College Swimming Scholarships and Recruiting

How to Get a Swimming Scholarship

Competition for swimming scholarships is an international affair. It takes more than swimming good times in your best events to earn a swimming scholarship. Coaches have a vast pool of athletes to choose from, so you must gain an advantage over others by following these steps to impress coaches.

Getting College Coaches to Watch You

The more attractive you are as a candidate, the better chance you have of a coach coming to watch you swim. Generally, coaches will only go to the big meets, and if you want to be seen you will need to be swimming there. To get the most out of your time in front of coaches, use this guide.

How the Swimming Recruiting Process Works

College swimming coaches are looking for athletes who work just as hard in the classroom as they do in the pool. The swimming recruiting process is about being able to show improvement over the course of your high school career with clear potential. In order to show coaches who you are, you need to contact them first. Here is how our athletes do it.

You Need to Know the Academic Requirements

Coaches want to make sure that once you are at their school, that you will help the team keep a high GPA. To measure this potential, coaches will look for you to have much higher qualifications than the NCAA and NAIA minimums.

How Good Are College Swimmers?

These are the general guidelines for what coaches look for in a swimmer. If you don’t have the times yet, it doesn’t mean you can’t swim at that level, only that these are the averages. If you want to know if you are good enough to swim at a specific college, check their team website to see what times their swimmers are posting at meets. The following times are short course times and in yards.

Men’s Swimming

NCAA DI NCAA DII NCAA DIII/NAIA
50 Free <22.0 <23.5 <24.0
500 Free <4:45 <5:00 <5:05
100 Back <55.0 <57.0 <59.0
100 Breast <1:01 <1:04 <1:06
100 Fly <54.0 <57.0 <59.0
200IM <2:01 <2:05 <2:08

Women’s Swimming

NCAA DI NCAA DII NCAA DIII/NAIA
50 Free <25.0 <26.5 <28.0
500 Free <5:06 <5:18 <5:32
100 Back <1:00 <1:02 <1:06
100 Breast <1:12 <1:15 <1:17
100 Fly <59.0 <1:02 <1:07
200IM <2:10 <2:16 <2:24

The number of scholarships available varies by division level. Finding the right fit for you comes down to looking at scholarship opportunities and where your abilities fit.

Number of Scholarships Offered per Team

Not all colleges that are eligible to offer scholarships will choose to do so. For example, Ivy League schools choose not to offer athletic scholarships. Swimming is an equivalency sport, which means all scholarships are not full scholarships, and coaches may divide the total number of scholarships allotted to them between as many athletes as they wish. Swimming and diving share scholarship money, which means that they have to divide up the scholarship amount in between both sports. Some swim teams choose not to have a diving team so that they can focus their scholarship money on swimmers.

Men’s Swimming

NCAA DI: 9.9
NCAA DII: 8.1
NAIA: 8
NJCAA: 15

Women’s Swimming

NCAA DI: 14
NCAA DII: 8.1
NAIA: 8
NJCAA: 15

The Number of Programs at Each Level

Men’s Swimming

NCAA DI: 136
NCAA DII: 77
*NCAA DIII: 227
NAIA: 31
NJCAA: 60
Total: 531

Women’s Swimming

NCAA DI: 199
NCAA DII: 106
*NCAA DIII: 259
NAIA: 36
NJCAA: 65
Total: 665

*NCAA Division III schools do not offer athletic scholarships, but they do offer other forms of financial aid.

The Top College Programs in Each Division

Finding the right program is the most important part of the recruiting process. By visiting different schools’ websites and looking at the times their swimmers swim, you can get a sense for what level you should expect to compete in.

Men’s Swimming & Diving
What Are the Top Programs in Each Division?

NCAA DI: Texas, Cal, Florida, NC State, Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, Missouri, Indian, Auburn, Louisville, Michigan, Southern California, Stanford, Ohio State, Arizona, South Carolina, Wisconsin, VA Tech, Minnesota, BYU, Pitt, U. Miami, Penn, Texas A&M, UNC

NCAA DII: Queens (NC), Lindenwood, Florida Southern, Nova Southeastern, Delta State, Drury, Grand Valley State, Saint Leo, Tampa, Simon Fraser, West Chester, Cal Baptist, Missouri S&T, Fresno Pacific, U. Indy, Wingate, UC San Diego, Wayne State, Bloomsburg, Colorado Mesa, Florida Tech

NCAA DIII: Denison, Kenyon, Emory, Johns Hopkins, MIT, Williams, TCNJ, Wash U, NYU, CMS, Rowan, Tufts, Keene State, U Chicago, Saint Thomas, Calvin, W&L, Wheaton (IL), Stevens, Connecticut College

NAIA: Olivet Nazarene, SCAD, Lindenwood – Belleville, WV Institute of Technology, Cumberlands, Wayland Baptist, Saint Andrews, Lindsey Wilson, Asbury, College of Idaho, Thomas, Biola

Women’s Swimming & Diving
What Are the Top Programs in Each Division?

NCAA DI: Georgia, Stanford, Cal, Texas A&M, Virginia, University of Southern California, Indiana, Louisville, NC State, Michigan, Missouri, Arizona, Texas, Tennessee, Ohio State, Minnesota, UCLA, UNC, Florida, Wisonsin, Kentucky, Purdue.

NCAA DII: Queens University (NC), Wingate, UC San Diego, Drury, Grand Valley State, U. West Florida, Wayne State, LIU Post, Lindenwood, Delta State, Nova Southeastern, Truman State, Cal Baptist, Florida Southern, West Chester, Carson-Newman, Colorado Mesa.

NCAA DIII: Emory, Kenyon, Williams, Denison, Johns Hopkins< Amherst, Wash U in St. Louis, NYU, MIT, Wheaton (IL), Bates, U. St. Thomas, U. Chicago, UW – Eau Claire, Connecticut College, Calvin, Pomona-Pitzer, Trinity (TX), DePauw, Ithaca.

NAIA: SCAD, Olivet Nazarene, Brenau, Biola, University of Cumberlands, Lindsey Wilson, College of Idao, WV Institute of Technology, Lindenwood – Belleville, Wayland Baptist.

Number of Women’s Water Polo Programs

DI – 34
DII – 15
DIII – 18
NAIA – 2
NJCAA – 40

Total: 109

Number of Men’s Water Polo Programs

DI – 26
DII – 8
DIII – 17
NAIA – 1
NJCAA – 31

Total: 83

Scholarships for Women’s Water Polo

NCAA DI and DII: 8

Scholarships for Men’s Water Polo

NCAA DI and DII: 4.5

Women’s Water Polo
What Are the Top Programs in Division? Since so few programs, colleges play across division levels


Southern California, UCLA, Stanford, ASU, Michigan, Cal, UC Irvine, Hawaii, UC Santa Barbara, UC Davis, UC San Diego, Cal Baptist, Whittier.

Men’s Water Polo
What Are the Top Programs in Division? Since so few programs, colleges play across division levels

Southern California, UCLA, Cal, UC Santa Barbara, U. of the Pacific, Stanford, Long Beach State, UC Davis, Pepperdine, Brown, Harvard, Princeton, UC San Diego, Cal Baptist, Pomona-Pitzer, Whittier.

IMPORTANT: NAIA rule changes. You must now register with the NAIA Clearinghouse.

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Author: David Frank

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