the process. Enjoy the recruiting experience—it’s an exciting time in your swimmer’s life—and in yours, too.

1. Support you swimmer.

Help them through the recruiting process, but don’t take over. This is an important chapter in their growth.

2. Get your swimmer to practice!

College coaches will talk to your club coach. If your swimmer is a hard worker and consistent with practices—your club coach will recommend him or her whole-heartedly.

3. Register with the NCAA Clearing House.

It’s something all athletes must do if they want to participate in college sports.

4. Academics.

Have your student meet with his high school counselor to make sure he or she is on track. Coaches appreciate swimmers with good grades and high SATs.

5. Make Lists.

A – Dream schools — where has your swimmer always wanted to go?

B – Geographic location — where does your swimmer want to live? Close to home? Or in an entirely different part of the country?

C – DI, DII or DIII? There’s a division, conference and school for every swimmer. Determine a fit by looking at NCAA Division results.

D – Does your swimmer score points in conference? Chances are if they score in the top eight, they may be a candidate for a scholarship.

6. Have your swimmer email coaches.

Start early, during your swimmer’s sophomore or junior year. Tips for good emails: What is a coach looking for in a swimmer, what are their time requirements? Why is your swimmer interested in a particular school?Your swimmer needs to fill out online questionnaires on schools’ athletic websites. You may want to schedule unofficial visits at schools close-by.

7. Be polite.

Remind your swimmer to return all phone calls and emails. Remember, coaches move around—and they tend to have friends they talk with who are coaches, too!

Elizabeth WickhamElizabeth Wickham volunteered for 14 years on her kids’ club team as board member, fundraiser, newsletter editor and “Mrs. meet manager.” She’s a writer with a bachelor of arts degree in editorial journalism from the University of Washington with a long career in public relations, marketing and advertising. Her stories have appeared in newspapers and magazines including the Los Angeles Times, Orange County Parenting and Ladybug. You can read more parenting tips on her blog.



    I have a few more points I think may be helpful…..but perhaps the most important piece here is after the comma in Tip 1…Don’t Take Over!! Don’t be the one to call coaches, don’t be the one to email them, don’t set up the visits…have your swimmer do this. Coaches are wary of the helicopter parents doing it all and want to see initiative from the athletes. Parents with too much involvement is a bad sign the swimmer isn’t very independent and has coaches thinking more about what they may be getting into. When a parent tells a coach “well they would but they have a lot going on…”…well, they are going to have a lot going on when they get to college. How do they manage things?? Also, demand your athlete represent themselves well on a visit. It is sometimes unbelievable at how some young people dress on a college visit. While they want to “fit in” with the scene, they need to remember that the “scene” isn’t doing an admissions interview, getting an impression as a faculty member as someone who may be a student of theirs or awarding scholarship/judging if this is someone they want on the team. As well, LEAVE THEIR CELL PHONES in the car when meeting with coaches/administrators/faculty…or at least somewhere they can’t access them. Believe it or not, recruits have looked at texts in meeting with officials on campus. Also, remind them that EYES are on them all the time. I know coaches who show up a a practice or meet of a recruit without them knowing and just watch from a distance. Everyone works hard, behaves etc when they know coach is coming. You get a REAL impression when they don’t. And….finally..stay on them about SMART SOCIAL MEDIA BEHAVIOR!!!! GOOD LUCK!!!

  2. SwimMom says:

    Excellent list! Having just survived this roller coaster with my senior, I also want to add BE FLEXIBLE. Where he THOUGHT he’d like to be a year ago, and where he wound up are not the same, yet he is happy, happy, happy!

  3. CoachP says:

    NCAA D3, NCJAA and NAIA bound athletes do not have to register with the NCAA Clearing House. This is only required of D1 and D2 bound athletes.

    #6 is very important. Be as proactive as possible. College coaches like to see potential recruits take the inititive.

    • SwimMom says:

      I know this is over two years old so thought I would chime in. The NCAA Eligibility Center (former “Clearing House”) has now created a free registration for students. If they aren’t sure if they will be DI or DII athletes or go the DIII route they will have an account set up and ready. If DI and DII schools call, then they can quickly complete the rest. No official visits for DI or DII schools without being registered in the NCAA Eligibility Center. NAIA colleges have their own eligibility center (https://www.playnaia.org/eligibility-center).

  4. Rachel stearns says:

    Can u tell me how to register NCAA Clearing house and how to get point in conference

    Thanks you

  5. Matt says:

    Register for the eligibility center here:


    See this for information on conference championships, etc. Use the “All Divisions” drop down at the top of the page:


  6. SwimMom says:

    My son just told me that he might not get any calls from coaches because his times are not that great. I asked him: “are you giving up?” He said, no but he’s just being realistic. He hasn’t stopped working hard in practice and keep improving in his times. It may be too late now to get recognized by any coaches but I have faith. I let him take care of everything and I’m just here to support him in anything he needs.
    Thank you Elizabeth Wickam for another great article!

