Myths of College Swimming

  30 Gold Medal Mel Stewart | June 21st, 2012 | College, Featured, Lifestyle

Contributor, Rick Paine, is a friend and an expert on the college recruiting process.

So, you want to swim in College? We intend to put together a series of articles to educate you on the frightening and mysterious world of college swimming and college recruiting. We hope to explode myths about the recruiting process and college swimming in general.

We are American College Connection, a group of former college coaches helping swimmers and their parents through the college recruiting process. I am Rick Paine, President and Director of Swimming, Jessica Berkowitz-Minier is our Assistant Director of Swimming and our other Assistant Director is Paul Stearns. Between the three of us we have nearly 50 years of college coaching and recruiting experience.

Enough about us. Let’s get started blowing things up.

The Division I myth:

Myth: If I don’t swim at the D-I level I am a loser.

Fact: There are no distinct levels in college swimming. The divisions are determined by size of the school, number of athletic teams and in many cases, the seating capacity of the football stadium. Swimming has very little to do with it.

There are approximately 500 four year schools that offer men’s swimming and 600 schools that offer women’s swimming.

If you looked at the top 50 to 60 swimming programs in the U.S. nearly 20 of them would be D-II, D-III and a few NAIA teams.

Myth: The best coaches are at the D-I level.

Fact: some of the best coaches in the U.S. coach at the D-II, D-III and NAIA level. Quite a few Olympians are developed at this level. And yes, there are many great coaches at the Division I level.

Myth: Scholarships are only available at the D-I level.

Fact: A little more than half of the D-I programs are full funded (have the full compliment of scholarships- 14 for women and 9.9 for men). Many have just a handful of scholarships to work with and there are quite a few who don’t have any swimming scholarships to work with at all.

D-II and NAIA schools are allowed to offer swimming scholarships.

Myth: D-III schools don’t offer swimming scholarships so I can’t afford to swim for a D-III.

Fact: Although D-III schools don’t offer athletic aid they have many ways to make school affordable for students. Many of them offer academic, merit and need based aid. Do you really think that everyone who attends a D-III school shells out $50,000 a year?

Myth: If I am not at least at the junior national level I am not fast enough to swim in college.

Fact: Only the top 50 to 60 D-I schools are able to fill their teams with Junior National level swimmers or faster.

The other 500 plus schools have to focus on swimmers with the potential to develop.

The least fastest girl we have been able to help at American College Connection was :29 and 1:04 in the 50 and 100 yard freestyle. She is currently in her sophomore year swimming at a D-II school.

The least fastest boy we have been able to help was 2:02 in the 200 yard free. He is the team captain at a D-III school in his second year.

Stay tuned for the second article exploding the myth: ”If I’m good enough, they will come?”

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.

Connect with AMERICAN COLLEGE CONNECTION here and see if you have what it takes to swim in college.




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30 Comments on "Myths of College Swimming"

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Swim MA
4 years 4 months ago

We signed our swimmer up with American College Connection when she in 9th grade.Rick Paine was a phenomenal help with the process of recruiting and with many areas of High School Swimming.He explains things beautifully and My swimmer just finished her 4 year NCAA eligibility in a Top Swim Program with many honors.Rick Paine stays in touch with her today.
We highly recommend his program.He certainly helped take the uncertainty out of the recruiting process, and we have recommended many swimmers to him who have gone on to have successful careers at Division I and Division 2 programs.Great article Rick!

4 years 4 months ago

Thanks very much for the nice comments. We pride ourselves in staying with the swimmers and their parents until the kids finish college.

Terry Taylor
2 years 11 months ago

I know this article is more than a year old, but I have been trying to acquire information on swimming scholarships in my spare time. My 11 year old daughter is a club swimmer with huge potential ( 5’5″ and size 11 feet, great long stroke) and I would love to think she has a shot at some money for school. I have heard some nasty stories about kids who take money and those who don’t. One of my swim team parents swam at Maine and he would not take money because the coach leveraged it against the swimmers.

4 years 4 months ago

Couldn’t agree with this any more! D3 swimming was the best thing to happen to me. The schools are academically really strong while allowing you to continue swimming at a high level.

4 years 4 months ago

Please do not forget that there are plenty of NJCAA schools out there that also have scholarships available.

4 years 4 months ago

You are correct about the JC’s. Thanks Coach.There are several schools that have outstanding coaches and are competitive with many of the upper level D-I programs. They offer scholarships and provide an excellent opportunity for some student-athletes to get a couple of years under their belts before heading to a four year program.

4 years 4 months ago

Im sure this service would be great but my daughter and I did nearly everything on our own and got her on at a D1 team at a great( top 10) school with great facilities in a fairly strong conference She didnt start swimming competitively til age 14 and is only a NSCA Jr national qualifier( very versatile though and came along very fast in 4 years) but I think we got her about the best school we could.She really wanted the big university experience though , not just a D1 team, really.

