Managing and Navigating the College Placement Process

Courtney Bartholomew swam for 4 years at the University of Virginia, where she amassed 19 All-American awards. She was the 2013 ACC Freshman of the Year, is the Virginia and ACC Record holder in the 100 yard backstroke, and is a former member of the USA Swimming National Team.

Being mindful of these best-fit list suggestions can keep your pursuit of collegiate swimming on track.

The process of assembling a best-fit list of schools is crucial for a prospective student-athlete who aspires to swim collegiately. Developing a list of colleges and universities that matches academic and swimming credentials, as well as other selection criteria, establishes the roadmap for finding collegiate swimming opportunities. However, if a swimmer’s list directs him/her toward the wrong schools, he/ she can potentially miss an opportunity because of this incorrect judgment.

So what makes an incorrect best-fit list of schools? With access to school websites, as well as useful online tools like the NCAA and SwimSwam, families have a lot of helpful information available to put together a proper list.  And yet something is still getting in the way. In my work with age group swimming families, I often find they tend to overlook a variety of key points while attempting to assemble their best-fit list. To make sure your list is on track, be mindful of the following suggestions:

  • Assess talent level accurately and establish realistic expectations. Overestimating a young swimmer’s capabilities, academic ability, and the improvement that can be achieved during the recruiting process can all result in the pursuit of too many “reach” programs. Consequently, more appropriate college swimming opportunities may be missed as precious time is lost focusing on unrealistic options.
  • Coaches recruit contributors. College swim coaches are interested in signing athletes who can contribute as college freshman. Coaches are looking for swimmers to fill the void left behind from graduating athletes. They are also searching for individuals who would contribute on relays (the more relays the better!). This dynamic in the recruiting marketplace emphasizes the need for age group swimmers to build a list of schools with a strong core of programs that match their swimming abilities.
  • The “Academics and Swimming- Fit” component is crucial. You should attempt to find programs where you can race competitively as a freshman and achieve your academic goals simultaneously. Focusing on the academic-athletic objective as you select schools will accelerate your personal development, both in and out of the pool.
  • Age Group Swimming does not equal Collegiate Swimming. To more effectively pinpoint reasonable “target” schools from a swimming standpoint, seek swim programs where your best times from tapered competitions and in-season races fall within the times of the college travel rosters. This is a great principle to start your selection of teams that align with your swimming abilities.
  • Maintain an open mind. The college landscape is full of quality schools (Divisions I, II, III, NAIA, and NJCAA) that offer great coaching, facilities, academics, and campus settings. Some of these schools may be lesser known, but they can offer great environments for academic and athletic achievement. Do not write a school off if you have never heard of it; it could be a really great fit academically and athletically!
  • Your best-fit list may differ from your friends’ lists. Each age group has unique talents, abilities, interests, and preferences. As a result, your school selections (and recruiting plan) will likely be different than those of your peers. This is normal! Sticking to the school list and plan that is best suited for your wants, needs, and abilities (academic and athletic) will maximize the effectiveness of your recruiting efforts.

Admittedly, the task of creating a best-fit list of schools can be difficult when facing such a large pool of college options. Taking a realistic and informed approach in selecting schools that are true matches will position you for a much more streamlined recruiting process. I feel confident the insights I share can be instrumental in creating the best-fit list of schools for you. If you need assistance in the process please visit my website,, for more information.


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Those prices on her website are substantially outrageous in my own opinion, you can do what their service offers by being open and honest with yourself, seeing where you can fit in athletically and academically on a site like of charge, and talking with and developing a plan for you with your coach. There is no need to pay upwards of $10,000 to have a third party search through schools in a process that takes little effort with the resources available online.

Courtney Bartholomew

Hi Wait a Minute! I really appreciate the feedback! As someone just starting out with a business, all feedback is helpful! I want to clarify that none of the prices on my site are as high as you state (never will someone pay over $3000), and I do offer a personalized program based on what individuals need, at a much lower cost! That being said, I totally understand where you are coming from about doing research on your own, but that takes a lot of time and effort and it’s always helpful to have a third party! Additionally, parents spend a lot of time and money to help their child through age group swimming. Wouldn’t it be beneficial to spend… Read more »


To each there own.


Having just finished our daughters recruitment process and having used a 3rd party service, I can say that for our family it was a great decision to do so. We paid a cost of $1500 and our daughter got about 2,000 profile views and 150+ contacts. I had started out trying to do this filtering on my own, but it was tedious and time consuming (for me). They are not for everyone, and everybody has the right to make the best choice for themselves, but these services do help a lot of people.


Four years ago I paid $30.00 to put my oldest on a site and got the same results. I acted on the recommendation of a friend as it was our first time through the process and knew nothing about it. She wound up not going to any of them. I figure I paid $30.00 to get the experience, which I used with my second child and now in the middle of the process with my third and last child. I think the services are helpful to some but I can’t see paying a large sum of money for them.


That’s a waste of money. I got 10 offers cause of absolutely free


I understand that it’s a lot of money. Not disputing that. My only point was that for our family, it was worth it. Everyone has different circumstances and situations. To automatically say it’s a waste of money or that everyone should do the same as we did is missing the point. My daughter had a specific degree in mind and swimming, other than that she had no strong feelings about what she was looking for. Our service helped us navigate a list that started out at over 700 schools and narrow that down and target schools where she learned she might have some interest. At the same time it got her a lot of exposure that I didn’t see through… Read more »

College Swim Mom

Having gone through recruitment and college swimming with my kids, I think this article offers so much great advice that most wouldn’t even know to consider. One suggestion that stood out to me was the importance of comparing in-season times with those of your potential college team. I think most recruits only look at how their tapered time looks compared to the school’s tapered meet times. During your freshman season, however, if your in-season times don’t rank you high enough you could very well be left off the travel or conference teams. If you’re not ok with that, it’s an important comparison to make. It’s also great advice to look at your immediate impact as a Freshman on the team,… Read more »


I’m really impressed with (1) this well written, sound advice for those considering college swimming and (2) this young female entrepreneur who has identified a need and will likely be able to leverage her considerable expertise into success for both her clients and herself. Good luck!

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