Want to Swim in College: Everyone Signed Early, But Me! What Do I Do Now?

by SwimSwam 17

December 27th, 2012 College, College Recruiting, News

Contributor, Rick Paine, is a friend and an expert on the college recruiting process. He is also the Director of Swimming at American College Connection. 

You have read all of the articles about the swimmers who signed early, you have seen your teammates at press conferences announcing their early signing and you are more than a little concerned if there is actually a place for you in college swimming.

Will anyone still want me? Will there be any scholarship money left? What do I do now? Have I missed the boat?

I would estimate that only about 25% of the high school senior swimming recruits sign during the early signing period each year. The rest have to wait until April.

At American College Connection we advise our swimmers to sign early ONLY IF they have found the right fit for academics, swimming and scholarship at a college. We work with an average of 85 seniors every year. Because we start the recruiting process with the majority of our swimmers when they are in grade 9, 10 and 11, 65% of our swimmers sign early.

Here is some information and advice that we provide the other 35%.

Info about the signing periods for swimming:

  • The early signing period is a one week window in the middle of November when swimmers can officially sign a National Letter of Intent and scholarship papers.
  • The regular signing period begins in the middle of April and runs through August 1.
  • Verbal commitments can be given at any time, but they are not binding.
  • You cannot sign an NLI unless you have some form of swimming scholarship.
  • Nearly all D-I and D-II (D-III does not have a signing period and NAIA has an open signing period) coaches try to get their recruiting completed during the early signing period………..very few do.
  • There is more scholarship money available during the early signing period than the regular one.
  • There are a lot of coaches still looking for swimmers in April and most of them have scholarship money. We usually get contacted by an average of 95 coaches at the end of April every year asking for swimmers for the following year.

Advantages for signing in April:

  • You have a chance to improve your times and grades.
  • For most men, you have a chance to grow.
  • After the early signing period coaches will re-evaluate their recruiting needs and may lower they scholarship standards slightly.
  • You will get recruited by schools that didn’t recruit you early.
  • You have more time to get to know the coaches and for them to get to know you.
  • The extra five months gives you time to mature and have a better idea of what you are looking for in a school and swim program.

The best advice I can give you is:

  • stay patient
  • keep working hard in school and the pool
  • keep the coaches updated on your unrested times and how they compare to the previous season
  • sell your potential (see SwimSwam article from mid October)
  • let the coaches know what and when your big shave and taper meet is
  • when the big meet comes you will have to deal with the feelings that “I HAVE to swim fast”. It is pretty difficult to HAVE to swim fast. Put the recruiting aside and focus on ALLOWING yourself to swim fast.

Happy New Year and contact us if you or your parents have any questions about the college recruiting process.

To find out if the time is right for you to get started with the college recruiting process go to www.ACCrecruits.com and submit a Free Profile Assessment.


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Tony Rezek

Great advice coach. Glad you were there for me during that part of my life.

Thanks Tony, we must have done something right since you are still a very serious competitive swimmer. Proud of you. Happy New Year


Great article but as a college swim coach I disagree with the statement “About 25% of the high school senior swimming recruits sign during the early signing period each year. The rest wait until April.” I think it should have been 75% sign in November and rest in April? Correct? Rick, the percentage you list doesn’t add up from my experience and talking to other coaches across the country! There are roughly about 10000 open roster spots per year across the country and over 200,000 HS swimmers, so competition for a spot is fierce (especially for men!) Women teams can sometimes increase roster sizes (because of title XI). The majority of college coaches concentrate on nailing down their incoming freshman… Read more »


“Swimmers that wait until April have to be lucky or worse, the college coach didn’t do a good job in November signing and that should tell you a lot about their experience and ability to do a great job coaching or worse they don’t have a good relationship with their admissions.”

What a narrow-minded way of thinking. This is so wrong on so many levels, that I’m not sure where to begin.


Well I am open to being proved wrong and willing to change my opinion but you offer no support for your statement that “it is wrong on so many levels”. In my experience coaches if coaches are scrambling for the “majority” of their signings in April then they did a very “poor” job in the regular recruiting period. Just look at all the top teams that swimswam has reported on — their recruiting is 99% complete – do you think that top programs like “Cal, Georgia, Florida, Auburn lock in more of their recruits in the Fall or in the Spring? The data I have produced strongly supports my argument that the “early ORGANIZED bird/coach/college gets the BEST worms (swimmers/divers!!).… Read more »


Steve responded better than I could below, but he lays it out. Not to mention, you’re only concerned about the top what, 5% of prospective swimming recruits and colleges? There’s so much more to this sport than just those top-end swimmers, including lack of resources/budgets/etc that has nothing to do with a coach being lazy/horrible (to paraphrase you).

Phil, a lot has changed for the college coaches over the past few years. Many of them have had their recruiting budgets cut substantially and as STUARTC states, the top programs have a staff to deal with recruiting. I talk with a ton of coaches who are one man or one woman shows and have to do everything themselves. They all have to rely on their compliance departments, some are efficient and some are not. We had a swimmer a few years ago who signed for a full scholarship during November at a D-I school. The coach called her in April to tell her that her scholarship had been cut by $20,000 because the coach had his scholarship budget cut… Read more »

Thanks for your input.The percentage who sign early is a guesstimate. I would have been more accurate by using the term committed. I do believe there are far more swimmers who commit after the early signing period. Many of them are not on scholarships. My intent of the article was not to discourage swimmers from signing early, but to encourage the ones who didn’t and remind them that there is still hope. You are right on the money with your statement, “The majority of college coaches concentrate on nailing down their incoming freshman in the Fall and November signing period.” I still see so many swimmers and their parents wait too late to get the recruiting process started that they… Read more »

Steve Schaffer

I think it is true that most coaches work to use as much of their available scholarship money as possible in the fall, but there are a number of situations where more money becomes available later in the year, none of which mean that a coach has not done a good job of recruiting. Current swimmers may improve their academic awards as non-counters, swimmers may decide to quit or are asked leave a program, and some even decide to graduate early. Desciplinary actions may result in a post-fall decision to take away scholarship money from a current swimmer. I have experienced all of those. In some rare cases, like the one I find myself in this year, a school will… Read more »

Great info Steve, thanks and yes GCU would be considered among the top 100.

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