Swimming Scholarships: An introduction into the sports scholarship
The London 2012 Olympics saw 124 medals awarded during the various swimming events; 39 of these medals were won by current or former American swimming scholarship recipients – accounting for one third of the total medal haul. American collegiate swimming has produced the likes of Phelps, Schmitt and Vollmer and is regarded as a breeding ground for the worlds best talent.
Earning a swimming scholarship will allow you the opportunity to pursue both an academic and swimming career simultaneously. This means that you will be studying for a university degree – in a subject of your choice – whilst training and competing at an elite level, akin to that of professional sport.
There are over 1,100 men’s & women’s college swimming programs in the USA with many offering scholarship opportunities to talented swimmers who could have the ability to make a competitive contribution to the team.
Life as a college swimmer is extremely challenging and will involve being fully committed as both a full-time athlete whilst simultaneously pursuing a degree as a full-time student. It is an environment that produces most of America’s professional and Olympic athletes.
Swimming Scholarships: Types of Scholarships available
There are two types of scholarship that a prospective student-athlete can receive. A ‘full swimming scholarship’ or a ‘partial swimming scholarship’. Competition for scholarship money is extremely competitive with scholarships being offered to the best athletes.
A full swimming scholarship will mean that the university is paying for all tuition, accommodation, food, books and everything related to your sport. At some universities, a full scholarship can equal the investment of almost $400,000 in one, single athlete. At Be Varsity, one in every four of our athletes will receive a full scholarship.
A partial swimming scholarship is just as it sounds; it is where the university are offering you a deal that will cover some, but not all, of the costs associated with attending the university. If, for example, a university costs $50,000 and the coach is giving you a scholarship worth $45,000, then this is a partial scholarship as there is a $5,000 shortfall that the coach wants you to contribute towards the costs of attending the university. Most partial scholarships come with the incentive that if you perform well, both in the pool and in the classroom, then the coach can reward you with a scholarship increase and cover any costs that you had been contributing towards.
There are also other scholarships that a university can offer (academic scholarships, for example) and these can be combined with a swimming scholarship to cover the costs associated with attending a university. It is worth noting that a scholarship will not cover the costs of your flight to and from the campus (personal travel) or any costs associated with the social aspect of life in America (shopping at mall, cinema, etc).
When Should You Start the Process?
Ideally, prospective student-athletes will begin the scholarship process in the first half of their penultimate year of secondary school. In the second half of that year, they will then take the SAT or ACT exam for the first time (the exam may be retaken) and begin communication with university coaches. The most intensive time for scholarship recruiting in the USA is between July and December. Many coaches prefer processing and finalising commitments with recruits in those months during the students’ last year of secondary school.
What’s the Next Steps?
The concept of sports scholarship agencies is an American phenomenon given the selectivity and diversity of their universities – and in this case, their swimming programs. Our job comes down to providing insight on the process specific to programs, managing expectations, and helping families negotiate the process efficiently.
To work with us, prospective student-athletes or their parents would submit an initial application, which, after a conversation is followed-up by an interview between the student and one of our scholarship consultants. This is free of charge and we always seek to provide feedback to families after this process. If we believe the individual has a realistic opportunity to secure a scholarship, we will send a proposal offering the family the opportunity to sign with Be Varsity and commence the sports scholarship process.