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

  16 SwimSwam | December 27th, 2012 | College, College Recruiting, Featured, 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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16 Comments on "Want to Swim in College: Everyone Signed Early, But Me! What Do I Do Now?"

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Tony Rezek
3 years 9 months ago

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

3 years 9 months ago

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

3 years 9 months ago

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 in the Fall and November signing period. Typically 90 to 95% % of scholarship money is spent in November signing! In my opinion you should switch your language to November being the “regular” signing period and April being the “late” signing period. 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.

If you survey the top 500 swimmers (for men or women) in the recruiting list for those committed at: “http://www.collegeswimming.com/recruiting/” you will see that the ratio is 75% signed to 25% unsigned – this number is probably even higher because you have to manually input into system that you have signed so many forget to change status.

I know you are targeting those swimmers that are still looking for scholarships and roster spots but the reality is that the “majority” of coaches have locked in 9 of 10 roster spots in the “regular” November signing period.

3 years 9 months ago

“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.

3 years 9 months ago

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!!).

Those coaches that either hate recruiting or are not very good at it or disorganized or that don’t work closely with admissions end up relying on mostly April recruits – sometimes this can work but the majority of the time you have to get REALLY lucky — Top programs DON’T rely on luck in my opinion and that shows in the stats that I pointed everyone to look at. The top 100 programs in the country have already complete 95% of their recruiting and have used 95% of their money! — that’s a reality of life and we shouldn’t sugar coat it for the student-athletes. Leg work should be done early (by the recruits AND the coaches) – the data I provide proves my point. Of course top programs have an advantage in that they have multiple coaches and recruit staff which makes it a lot easier but the majority of college programs work with a head and assistant coach and make it work – but you have to willing to work harder — relying on the college brans won’t get you anywhere!

You may see top international students signing in April but the top recruits and those that did the leg work sign in November. Even Rick’s article argues this point. 65% of the recruits they work with sign in November!! Nationally the average across all search engines including college swimming, NCSA and BeRecruited show this is higher (around 75%).

3 years 9 months ago

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).

3 years 9 months ago

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 in March. Rather than her fight it, we helped her find another school.

It seems like recruiting changes almost daily during the senior year.

3 years 9 months ago

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 have no chance to sign or commit early.

There are still so many swimmers outside of the top 500 who intend to swim in college and have to wait to sign or commit.

Thanks for replying.It is always good to get a current college coach’s perspective.

Steve Schaffer
3 years 9 months ago

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 decide to move up a division and suddenly the teams are funded at a higher level. GCU decided to move to DI after the fall signing date and suddenly I have 1.8 more men’s scholarships and 5.9 more women’s scholarships. I will let others do the ranking, but I would imagine that we would fit in the above mentioned top 100 programs list, and we clrealy have more than 95% of our scholarship money available this year

Things happen. It doesn’t mean the coach and his/her staff isn’t doing a good job and to assert that only goes to show a lack of real understanding with how the process works.

3 years 9 months ago

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

3 years 9 months ago

Thanks for all your comments! The examples that have been given by Steve definitely do happen but I am talking about programs in general and when you look at the approximate 500 swim programs in the country about 7 out of 10 roster spots are filled in the November signing period. Rick is correct that there are a number of swimmers/parents that are not organized enough and miss out on the Nov period and those swimmers are then faced with the much harder job of finding a college with open roster spots. I am grateful that Rick works hard to get these seniors spots – the reality is however that over 75% of signings take place in November and we (all college and USA club coaches) need to do a better job in educating parents and swimmers that they need to start early. The ones that start in junior year and get all their paperwork in before October typically get the most scholarship money or merit/athletic award bundles.

In response to Phil – I never said they were lazy/horrible – I said many are not organized — I see this in at least two conferences we swim in — if the coach can’t “teach” the recruits the correct process or work steadily with admissions, they never end up nailing down the recruits in the Nov period and then they start relying on luck.

My example of the top 500 swimmers can be carried through way past that – just count up the number of NLI signings for swimming – the numbers are freely available on the NCAA website.

John Smith
3 years 9 months ago

Speaking from a parent’s perspective this year, it certainly appears the money dries up VERY early in the season at the top end of the men’s talent pool. Long ago I remember signing in the Spring. I suppose this is expected now with the effects of Title IX through the decades, limited athletic budgets and the fact that there’s really only on the average about 2 available scholarships each year to give out on the men’s side….. i.e. 8+ for swimming… and 1+ for diving…. that leaves about 2+ per grade if the coach spaced it out evenly over the 4 classes.

Mel….. perhaps your are correct for the swimmers below the top 100, but it felt like the game was furious, fast and over with quite early for my son and others.

Charlie Johnson
3 years 9 months ago

I agree with John. From what we’ve learned from contact with multiple college coaches, graduating males whose times are a little short of USAS Junior National standards, but who still have a passion to swim should focus on finding the programs where they can walk on and contribute with the hope that maybe there will be a small amount of money available to them in their sophomore or junior years or where there are academic scholarships and merit awards available. At the DI and upper DII level, even with lots of research and regular emails to coaches beginning in 10th grade, there just doesn’t appear to be an opportunity for males to earn swimming scholarships. Fortunately, it does seem due to the shortage of scholarship money, most DI mid-major teams count on filling a handful or more of their men’s team with walk on swimmers who have a strong list of USAS AAAA and AAA times and a supportive club coach to promote them.

3 years 9 months ago

Charlie you and John are correct that Title IX has had a negative impact on men’s swimming scholarships, but there are also quite a few men’s teams who have a “cap” on the number of men they can have on their team regardless of scholarship.

All the more reason to start the recruiting process early. See SwimSwam article in early December about when to start the process.

The least fastest male swimmer we have been able to help was a 2:02 and 5:14 freestyler. He is now the team captain on his D-III team in his junior year. There are still a large number of opportunities to swim in college for guys who are not at the Jr. National level. NAIA schools are a real possibility. They are 4 year institutions and they are able to offer swimming scholarships. There is also some really fast swimming taking place at the NAIA level.

3 years 9 months ago

I would have to disagree with the statement that there “doesn’t appear to be an opportunity for males to earn swimming scholarships.” There are plenty of opportunities out there, but the male swimmers do have to be fast enough. Academic aid is given to the students who get the best test scores and have the best GPAs. Athletic aid is likewise merit based and awarded to the fastest available swimmers. A strong list of AAAA and AAA times just isn’t necessarily fast enough to earn money at the DI or upper DII level. Lots of programs would welcome those times for walk on swimmers to add to team depth, however. .

Charlie Johnson
3 years 9 months ago

Glad you clarified that point, Steve. I just re-read my post and I meant to say (as you did) that I was referring to DI and upper level DII opportunities for those male’s with AAAA and AAA times.