Students who are competitive swimmers have opportunities to receive swimming scholarships. These scholarships allow them to attend elite schools and compete for the swim teams, all without having to worry about paying for the full-cost of a college education. Most types of swimming scholarships consider the student’s academic and athletic abilities, in addition to personal characteristics such as drive and motivation.
The main scholarships available for swimmers are through the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association). The number of scholarships each team gets to award depends on what division it is in. Division I teams each get 14 scholarships for women and 9.9 for men and Division II teams get 8.1 for women and 8.1 for men. Division III teams do not get any scholarships through NCAA. Because the rosters are typically much larger than the scholarship allotment, many NCAA teams give out partial scholarships to stretch their money.
The other main athletic associations are NAIA (National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics) and NJCAA (National Junior College Athletic Association). Schools that are part of the NAIA get 8 scholarships for each team and schools in NJCAA get 15 scholarships per team.
Many schools offer scholarships besides the ones provided by the athletic associations. For example, even though Division III schools can’t offer NCAA scholarships, many of their financial aid offices give merit scholarships to promising athletes with strong academic records.
All of these scholarships are awarded through specific schools, so all you have to do is apply for admission to the school and fill out a financial aid application. In addition, contact the coach for the swim team to express interest and find out how they handle recruiting for the team and awarding scholarships.
Training for a Scholarship
If you want to have a chance at a scholarship, you need to be a great swimmer. This means many long hours of training to get top form, plus great times in competition. In general, you won’t get a scholarship unless a coach believes you will be able to help the team at the conference level, even during your first year. You can look up times from conference meets last year to get an idea of where you need to be to earn a scholarship.
You will need to have at least one specialty, which is an event that you consistently win in your local competitions and can place in for the college you’re looking at. Swimmers who are good at the 50, 100, and 200 freestyle are some of the best assets for a team because of their versatility and ability to compete in the relays as well. Therefore, your best shot for a scholarship is to get really good at freestyle.
If you are good at another stroke as well, this can increase your chance of being a strong asset for your team. However, swimmers who just swim one non-freestyle stroke, such as breaststroke, backstroke, and butterfly, are not as strong of assets for their team. You can get a scholarship if you are exceptionally strong in a non-freestyle stroke, but your best bet is to focus on freestyle and one additional stroke. If you are good at all strokes, you can swim the individual medley, but you probably won’t get a scholarship if the medley is your only strength.
Of course, the best way to train for a scholarship is to swim, swim, and keep swimming. You’ll want to have a great coach, so if your high school team isn’t a strong one, get onto a competitive swim team so you can have more individualized coaching input. In addition, practice daily to perfect your stroke and be as fast as possible. Above ground pools are a great way to get your workout in at home so it doesn’t interfere with your studies.
In addition to your athletic training, you will need to have a good academic record. Although having an athletic background can improve the strength of your application for a school, you still need the academic side to earn admission to the school. Especially if you are hoping to attend a prestigious school, you may need to spend more time on homework than you do in the pool.