5 Reasons Why I Chose the Small School

Photo Courtesy: William & Mary Athletics

By Will Manion, Swimming World College Intern

Leading up to college, I explored a wide array of schools with very different attributes. In the end, I was heavily recruited by large universities in the Big 10 Conference, as well as smaller institutions like William and Mary (where I ended up committing). I have high expectations for myself in the sport, but I know I will not be a competitive swimmer forever.

So I carefully selected a school with a respected coaching staff that could improve my swimming; a team of like-minded swimmers who would be enjoyable and motivating to train with, and a rigorous academic regimen that would help me hone the skills I would use beyond the pool.

1. Big Fish, Small Pond


One of the benefits of being a highly-recruited swimmer and attending a school with a smaller swim program is that your impact is immediate. You have the potential to score at the conference meet, be on the travel squad, and play a role in helping others train at a high level right away.

2. Smaller Class Size

It is easy to get lost in a lecture hall composed of hundreds. My best courses have been those with smaller class sizes. Smaller classes may allow students to better understand the course material, minimize distractions and encourage professor-student interaction. My marine geology course was made up of only three undergraduate students, and it has been my favorite college course thus far.  I felt challenged, learned a lot, and got to know my professor.

3. Community Outreach

As I touched on, interaction with professors is heightened with smaller class sizes. One of my professors knew I had previously worked with bats during an internship with the Conserve Wildlife Foundation. Thus, a conversation was started to increase bat habitat options near our environmental lab. We decided to construct a bat house to add biodiversity to the area.

These niche interactions have been special. I certainly feel I am able to give back to my college through the very specific outreach opportunities I have had. These closer relationships with professors have also brought them to our home swim meets as fans. I thoroughly appreciate being in an environment in which the educators share interests and support the student body.

4. Summer Opportunities

Many major swim programs require their athletes to stay on campus to train during the summer. Full-time internships rarely accommodate a strict athletic schedule. As our team is not required to train together in the summer, I have been fortunate to have had the opportunity to undertake internships in both the public and private sectors.

I train with local teams which have practices before and after my internship schedule. These internship experiences and connections can open the doors to a wide range of opportunities upon graduation.

5. Sense of Home

“I fell in love with a smaller school because it gave me the opportunity to be an active member of the student body, both as a student and an athlete,” Division I swimmer Bailey Hall said. “When I walk around campus I feel like I’m part of a big family, rather than just a face in the crowd. College can be a tough time, sometimes causing people to question their value and purpose. Small schools create a welcoming environment which allows students to find themselves without ever feeling lost.”

Photo Courtesy: Seren Jones

Photo Courtesy: Seren Jones

My recommendation- stay focused on what is important to you.

It is enjoyable to get wined and dined for a weekend at a top-tier swimming program. Enjoy those experiences, but realize that this can be distracting and can cloud your ideals. Seeing the team’s bounty of apparel and  travel accessories or attending a major football game in an iconic stadium can get in the way of what you are seeking in a college.

Before you find yourself on a college tour or in the office of a prospective future coach, write down your athletic, academic, and social goals. Hold true to those objectives and choose the school that offers those specifics you’re seeking.

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7 years ago

Brett and Tawnya good article

7 years ago

Go Tribe!

7 years ago

Have a great day Greg