College Swimming Scholarships & Recruiting Information

Instructor: Christopher Sailus

Chris has an M.A. in history and taught university and high school history.

In this lesson we explore the world of college swimming and the possibilities of getting a scholarship as a swimmer. We also discuss some recruiting tips and important info regarding equivalency sports.


Just about everyone has gone swimming at one point or another. Maybe you have a friend who lives on a lake, or maybe you go the municipal pool during the hot summer months. It's a great way to cool off, have some fun, or even exercise.

But did you know swimming, if you are really good at it, could help you pay for college? If your high school has a swimming team, or even if it doesn't, competitive swimming can help you allay your college expenses and help you have fun through representing your school in competitions.

The Stats

Of course, making the swimming team at a college or university can be much more difficult than making the team in high school. At many high schools, you don't necessarily have to try out for the swim team--simply expressing a desire to join the team and a willingness to show up every day is enough.

But there are far fewer colleges and universities than high schools in this country. Naturally, post-secondary institutions get to have their pick of high school student-athletes. In fact, though more than 300,000 boys and girls who competed in swimming in high school in the 2016-17 school year, there were only just about 24,700 competing at the next level. That is roughly only 8% of the high school total.

So, in order to be able to compete at the next level, you have to be one of the best in high school. If you train and work hard, and you still aren't somewhere in the top 10% of your region or state, you may want to think about other options.

Scholarships and Equivalency

Now, of course you don't simply want to compete at the next level--you want to earn a scholarship that helps you pay for your education as well. Different levels offer different scholarships, so try to gain some knowledge about schools or teams you want to try to join.

Learn what division they are in, as that impacts the amount of scholarships they can offer swimmers. The breakdown is as follows:

  • NCAA Division I: 14 for women, 9.9 for men
  • NCAA Division II: 8.1 women, 8.1 for men
  • NCAA Division III: no scholarships
  • NAIA: 8 for women, 8 for men
  • NJCAA: 15 for women, 15 for men

Remember that swimming is an equivalency sport in terms of scholarships, meaning coaches can divide up their scholarships as long as the offer does not exceed the limit for their division.

Most coaches do divide up their scholarships to cover the most swimmers possible, as most university and college swim teams have an average of 28 swimmers. This doesn't mean a full scholarship is unattainable, just that you will have to be very good to warrant receiving one!

Additionally, try to find out if swimming at your school of choice is fully funded, meaning the school offers all the scholarships they can. Just because a school can offer the amount of scholarships that correspond to their division, doesn't necessarily mean they will.

Swimming doesn't attract the same audience as football or basketball, and schools differ on whether or not they will make enough money available to offer every scholarship they can. That can have a big impact on whether or not you pursue a scholarship at a certain school.

Recruiting info

Coaches are always trying to recruit the best swimmers possible. Perhaps the best advice for getting a swimming scholarship is to work incredibly hard both in the pool and in the classroom. Excelling at meets at high school, regional, or even national tournaments is the best way to get yourself noticed by collegiate coaches. At the same time, you need to make sure your grades are good enough to be admitted to the school that eventually recruits you.

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