    • completelyconquered says:

      I didn’t get recognized in high school either. It didn’t stop me from wanting to compete in college. I did my research and walked-on to a Division 1 school and earned a scholarship after my freshman year.

  7. JI says:

    What grade should athletes look at registering with the NCAA Clearing house?

    • Elizabeth Wickham says:

      The NCAA eligibility center says to sign up during the sophomore year. I think my daughter signed up the summer before her junior year and her high school counselor checked with her in her senior year to make sure she was registered.

  8. newswim says:

    Very good list especially number 1……also re Point 4 academics make sure you check to see if schools on the list require SAT subject tests. it’s best to take those tests the spring of your junior year if possible. This will be of immense help if you decide on going the early Decision 1 route. Also good SAT subject scores help bolster the academically strong candidate in the eyes of the coaches. At the risk of stating the obvious, academics are of number one importance. Academically strong athletes are an asset to any program, even those who can’t make the conference team or earn an athletic scholarship.

    My additional point is that many, many swimmers are focused on top end Div 1 schools. This is fine as long as they don’t use “waiting for my times to drop more” to delay the college search process. Go out an explore other options earlier in the process. Visit schools, or establish communication, where based on your grades and swim times you know the coach will be interested. You’ll learn much in the process and might even find a good match where you didn’t expect one.

  9. mamasumma says:

    My daughter is a senior who just committed to a DI university. All 7 points are excellent. The following is also important: 1. Colleges want kids who swim well in 3 events (or more). 2. Swimmers are often more likely to get scholarship money for academics than athletics – so ACT/SAT scores, GPA, and strength of curriculum may be more important than swim times. 3. When kids email coaches they should mention their progression/improvements over the last 3/4 years. 4. Be realistic when considering schools – swim wise, academic wise, and price wise. 5. You truly cannot have everything. Kid should make a list of their top three priorities which might be: price, location, swim team, academic major, small class sizes, big football team, or whatever is most important to them personally.

  10. Joey Garcia says:

    Regarding 5-D, nnless this is a major D1 school, I wouldn’t expect a swimming scholarship, especially for a male swimmer.

    • Heather Urling says:

      My son signed for a D1 college he is currently a senior. He did not get any money per say for the swimming but half ride for academics as long as he keeps a 3.5 gpa. He took several AP classes in high school but now is wishing he took more. Now seeing what all good grades in AP classes can help in college .

    • Scott says:

      If you can score in conference right away then you will get some $$. Otherwise you must earn the dollars thru performance in D1

  11. realswimparent says:

    There are only 1346 D1Male swiming scholarships POTENTIALLY available, and 2716 D1 female scholarships POTENTIALLY available. The word POTENTIALLY is in caps because not all programs are fully funded. Unless your swimmer is ON THE PODIUM finishing top 5 at JR Nationals or SR Nationals, DO NOT expect a lot of money in the form of an athletic scholarship. Academic scholarships are a better potential source of scholarship but DO NOT EXPECT A LOT, ANYWHERE. Most out of state public tuitions are in the 40K range, most private tuition is 45K and UP. We have seen EXCELLENT CHAMPOINSHIP WINNING SWIMMERS get offered “we will pay for your books”. Best we have seen is an out of state swimmer get offered “in state” tuition cost, (which can be a good deal). But this was a swimmer with multiple olympic trial cuts in her jr. year of high school.
    Ivy League schools do not have athletic scholarships, only academic money.
    DO NOT LET YOUR CLUB COACH DECEIVE YOU INTO THINKING THAT THERE IS ALL THIS SCHOLARSHIP MONEY OUT THERE !!!! It isn’t there… With the new “cost of attendance” scholarships coming into play for football and basketball look for cuts in smaller D1 swimming programs (see articles posted earlier in swimswam). The best two D1 swimming divisions right now are PAC12 and BIG10 they have “guaranteed” four year scholarships and some other benefits. All other conferences currently have their scholarships “renewed” (for better or worse depending on performance) yearly.
    I would encourage anyone who has a child that truly LOVES swimming to look at the D2 and D3 options. The athletic demands are less rigorous and your child will have a chance to have a semblance of a “normal” life. In the D1 world your child becomes property of the athletic dept. Very few short visits home, no summers home. Hazing when a freshman. Although many articles have been written here about how “wonderful” a D1 swimming career is, my experience is that it can be more of a POW camp like experience where the “bonds” are made from enduring great hardships together. With budget cuts everywhere state run schools are accepting more out of state and foreign students because they pay more. I know some will call me a troll or a negative nancy, but my comments are born from experience.