Katrina Radke
4 years 4 months ago

We have referred clients of ours to Rick and they have done a fabulous job helping others.
Keep SHINING Rick 🙂

4 years 4 months ago

Thanks Trina. There are a lot of talented swimmers in Minnesota who go unnoticed by college coaches. Keep up the great work you and Ross are doing.

Inga Bateman
4 years 4 months ago

We signed our daughter up with Rick and were thrilled with the way he helped us understand the recruiting process.Sarah has just finished her 4 years at University of Florida and
it was a wonderful experience.We have recommended Rick to many of Sarah’s friends and people we know through swimming and everyone has been so happy.Several Swimmers had been told that they weren’t fast enough to swim in college, but Rick proved they could.
One young man we know ended up at an NAIA school and was the NAIA Champion all 4 years of his college experience.If he hadn’t found Rick he may have listened to his HS coaches and never had the College Experience and all the success he found.Sarah was inundated with calls and letters and offers and we were glad Rick was there to help her sort everything out.Great article Rick.

4 years 4 months ago

I graduated high school as a very mediocre/poor swimmer. Swam and made big improvements at a Junior College in CA and later transferred to a D1 school. There are many ways to pursue a career in collegiate swimming and anyone who dreams of doing so absolutely should.

Paul Stearns
4 years 4 months ago

We used Rick and ACC for my daughter. It was all about creating OPTIONS. Colleges that were never on our radar contacted her and, with Ricks’ help, she ended up at Ohio U and was a Mid-Major All-American HM and should be an Academic All-American.
I was impressed enough with ACC that I started working for them.

Bill Ellis
4 years 4 months ago

Rick, I got to thinking about you after watching one of the TV News shows that was covering one of the swimming girls earlier today. I can see you have done good. Real good it looks like. I still think of our time together playing baskitball and chess while you know what. I’m 65 now and live in Arkansas and really have not change. I’ve been married and unmarried and have had several girl friends. I finally left Texas Instruments and move to IBM then to a company in NASA. Got burned out and quit and have been doing my own thing ever sense.
I have a new chess partner and quit baskitball many years ago. I still think my arms acks from all the times you tried to slap the ball from me when we battle one another in middle of the night. Just wanted to let you know I did have fun and wish you the best as you continue to help the young swimmers as you have done for so many years ago.
William Ellis

4 years 3 months ago

Nice to see this thing continue to grow! Do you make club visits and presentations? We could probably combo up some clubs out here in Oregon and make it worth your while. GBR!

4 years 3 months ago
3 years 9 months ago

Do all these things aply for Brazilian swimers?

3 years 7 months ago

Rick, contact or have people look at Mansfield University in Pennsylvania. They are D2 in one of the top swimming conferences. New young coach with a renewed focus on building the program. They are talking to a few kids I know but are trying to build a full roster after old coach let the program slip. Scholarships still available for kids who can grow into PSAC qualifiers.

3 years 2 months ago

Hi Rick,

My questions/concerns may be a bit out of your normal focus but here goes. My daughter Anna is 11. She really enjoys swimming and shows promise. She recently attended a summer Div1 college swim camp. The coach was wowed by her abilities. He found it hard to believe she was not on a swim team and wants her to pursue this.
Anna has been given 1on1 private lessons during the summer for a few years but thats it. She swims on her own quite a bit though. As a parent i want her focus to remain on her academics and the swim teams require a lot of her time on weeknights(study time). She aspires to be a doctor and gets straight A’s. I don’t want that to change and i’m afraid it will with the swim commitment.
Please help us to see the value of Anna pursuing and becoming a collegiate swimmer. Is there a way she can achieve this w/o swim team now? What path is the best one to take if she does pursue it?private lessons/YMCA swim team?

Thanks for any insight,


3 years 2 months ago

Jon – while awaiting Rick’s response, I can help you out with some thoughts.

If your daughter wants to swim in college, she probably will have to join a swim team at some point, I think we can all agree on that. It sounds like she’s about to go into 6th grade, and if it were me, I’d rather her learn how to balance the two now in junior high (where her transcripts won’t go to her colleges, let alone potential med schools) than try to get to her sophomore or junior year of college and try there.

