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

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

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

Women’s Swimming


The Number of Programs at Each Level

Men’s Swimming

NCAA DI: 134
NAIA: 20
Total: 462

Women’s Swimming

NCAA DI: 192
NAIA: 24
Total: 581

*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

NCAA DI: Texas, California, Stanford, Florida, Arizona, Michigan, Auburn, Ohio State, North Carolina, Indiana, Virginia, Georgia, Minnesota, USC, Tennessee, Alabama, UNLV, Texas A&M

NCAA DII: Ashland, Missouri S&T, Grand Valley State, Drury, Incarnate Word, Wayne Street, UC San Diego, Nova Southeastern, Ouachita Baptist, Wingate, Florida Southern, Indianapolis, Queens, Grand Canyon, Tampa

NCAA DIII: Kenyon, Denison, Emory, Kalamazoo, Johns Hopkins, Washington- St. Louis, Stevens, MIT, Williams, Amherst, TCNJ, DePauw, Carnegie Mellon, Washington and Lee, Hope, Middlebury

NAIA: California Baptist University, Fresno Pacific Sunbirds, Concordia University, Simon Fraser University, Illinois Tech, Lindenwood University, University of the Cumberlands, Biola University Union College, Asbury College, Milligan College, Morningside College, Soka University

Women’s Swimming

NCAA DI: Stanford, Georgia, Texas, Florida, California, USC, Arizona, Texas A&M, Virginia, Auburn, Tennessee, North Carolina, Michigan, Indiana, Wisconsin, Arkansas, SMU, Purdue, Louisville, Ohio State, LSU, San Diego State, UCLA

NCAA DII: Grand Valley State, Ashland, UC San Diego, Drury, Incarnate Word, Ouachita Baptist, California (Pennsylvania), Truman, Indianapolis, Tampa, CW Post, Indiana (Pennsylvania), Wingate, West Chester

NCAA DIII: Emory, Denison, Kenyon, Williams, Claremont, Johns Hopkins, Amherst, MIT, Wisconsin Stevens Point, Washington – St. Louis, Carthage, Stevens, Wisconsin – La Crosse, Grove City, Chicago, Carnegie Mellon, Hope, Calvin, Ithaca

NAIA: California Baptist University, Simon Fraser University, Fresno Pacific Sunbirds, University of the Cumberlands, Concordia University, Azusa Pacific University, Lindenwood University, Asbury College, Illinois Tech, Biola University, Union College, Soka University, Berea College, California State East Bay

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

Swimming Scholarships. College Swimming Recruiting

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Author: David Frank