How to Ask for Scholarships

Contributor, Rick Paine, is a friend and an expert on the college recruiting process. Rick is the Director of American College Connection (ACC).

Look for value in a school and a program, not just money. It is far more important to find the right school and not just the cheapest.

Unless you are among the very best in your sport, most coaches will wait until as late as possible in the recruiting process to discuss scholarship….if you let them. Once scholarship is discussed, there is a perceived level of commitment by the swim coach. (Nothing is for sure until you receive the Financial Aid Agreement papers.) Good recruiters want to wait until as long as possible before they commit to a scholarship so they can weigh all of their options.

There is a right way and a wrong way to ask about money. The last thing a college coach wants to hear from a recruit or their parents is, “how much are you going to give me/how much am I worth to you?”

·      Before you can negotiate for a scholarship, you need to determine just how much you and your parents can afford to send you to college. You should not divulge this information to college coaches, but it helps you to narrow down your choices.
  • Once you are fairly sure that you are interested in a school and you think they are interested in you it’s time to find out if you can afford to attend that school.

It is best to ask this question before you take an official visit.

  • Swimming scholarships can be upgraded after the first year based on improved performance.
  • The first thing to let the coach know is that finances will be an important factor in your decision to attend a school.
  • The next thing is to ask the coach how much will it cost to attend that school.

Here is How to Ask for a Scholarship:

“Coach, I am very interested in your school and I really believe that I can get a great education there and really improve under your coaching, but I have to be honest with you. My parents are concerned if they can afford for me to go to your school. They would like for me to find out how much you think it might cost for me to attend.”

If the coach gives you a percentage of scholarship that they are going to offer you let them know that your parents don’t understand percentage and would like to know what it will cost.

Scholarship considerations

  1. Coaches are looking for two major attributes in a recruit:
  • How good are your grades and test scores? Coaches like to recruit good students so they can help them find academic scholarships first then fill in with athletic scholarships.
  • How many points can you score in 3 events at the conference championships? There is usually a small scholarship available for swimmers who can score in the top 16 in 3 events and more money for top 8 and even more for top 3 or 4.
  1. A team’s needs change from year to year and as they answer those needs their scholarship priorities change.
  2. Grades count. Coaches don’t want to waste their time and money on an athlete who is an academic risk.
  3. Leadership qualities count, but don’t list them ahead of academic and athletic accomplishments.
  4. Most scholarships are given to student-athletes who can help the team at the conference and national level.
  5. Athletic versatility makes you more marketable.
  6. Present yourself as a “big meet” performer.
  7. If you are a minority, let the coaches know. There is a lot of extra financial aid available for minorities.
  8. Don’t be concerned with other athletes’ scholarships. Each recruiting situation is different.
  9. Ask the coaches what their policies are on:

A)    Fifth year scholarships. Coaches are allowed to give student-athletes financial aid in their fifth year of school even though the student-athlete can no longer compete for the school. This scholarship does not count against the scholarship limit for that sport.

B)    Summer school. The NCAA allows schools to award summer school scholarships to current student-athletes at the same percentage of scholarship they were on during the regular school year.

C)    Scholarship upgrades. What does it take to get an increase in scholarship?

D)   Scholarship downgrades. What are reasons for having a scholarship downgraded?

  1.  The bottom line is what does it cost to attend a school and how much will

it cost you.

If you would like to find out if you can swim in college and at what level, go to www.ACCrecruits and submit a Free Profile.


ACC is a SwimSwam ad partner. Learn more about ACC and their entire team here. 

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Keep up the good work in the ever changing scene of college recruiting/swimming. I let the kids/families know their are lots of options. I’m sure you’ve taken all your years of college coaching/recruiting & learned more. I remember you well from your Cornhusker days.

Tim –


Isn’t it true that in Australia, for athletes who get a college scholarship-the club coach takes a percentage of that?

Joel Lin

It is not true. In Australia elite swimmers do not attend Australian universities on scholarship, but if they have national team level status they can receive grants to attend college from the national program…so there is a synthetic scholarship for elites, but they only compete for their private clubs and national team.

This funding is apart from the support the Aussie body provides to the coaches and the clubs themselves.


Occasionally an Australian university will decide to do a program & hire a coach. One such attempt proved lucky. Macquarie university in Sydney hired Brandt Best to manage a squad & received an enquiry for an evaluation from a country family eager to get some assistance in sending their boy to university in the city.

Coach Best interviewed the family & told them that not only could he provide a swimming package but he could get their boy on the Olympic team.

JM of course in 2010 . For all those critics – JM really is just a country boy to world champion in 18 months.

HI Tim, thanks for the nice comments. You are correct about all of the options out there. As of yesterday, we have over 100 college coaches who have contacted us in the past two weeks looking for swimmers for this fall. I wish I could find 20 more girls who are seniors and who are still looking for schools.


These articles are great. I make reference to them on a USS facebook page and the kids are really benefiting from it!!

I am really glad that you find the articles helpful. Even though there is a lot of information in this one article it is only the tip of the ice berg in understanding the college recruiting process.
This is only a small part to what we do to help our kids and parents understand how play the game.
We started submitting articles to SwimSwam last July. Be sure you go back and find the older posts.
I am very pleased that we are helping kids.

Joel Lin

Excellent advice and a must read / reality check for high school recruits. A few thoughts: the greatest scholarship of any kind is an admissions passport into a better school that would otherwise be the case. How many students with a 3.5 high school GPA get into Stanford? Zero. How many student athletes recruited get into Stanford with a 3.5 GPA? Many. Generally, money matters. What else matters is the FUTURE VALUE of a degree. Said another way if getting a degree from a school like a Stanford is worth some financial stuggles to make work with an admissions passport. A “better deal” or more scholarship from some State U that is not a high regarded academic school…well, that is… Read more »

Thanks Joel, you have hit on our most important goal in working with the swimmers. We want to use their swimming to help them get admitted into schools that otherwise would not take them…..and hopefully get all or part of their education paid for.
Your Stanford analogy is right on the money.

About Gold Medal Mel Stewart

Gold Medal Mel Stewart

MEL STEWART Jr., aka Gold Medal Mel, won three Olympic medals at the 1992 Olympic Games. Mel's best event was the 200 butterfly. He is a former World, American, and NCAA Record holder in the 200 butterfly. As a writer/producer and sports columnist, Mel has contributed to Yahoo Sports, Universal Sports, …

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