Will Swimming Pay For College?

by SwimSwam 24

March 19th, 2018 College, Lifestyle

Courtesy of Elizabeth Wickham

When my kids were little and new to our swim team, we never thought about college scholarships. After all, we didnt know if our kids would stick through one season of swimming, let alone 10 plus years of it. I remember parents of older kids who were very focused on scholarships and believed that swimming was their ticket for a paid for college education. I can report that these parents did send their kids to college with big scholarships and it worked out well for them.

However, from reading various articles and looking at statistics, the numbers are not in favor of getting college paid for by swimming or diving. Its around 2 percent of all high school athletes who go on to play their sport at an NCAA D1 college and 7 percent for student-athletes across all divisions. And thats not even talking about scholarships. Theres a website that a swim coach sent to me with lots of numbers and statistics that spell it all out called Scholarship Stats.You can check out the 664 colleges that offered swimming and diving programs in 2017 at “College Swimming and Scholarship Opportunities.” Its a helpful page to check out swim and dive programs complete with average scholarships awarded and SAT and ACT scores.

Here are a few tips about the statistics of swimming in college:


Our kids need to be passionate about their activities and spend all the necessary hours and sacrifices because they want to. Not because of a dream we have for them to earn a scholarship.


In an NCAA Division I, fully-funded swimming and dive program, Men are limited to 9.9 scholarships awarded per team, while Women have 14, with most programs having around 28 swimmers on either team. Because swimming is an equivalency sport, schools can offer partial scholarships that when added up dont exceed the number of scholarships allowed. Most likely, if your child earns a scholarship for swimming it will be partialnot a full ride.


From the website Scholarship Stats, for Women, there were a total of 170,797 varsity high school swimmers in 2017. From those, 12,961 or 7.6 percent went on to swim in college. For Men, the numbers were 138,364 varsity high school swimmers with 10,345 or 7.5 percent swimming in college. These statistics dont take into account club swimmers who dont swim in high school.


Earning a scholarship is wonderful. If your child is fortunate enough to get one, you have every right to be proud and happy. Also, dont forget about all the other great things they gained from swimming such as physical fitness, time management, good sportsmanship, friendships for life and skills desired by future employers. Enjoy each moment of the age group swimming years and the college ones to come.

What are your thoughts about pressure on swimmers to get athletic scholarships for college?

Elizabeth Wickham volunteered for 14 years on her kids’ club team as board member, fundraiser, newsletter editor and “Mrs. meet manager.” She’s a writer with a bachelor of arts degree in editorial journalism from the University of Washington with a long career in public relations, marketing and advertising. Her stories have appeared in newspapers and magazines including the Los Angeles Times, Orange County Parenting and Ladybug. You can read more parenting tips on her blog.

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College Swimming Guide
6 years ago

Many programs are not fully funded so swimming scholarships can be few and far between. Coaches will often stack scholarships so the swimmers have a combination of athletic awards, academic awards, leadership and service awards, etc. This is why it’s important for swimmers to keep their grades up and also to participate in extracurricular activities.

If a swimmer is likely to score at Conference Champs, they will be more appealing candidates since coaches want to place high in the conference. It’s important for swimmers to do their research and target schools that are a good fit when reaching out to college coaches.

6 years ago

Swimming can be a huge financial help for swimmers if they are flexible in choices. Much better for girls than boys. Only worth it if your kid LOVES it. My child getting a private college education for much less than public university. But all
About choices

6 years ago

I have to say that I’m amazed at the number of swim parents on my son’s swim team that are convinced that their child is getting a full ride and at very competitive swim schools. Oh and I’m talking about parents of 11-12 year olds. If our son is still into swimming, our highest hope would be that his swimming will make him looking interesting in the admissions process.

6 years ago

Not sure your scholarship link is accurate regarding scholarships. Clemson does not have a women’s swim team. BC is D1 but a non-scholarship D1.

6 years ago

My two cents. Swimming like almost any other sport can be an avenue to get some money for college. The result will be you will be paid some amount of money(full/partial scholarship) to perform your sport for your college. It is a job. Now for some people it will be a dream job as they will get to do an activity they love to do. For others it will turn into a normal job, but there is the benefit of the reduced tuition and some travel.

I have tracked many swimmers that were on clubs my daughter swam for while they have been in college. Only a few post a best times and the improvement is small if there… Read more »

Ande Rasmussen
6 years ago

For most exceptional swimmers, swimming will pay for part of college. D1 Men’s swimming’s & Diving teams have 9.99 scholarships and Women have 14.0. Evenly divided by 4 each men’s team has 2.49 scholarships & women have 3.5. So the top men’s 10 teams combined have 24.9 scholarships each year and women have 35. My point being full rides are rare and partial scholarships is the norm.

6 years ago

Yes. Swimming can pay for college. But, no matter how talented, the athlete needs to be in the sport for the right reasons, because they want to. My child is a talented swimmer who earned a scholarship. But the scholarship comes with a catch…now you have the pressure of performing. Someone believed in you enough to offer you a scholarship so while other college students are doing what they want when they want, you basically have a job you are being paid for through a scholarship. So while it sounds glamorous it’s actually pretty serious business and can be stressful. That’s why as parents it’s our job to support.
Dont assume your child wants to swim in college. Even… Read more »

Fritz Peterson
Reply to  Anon
6 years ago

If your kid is fast enough, it can pay for college. As the parent of a kid with a full ride, we feel fortunate. But just as the poster above stated, it comes with a lot of obligations.

It’s important to remember as your child climbs the ladder, he or she must continue to swim for the love of it, not for the parent’s hope of a financial carrot at the end.

6 years ago

Short Answer – Unlikely for most, especially on the men’s side. My son was talking with Di through DIII coming out of high school. Ultimately we asked him to chose the school where he would want to go if he did not swim. He chose the DIII school that was more flexible around his academics and seemed a good fit for his swimming, one where he could contribute as a freshman at conference. He has enjoyed the balance of being a student athlete.