5 Questions for Every College Recruit

Texas cheering
Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

By Courtney Bartholomew, Swimming World College Intern

As my final year of being a college athlete begins and my last recruiting season as a Cavalier winds down, I realize just how lucky I was to find the ideal university for me. Before I committed to the University of Virginia, I took my unofficial visits to many campuses around the country, trying to find where I would best fit in.

While I remember this time as being exciting, I most recall how stressful it was. Not only do you have to choose where you want to receive an education from, you have to choose a college you feel comfortable at, a team you want to spend time with, and a coaching staff that you feel can develop you as an athlete and as a person. Adding to this stress is the constant barrage of the question from parents, family and friends– “Do you know where you are going to school?” And of course, the biggest question of all, the one you constantly ask yourself– “What if I do not find the right school?”

With this being such a hectic time, here’s a few questions you can ask yourself to help make this time less stressful and help you to choose the school and swim program that is the best fit for you and your needs.


Photo Courtesy: Kathleen Baker

1. What are the most important qualities I am looking for in a university?

A few questions to consider when looking at qualities of a university:

  • How far from home do I want to be?
  • Do I want a small or large student-body population?
  • Would a large campus be too overwhelming for me or provide excitement?

These three questions can allow you to determine what environment you will feel most comfortable in. If you are far from home, it will be more difficult for family to visit, but being farther away allows you to be more independent and branch out. The student-body population is going to help determine class sizes. If you’re looking for a 30-person class, you’ll probably have to wait until you are a junior or a senior. A large campus has many perks and opportunities to meeting people, but if you’re not willing to walk far, ride your bike, or take a bus, then you may want a smaller campus that’s easier to navigate!

Personally, when I began looking at colleges, I wanted to have a smaller campus so I could walk everywhere, but I still wanted to have the feel of a large, Division I school. These three questions will help you to understand what you’ll need to feel comfortable on campus.

2. What is the education like at this university?

A few questions to consider when looking at education quality:

  • Will a degree from this institution allow me to achieve my career goals?
  • If I already have a major in mind, does the university offer it and is it a good program?
  • What percentage of the student-athletes graduate on time?
  • What is the percentage of students who get jobs out of college from this university?

Swimming at some point, sadly, has to end. What are you going to do when you graduate and have to enter the real world? These few questions will help you to begin thinking about the future and see how the university you choose can aid you in your future endeavors.

“In the recruiting process, every student-athlete looks for a place that can cater to their needs, foster new relationships, and secure a path for the future,” Stanford junior Maxwell Williamson. “For me, the thing that set Stanford apart from all other schools was the tradition of success. From nobel laureates teachers to championship winning coaches, the knowledge and wisdom that Stanford could provide coupled with the most successful and exciting student body led me to know for sure that Stanford was the place where I was meant to be.”


Photo Courtesy: Emma Schoettmer

3. Do I feel comfortable around the team?

  • Do I feel as though my personality and who I am blends well with the team atmosphere?
  • Do I see these people as becoming my close friends and “family” away from home?
  • Does the team act supportive of one another?
  • Is the program combined or separated into male/female?

Kaitlyn Jones, a junior at UVA, commented that during her recruiting process, “I could immediately tell on my recruiting trip that the men and women’s team acts like a family and everyone truly cares about one another. One of the main reasons I chose UVA was because of the closeness of the team.” As Jones stated, the team atmosphere is significant when deciding on a college. These people are going to become some of your closest friends and you will spend a lot of time interacting with them.

4. Do I think the coaching staff can help me to accomplish my short-term and long-term goals?

*A disclaimer on this point, do not commit only for the coaching staff. Coaching transitions do occur unexpectedly and coaches are not necessarily a guarantee.

  • What is the success rate of the coaching staff?
  • Do I get along with the coaching staff?
  • How will this coaching staff work to achieve my goals?

Whenever I talk with UVA Head Coach Augie Busch, I know that he understands my goals as an athlete and he is working to help me achieve them. Not only does Augie help me achieve my ambitions in the pool, but he understands that I have school goals and career goals that may have to (occasionally) come before swimming. By having a staff that understands your goals, they can create the plan that works best for you in the pool and out.


Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

5. If I could no longer swim, would I still want to attend this university?

This in my opinion is the most important question a recruit can ask themselves. In this process I asked myself, “If I were injured or decided I no longer wanted to swim, would I still want to go this university?” While swimming has always been a huge part of my life and I could not imagine not being in the pool, I knew that I needed to attend a college that could still fulfill me as a person if swimming were no longer in the cards.

Elizabeth Pelton, a senior at Cal, summed up the recruiting process– “After all of your trips, so many different people will want to talk to you and tell you where they think you should go. I suggest really taking some time to reflect on each place – as well as your pro and con list! But listen to that intuition feeling in your gut. I picked where I could see myself everyday, and the place that I could not only fit in with the team with my goals in the pool and values as a person, but as well as ambitions in the classroom and dreams after my swimming career.”

While these five questions are not going to make your ultimate college decision, hopefully, they can guide you in the right direction and offer insight into what you want most out of a university.