    • austinswimmer says:

      As far as I know, all DI swimmers can go home over the summer. We have had every graduated swimmer return to our club team over the summer at least once. If they stay at school, it is by choice, whether to take summer classes, train, etc.

    • newswim says:

      There is no “academic money” at Ivy League schools…..ditto for other very selective schools such as those in the NESCAC conference (Amherst, Williams, etc). Need based aid only. However, as noted elsewhere they have large endowments, typically meet 100 percent of demonstrated need and many offer no-loan aid packages make them very cost competitive.

    • Frank Carey says:

      Thank you… For real life analysis…!

  12. Joan Berens says:

    we entrusted our beautiful youngest child to a college coach who pursued, wined and dimed him. We attended a big meet into his freshmen year. After the meet, the coach approached us and said ” hi, I’m coach X , have we met?”. Mind you, we were seated by our child, this same coach had toured us for hours on the campus when we attended the official visit, yet he did not know us at alll. Clearly astonished, disappointed, and utterly blown away.
    This was at a DI, prestigious,,sought after, totally desirable, hard to get into school.
    Sadly, wish we had known better.

  13. homer simpson says:

    Here’s your wake up call from a parent of three college swimmers:
    Swimming in college is the same as having a full time job while you are going to school so unless your child is getting paid to swim(scholarship) or is being promised academic support (which they will need) then make the academic aspect the school the only priority. Ivy League programs are not for swimmers people who want to go faster – and they do not give academic support. Please be aware that even on D-III teams, very few of the swimmers are qualifying to swim in the heats which generate points for the team and not more than a handful of kids on each team actually go to the NCAA championships. Last but not least, my daughter was recruited and went to the long standing D-III purple program and saw very little of the charming coach who recruited her. Make sure you meet all the coaches because your specialty may not be coached by the person who recruits you.

    • ClubCoach says:

      A response of a sort from the parent of one swimmer who just finished her college career, another in the middle of her college career and one more who is currently a high school senior and going through the recruiting process:

      I’ve always told the kids I coach that if they want to swim in college, there is a place they can swim. Swimming in college is not for everyone. It is hard and time-consuming, but it can also be the source of a lot of benefits in school and after graduation.

      Academics are always important but quite frankly, in my opinion undergraduate degrees are quite comparable from school to school. You can look at all the rankings you want and it still boils down to opinion, not fact. Experiences are personal, not general.

      Ivy League schools do not give athletic scholarships but do give some academic support. Most of their support is need-based. D-III schools cannot give athletic scholarships by NCAA rule. Many D-III schools will tell you that cost should not be an issue as they will offer scholarships (academic and need-based) and grants to make it close to being affordable. Also DI and DII schools cannot combine need-based scholarships with an athletic scholarship.

      Schools will generally assign recruiting duties to one or two assistant coaches and yes, they may not be coaching you when you get there. Most will go over the staff and who coaches what groups in your discussions while being recruited. If they don’t and your child doesn’t ask, that’s on you and your child. Have your list of questions ready!

      The conferences may limit the number of athletes a school can bring to the conference championships. The NCAA does limit the number of athletes a school can bring to the NCAA championships. But, you are still on the team!

  14. Butler Buck says:

    Good list. You may want to have more than a dream list. Be realistic and talk to parents from the same club who have kids who had similar times to your child but maybe a couple of years older. If their kid wasn’t recruit by Power 5 schools, your son or daughter probably won’t, either.

    If you are swimming D1, better consider yourself a professional swimmer. My son was recruited by D1 two years ago. When we asked about academics, we were told classes shouldn’t conflict with practice. And practice doesn’t end when the season does. They get maybe two weeks off around spring break then they are right back at it.

    Going from a great club team to a small college is a big adjustment. Swimming in practice against Big 10 kids and then going to practice with D3 swimmers / coaching can be a rude awakening. Be prepared. Staying sharp and improving can be challenging.

    Try to get your money in academics regardless of the level. If your kid decides to retire or gets weeded out for their roster spot, it’s better if you’re only having to come up with an extra 3k per year than replacing a large amount.

    Our son’s high school coach warned us: college coaches are looking for their next gig, so don’t plan on him or her being their the entire time you’re on the team.

  15. Scott says:

    Regarding Tip 5D. Your swimmers time must be good enough to score points in the conference if the school you are wanting to attend and you must be a contributer to team GPA criteria if you expect athletic scholarship money. Many D1 schools will upgrade scholarship money if you meet standards during your time at the school.

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