Ask a Coach!: When Scholarship Money Runs Out

PHOENIX, Arizona, March 20. IN Swimming World's ongoing Ask a Coach! segment, Tennessee's Tyler Fenwick answers the nagging questions swimmers and/or swimming parents have about the sport. Tyler has so far answered a number of questions regarding the process of college recruiting. He initially offered advice on how to begin the recruiting process, then tackled the topic of how to find scholarship money as a college recruit. Today, he discusses what swimmers can expect from universities if they improve late in the recruiting process, when schools have already given out the majority of their scholarship money.

Dear Coach,

Our daughter dramatically reduced her times during her senior year. But in late February, many schools are saying no money is left. In this situation should we expect some commitment for future years (soph, junior, senior)? Also, if a swimmer is at low percentage scholarship, and vastly improves, is it usual for the scholarship percentage to increase for the next academic year?
Thank you,


Hi Douglas,

Thanks for writing. Congrats on your daughters performances this winter. For a multitude of reasons, some swimmers are just late bloomers. Nevertheless, it's always exciting when someone has a huge breakthrough!

At this point in the recruiting process, there are many different teams in a variety of situations. The majority of scholarship athletes sign a National Letter of Intent in November. Typically, a large portion of the scholarship funds allotted for the following year are distributed amongst these early signees. My guess is that many of the schools you have talked to actually do not have scholarship money remaining or are keeping some in reserve in order to fill a specific need if the opportunity arises. One general rule is to go into this process without any expectation. You could have graduate level classes which focus on college recruiting philosophy and scholarship distribution that would leave the top business students heads spinning. Every program is different and there is no philosophy that is used universally throughout the NCAA. Despite this, there are some ways teams can get creative. Staggering scholarship amounts throughout a four year period is common and is certainly an option. Again, it depends on how much a program has invested in each class and what they believe is the most efficient use of their funds. Despite the early signing period, there are plenty of schools that still will have scholarship money available and scholarship options.

I would not hesitate to be proactive, contact coaches and express your interest in their program. Gather information and assess your options. The most important part of this process is making sure that you and your daughter are comfortable with a school, are certain it is a place she can enjoy her 4 years and she's in an environment where she can thrive. Where every situation might not be ideal, your daughter's happiness is priceless. Money should only be part of the equation.

There is potential for your daughter to have a fantastic freshman year and be awarded more scholarship money. Just understand that college coaches have training systems in place that they believe will yield optimal performance in each athlete. The expectation is that a recruited athlete will improve. A coach may give scholarship incentives, but may be less willing to increase scholarship for something that is assumed. Also keep in mind that being a college athlete is stressful. Incoming freshmen have to balance travel trips, early morning practices and a tough academic schedule with an adjustment to a new environment, living on their own for the first time and creating a whole new social circle. Pressure to perform in order to increase a scholarship will only add to pressure that already exists.

The college recruiting process can be a roller coaster. There are many highs and lows. Focus on what you can control. At this point that is researching schools and programs, communicating with coaches and your family and analyzing your options. You'd be surprised at how quickly a great situation can present itself. I wish you and your daughter the best of luck. Keep us posted!

Our resident expert coach currently is Tyler Fenwick, Tennessee's Associate Coach for the men's and women's swimming and diving program. Fenwick has coaching experience at both the collegiate and club swimming level. Before moving to Tennessee, he spent three years (2009-12) as the Head Men's National Team coach for the Mission Viejo Nadadores, a premier gold medal club in Mission Viejo, Calif.

In his time with the Nadadores, Fenwick's athletes posted 58 National Age Group top-10 swims, 24 top-three swims and seven #1 ranked swims. His swimmers broke 13 Nadadore club records, four Southern California records and one National Age Group record. This past year alone, two swimmers each made the U.S. National Team, Junior Pan Pacific Team and Junior World Championship Team. Two of his swimmers won gold and bronze medals at the Junior Pan Pacific Championships. To cap it all off, he coached the 5k National Champion, David Heron, at the Open Water National Championships. Heron, and another top distance freestyle recruit Evan Pinion, have since committed to swim for UT after high school.

If you would like to submit a question to Coach Fenwick, email us or leave a comment below! All swimming-related questions are welcome!

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