Senior year of high school can be quite exciting, and even more so for student athletes who are getting recruited by a myriad of different universities. Senior year is finally the time where all of your blood, sweat, tears, sleepless nights, triple practices, and looking like you got hit by a train every morning, finally pays off as college coaches acknowledge your accomplishments and try to recruit you to their school. As a swimmer, I saw all of those before me go through this process and take recruiting trips and find their dream school. But as a senior, I didn’t quite know what I was doing, even though I thought I did. So to my fellow little fishies who are looking to swim in college, take these words from the wise.
One thing I wish I had done was be more open minded to which schools I considered swimming at. I was very picky as to which schools I would even consider taking trips to and because of that, I turned down a lot of really good schools, including two ivy league schools. Now that I’m in college and a tad bit wiser, I realize that I should have been more open minded in the recruitment process. I immediately suspended any consideration to a school that was located anywhere too far north or in the mid-west region. My reason for doing so was quite preposterous actually. I told myself that I wanted to go to school somewhere in the South. And if not the South, then at least somewhere where I would be guaranteed warm weather for most of the year. Because of this, I significantly reduced my options. Though it isn’t a bad thing to know what you want, I, unfortunately, closed a lot of doors of opportunity without even knowing fully what there was out there. If I had a do-over card, I would reach out to more schools and accept more recruiting trip offers to schools which I had deemed as unfavorable just because of their geographic location. The lesson learned is that you’ll never know what a place is truly like until you go and visit it. Though you might know what you want or think you know what you want like I did, keep an open mind to schools which you might first think to dismiss for some reason.
Money, Money, Money. A very important factor in the recruiting process, if not one of the deciding factors. I know that often times scholarship money is considered a taboo topic which people refrain from discussing, but let me tell you now, there is no shame in trying to create a dialog about this topic. I often times found that the scholarship money I was being offered wasn’t adequate, especially considering the fact that I was coming from out of state. Throughout the recruitment process I found that more often than not, the coaches who were recruiting me would be very generous in the amount of academic scholarship money I would receive, and rather stingy in the amount of athletic money I was receiving. Though I was offered decent money at a couple of schools, after doing a breakdown of the figures, most of my scholarship was coming from my academic performance. And the reason for this is that coaches often knew that though I was deserving of more money for my athletic performance, they could get away with cutting the amount of athletic money I received and compensating with academic scholarship money. Is this fair? No, but the reason why most coaches do this is to increase the number of athletes they can bring on to the team for that year with the limited amount of athletic scholarship funds they are granted. They try and stretch their dollar as far as it can go and as a result, shortchanging you out of athletic scholarship money which you deserve. My advice for this: fight and fight hard for the money you know you deserve. If a school is recruiting you and is willing to fly you half way across the country, then they definitely want you. So don’t be afraid to talk money with the coaches out of fear that if you do, you will no longer be desired by this school anymore. If you’re truly considering to commit to a school after taking an official trip but money is the deciding factor for you, be upfront with this information and tell the coach just how serious you are about wanting to be part of their team. Be firm yet respectful when asking for more money. Depending on how much the coach likes you, you may or may not get your way. But either way, it’s worth a try.
My second piece of advice in regards to scholarship money is that you should always talk to your teammates. I know it might seem a bit uncomfortable, but it’s a conversation that will most likely benefit everyone who is a part of it. After all, you train with these people every day and more likely than not, you’re probably at or around the same level as one another. Because of this, you might be able to gauge whether or not you’re being shortchanged or what the norm is. I highly encourage that all seniors who are going through the recruitment process be more transparent and discuss their different experiences with one another. It shouldn’t be considered a taboo topic which most are reluctant to say much about.
If you’re looking to swim in college, or play any colligate varsity sport for that matter, enjoy your senior year of high school but also make the most out of it. Be open minded, be smart about the decisions you make, ask questions, and always be humble and kind to everyone whom you encounter on your journey. If you have made it far enough to be recruited to play your favorite sport in college, it’s a blessing you should never take for granted. You made it. You’ve already put in all the hard work, so now enjoy the result of the countless hours you've put forth to get where you are. Have fun and get excited for you future college career. Cheers!