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Jun 15, 2010

How to get a Swimming Scholarship in USA? (Higher Education and Top Swimming Combined)

This is a guest post from Craig Bradford from UnitedSportsUSA.com who is an expert on foreign swimmer scholarships in the American university athletic system.

With Michael Phelps domination at the Olympics and the World Championships since he burst onto the scene at the Pan Pacific Championships in 2003 there is little wonder that many young British Swimmers have been looking at the opportunities to improve their swimming and higher education simultaneously in an American University environment.

Unfortunately, swimmers from every country in the world are also waking up to this possibility, so the competition for the best places, especially for boys, is intense. A male swimmer hoping to get to a Top 30 swimming college will need one (and preferably more) of the following:

1. Nationally ranked within the UK
2. International experience in a national team
3. Have the ability to swim multi-events

and, even then there is no guarantee that a full scholarship (tuition, fees, housing, food, books and all swimming- related expenses) will be offered. This is because all universities are limited to a maximum dollar-equivalent of about 10 scholarships and the average squad is 25-30 players.

Girls are in a much better position. Girls teams are allowed 14 full scholarships, so girls swimming at top county level or one event specialists can often get excellent funding.

There are universities and colleges that will look beyond your current swimming ability and base your awards on development potential, academic achievements and desire to attend that institution.

Academic quality in America.

Students, parents and teachers frequently ask about the value of an American degree. In America you will achieve a Bachelors Degree just like you would in the UK and will have to complete an internship in your field of study to enable you to graduate. This will give you the opportunity to gain valuable experience in your field of study whilst still at university helping you prepare for working life upon graduation.

There are 2000+, 4-year, degree-granting colleges and universities in America (as against around 150 in the UK). There are 100 American colleges that would equate academically with the Top 10 from Britain and, then, there would be the next 100 and then the next 100 after that right down to schools that will take just about anyone with the absolute minimum, just as in Britain. If you have good GCSE s and A-levels or Standard Grades and Highers and a good score on the American entrance exam, the SAT (Scholastic Assessment Test), then you should be able to gain entrance to colleges in the USA that would be on a par with the ones you would normally choose here.

Academic requirements

British students are technically eligible upon completion of GCSE s or Scottish Standard grades. However, most students will not attend until the following year giving them the opportunity to develop fully and mature. It is recommended by University and college admissions that students who are capable of doing A-levels and Highers, take this option. You should may get degree-level credit for your work and most people are much better equipped to be several thousand miles from home competing against 18-24 year olds if they are that little bit older. The table below sets out the minimum NCAA(National Collegiate Athletic Association) requirements and for more information regarding the three sports governing bodies, the NCAA, the NAIA (National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics) and the NJCAA (National Junior College Athletic Association) please visit: Swimming Scholarships


A swimming scholarship is firstly an academic pursuit. Therefore the NCAA(National Collegiate Athletic Association) has the following minimum core requirements:

1. C or 3 grade average in a minimum of five GCSE's or Scottish standard grades, including the four mandatory subjects:

- Mathematics
- English
- Social Studies (geography, religious education, psychology, sociology, economics, history, integrated humanities, Spanish, etc.)
- Science (chemistry, biology, physics, anatomy and physiology)
- Any elective subject (a second subject from any of the above, computer science, or a foreign language, but not drama or PE which the Americans consider vocational . The BTEC National is considered a transfer qualification, but a GNVQ is not accepted.

2. A/S, A-levels and Highers are not necessary but will satisfy the above requirements and you can have your A-levels assessed for degree level credit.

3. Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT). This The SAT is a globally recognized college admission test that lets you show colleges what you know and how well you can apply that knowledge. It tests your knowledge of reading, writing and math. The test is offered six time per year at various testing centres across the UK.

Why should American colleges want British Swimmers?

Due to the competitive nature of recruiting swimmers from within the USA some colleges and Universities will cast their net further afield to in order to find talented swimmers to boost a program and raise their Universities profile internationally. Coaches are paid to recruit athletes, organise schedules, arrange practice sessions and develop your technique. The coach faces losing their job if their team continually performs poorly in their leagues (conferences). Most coaches have found that athletes from the UK find it easier to settle in the USA and are generally more committed to their academics and swimming than students from other countries.

How good do I need to be?

To gain scholarship funding you need to be at least swimming at county level and competing nationally. You must also meet the minimum academic requirements to be considered as a coach wants athletes who will be able to adjust to life inside the classroom as well. There is also an opportunity to gain academic scholarship funding meaning that the coach does not need to use as much swimming funding and may be able to make you a larger scholarship offer. Lots of swimmers who go out on partial scholarships and then do well can get more money after a year or two when some of the older players graduate and free up money from the budget.

How much does it cost?

American universities divide fairly equally between public and private institutions. Public (state-funded) universities are usually cheaper and cost between $18,000 and $25,000 per year for tuition, fees, housing, food and books. Private sector schools do not have access to state and federal grants and are, on average, $5,000 to $15,000 more expensive each year. Most of the top academic universities such as Princeton and Harvard are private colleges and would require academics equivalent to that of Oxbridge or Cambridge for admission.

How to get a scholarship?

You will not get a scholarship if coaches do not know about you. Some high profile athletes are headhunted by US coaches over here to scout the main junior events, tournaments and meets. Other swimmers contact coaches directly by sending their own CVs. This can sometimes work, but if you are going to go down this route, you need good advice, extensive research and some good luck to make sure that the college you choose offers the academics, swimming and the ambiance that will make you happy over the next four years of your life. Many coaches will not communicate with athletes who send them their CV as they often believe that these swimmers embellish certain details in order to catch their eye. They also struggle to understand the level of
competition or what you have achieved and how it translates to the USA. Alternatively you can use the services of United Sports USA. They are the British based sports-marketing company and help to generate scholarship funding for qualified student-athletes with appropriate universities/colleges. They advise about academic requirements, entrance exams, Clearing House procedures, immigration documentation and visas, as well as giving in-depth information about each college and help to negotiate scholarship offers on your behalf. United Sports USA are committed to putting the client's needs first and through a tailor made and personal service have helped countless young athletes realise their dream of studying and competing in the USA. Time is precious, so don't waste another minute just thinking about moving to America, Apply Now For A Swimming Scholarship

Here is some additional information on swimming at an American University and scholarships.
Be seen, keep your stuff dry and take a break when needed.