Other pros to joining a swim team:
Colleges consider extracurricular activities when determining admissions. I had actually a shocking number of teammates in high school who went on to med school and still swam a whole lot.
Keeping good grades can be a lot of pressure. Swimming can provide a productive outlet for release of that stress and pressure, so that she can return to her studying refreshed. Nobody can study all day every day and focus the whole time, unless they’re on a whole lot of medicine.
Swimming can teach her discipline, and will likely put her in an atmosphere where she’s around a lot of other people who get good grades. All-in-all, swimmers get significantly better grades than the general populations (which is not to say swimmers are all ‘smarter’ or ‘better students’)
The ability to balance studying and participation in athletics will prepare her well to be a med student and a doctor, which requires a massive amount of commitment and dedication. Remember that being a successful doctor doesn’t stop with acceptance to med school.
And last, but not least, most of us want to be doctors when we’re 11 years old, but most of us end up changing our mind when we’re 16. Overfocus on that one goal at such a young age may result in her becoming something besides a doctor.

If you really think she has the potential, I would at the very least plan to have her on a team next summer. Beyond that, maybe you could try a transition year. Have her join a swim team, but discuss with the coach that you will only have her in the water 2-3 days a week. If that goes well, you can start to expand.

If she’s getting straight A’s now, and you put her on a swim team full time, yes there is a good chance that her grades won’t be quite as high. There are, however, plenty examples that all of us can name of people who got straight A’s, or nearly straight A’s, through high school and college while competing in high level athletics.

2 years 7 months ago

I am a home schooled swimmer in North Carolina. I go to state championships every year and hoping to get a swim scholarship at a division I school, UNC. I’m only 15, though I am currently finishing up my junior year and have taken many credits at various colleges. With my fastest times being a 26.0 in the 50FR and a 56.9 in the 100FR, would I have a chance?

2 years 7 months ago

Hi Sahara, are you a young lady or a young gentleman?

Ryan Weston
2 years 2 months ago

I am a 15 year old male swimmer who lives in Perth, on the West Coast of Australia , and competes yearly at the Australian Age National Championships. I am very interested in going to university in California because i really want to get a great education and would love to continue my swimming career at a college. My best times (in 50 meter pools) are 59.5 for 100 Butterfly, 25.1 for 50 Freestyle, and 2:15.5 for 200 Backstroke and Butterfly. I have come 9th at national championships twice in 200 backstroke and have also come 11th in 100 Butterfly and 14th for 50 Freestyle. I am also a straight A student at one of the most respected schools in my state, Wesley College. I was just wondering what my chances/options are for university in America, scholarships, and being wanted by coaches. You can contact me on [email protected]

Ryan Weston,

2 years 1 month ago


So I am way past the recuiting phase. Before college I was recruited to swim and choose a state school but few years into college they canceled their program and I did not transfer. Being a senior in college now.. How can I get back into swimming?

Gerber .D. Theodorus
2 years 28 days ago


How are you doing today?I want to make some inquiries about Swimming Training,please let me know if your facility can accommodate 8 people and our propose date of arrival is 5th of january, We are coming from Republic of South Africa. I also need your reply on the below questions.

1* The number of number of people your facility can accommodate at once?

2* Your convenient time/per day to start the classes with the group?

3* Your cost of services per person?

I awaits your urgent reply because we would need your services for 6 weeks ok.

Gerber .D. Theodorus
189 Flower Street,
Capital Park,
Pretoria 0084
South Africa
Phone: +27734858218

Nicki Walsh
1 year 10 months ago

Just starting to think about swimming scholarships in the US (daughter as swum competitively since 10 years and is now around the top 27 the UK for 200 breast) the UK system does not acknowledge the need for early consideration and many Uk swimmers never make it past 9th grade as there is little incentive to carry on as success is variable during the teen years. Any advice from parents who have been successful in winning scholarships to the US from the UK. Or any advice from US parents what pitfalls to avoid and what about recruiting agencies?

1 year 3 months ago

I love all what i just saw now, and I would love to swim for division, please give me an opportunity to prove myself worthy of your scholarship and competition. Thank you.

Kevin A-
1 year 2 months ago

Hello. I am looking for some info for my daughter who swims HS in Pennsylvania. She just turned 15 and will be going into 10th grade. She has been swimming for about 4 years. She swims summer programs and uses it as a relaxing period. Last year as a Freshman her HS program averaged 12-15K yards a week. Minimal from what I have seen for more serious programs. We have since moved her to a very competitive Y to train this year starting in Sept.
I have several questions:

1) Are you a recruiting service? What are the fees involved. Can you assist a swimmer in PA?
2) She is a backer with her best times as a freshman as :28.25 (SCY 50 back), 1:00.01 (SCY 100 back) and now seems to have some increased success in the fly :28.8 (SCY 50 Fly conv) and 50 free (26.25). Given her minimal training schedule, should we consider a recruiting service?
3) She has excellent grades due to hard work and maintained a 4.33 GPA during the swim season. Unfortunately she has had very little success with the SSATS while trying to seek acceptance into a academy. With this hurt her chances?
4) She wants to be a pediatric physician but still swim. How do we find a college that ranks high in swimming and has he course she desires?

Thanks in advance!


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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