A Guide Toward Registering a Positive College Experience: How To Thrive

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A Guide Toward Registering a Positive College Experience

Learning to take ownership and responsibility for your swimming career is a big step toward ensuring your college swimming experience will be a positive and successful one. Here’s an essential guide for every swimmer wanting to survive—and thrive—in college swimming.

A few years ago, a young swimmer and his family asked me for advice on how to survive and thrive in college swimming. He’d had his heart set on swimming for his No. 1 college choice for a long time, and a few months before he left home to live, train and study in another city, they asked me for some suggestions about dealing with the challenges and demands of college swimming.

Since that time, I’ve guided and mentored many teenage swimmers in the USA and around the world to help them prepare for—and perform at—college.

The bottom line is this: Swimming fast in college isn’t the main issue.

You’re going into a performance program with professional coaches, talented swimmers and great facilities. It’s almost inevitable that you will have the opportunity to swim faster than ever before.

The REAL issue is preparing your mind and body and learning the right life skills to provide you with the opportunity to swim fast in the collegiate environment.

Too many talented young swimmers go to college without a real understanding of the nature of the college environment. As a result, they never truly realize their potential. Even worse, some even return home disappointed, disgruntled and disillusioned—without completing their freshman year!

This article is based on my experiences with a lot of wonderful young swimmers who’ve had the courage and the commitment to face the challenges of collegiate swimming and exceed all their expectations—while having a lot of fun along the way.

Swimming Fast In College


When swimmers, coaches and parents ask me about the differences between college swimming and regular club swimming, they expect me to talk about training volume, twice-a-day practice schedules, strength workouts and dual-meet formats.

However, what I tell them is that success in college will come from transitioning and shifting from living and training at home to living and training in a college environment—by changing themselves:

1. From being DEPENDENT to becoming INDEPENDENT;
2. From being RELIANT to being RESPONSIBLE;
3. From acting ALONE to accepting ACCOUNTABILITY.

In essence, this means shifting from seeking help, support and assistance from mom and dad for simple day-to-day tasks such as food preparation, room cleaning and swimming equipment maintenance to doing these things yourself.

Here’s an example:

At home…

Typically, most teenage swimmers rely on mom or dad to wake them up each day for morning practice while also expecting their parents to take care of things such as breakfast, packing their workout bags and getting them to practice on time.

At college…

• YOU have to set the alarm;
• YOU have to get out of bed;
• YOU have to pack your own workout bag;
• YOU have to prepare your own breakfast;
• YOU have to get to practice on time.


College is the moment where you have to live the mantra: “IF IT IS TO BE, IT IS UP TO ME.”

Here’s an idea: HOME – COLLEGE!

One of the suggestions I make to teenage swimmers hoping to succeed in college swimming is to spend the six months BEFORE they go to the school of their choice living what I call HOME – COLLEGE, which means living at home and training in your home program, but practicing the life skills and routines you will need to master before stepping onto your campus.

For the six months prior to actually starting college for real why not…

• Set your own alarm;
• Make your own bed;
• Make your own breakfast;
• Pack your own workout bag;
• Fill your own water bottle with water and take it to practice;
• Make your own way to training (where safe and possible);
• Unpack your own workout bag, and throw your wet towel into the dryer when you arrive home.
Learning to take ownership and responsibility for your swimming career is a big step toward ensuring your college swimming experience will be a positive and successful one.


1. Learn to cook: 3/3/3

Learn how to cook three simple, healthy, nutritious main meals, how to make three simple, tasty, nutritious desserts and how to prepare three “take-out” meals—e.g., sandwiches and other snacks to eat during the day and at swim meets.

2. Learn to clean

Learn how to use a vacuum cleaner and a broom, how to operate a washing machine and dryer and how to use a dishwasher. Clean clothes and a clean dorm room are essential for you to stay organized, effective and healthy at college.

3. Master sleeping in a noisy bedroom

A lot of people going to college have to share a dorm room, and often your “roomie” may not share the same schedule you do. So, learn how to sleep in a noisy room. Practice wearing earplugs and eyeshades so that you can control the noise and light in your room. Good sleep is important, and it’s your responsibility as a college athlete to make sure you get at least eight hours of it every night.

4. Time management is everything

Time is precious…and time is everything. You’ll have swim practices, gym workouts, home meets, away meets, swim team meetings…PLUS classes, tutorials, lectures, homework, group projects, study time, social time, connecting with friends AND, of course, calling mom every week. Buy yourself a good watch and learn how to use it—particularly the alarm function. Get a diary and learn how to manage your schedule effectively. (Of course, you can do all this on your phone!) Managing your time is a critical college survival skill!

5. Life integration: get everything in balance

Ask a few people who went to college about their own experiences. It won’t be long before they will say something like, “College was a lot of fun!” You go to college to learn, to grow and, of course, to swim fast, but you also go there to enjoy life, make friends and have fun. Be organized. Be disciplined. Take responsibility for the things that matter, but also take time to relax, enjoy all that college has to offer and become part of a wonderful experience that will change your life forever.


1. Swimming and college life can be fun, fabulous and very fast, but you need to prepare to perform to your potential.

2. Get yourself ready to survive and thrive in college by learning about and practicing some all-important life skills at home before you leave.

3. Don’t worry about your swimming—that’s the easy part. You’ll have some brilliant people in your college swimming program who can help you to be all you want to be. The most important thing is to prepare your mind and body—and to learn some essential life skills—to be college-ready and to give you the best possible opportunity to shine when and where it matters.

Wayne Goldsmith has worked with swimmers, coaches, swimming clubs, swimming parents, sports scientists and swimming organizations all over the world for more than 30 years. He has contributed to Swimming World Magazine for nearly three decades. He is one of the world’s leading experts in elite-level swimming and high-performance sport. Be sure to check out Goldsmith’s websites at www.wgaquatics.com and www.wgcoaching.com.

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If you’d like to become part of Wayne’s COLLEGE READY – LIVING EXCELLENCE program, contact him at wayne@moregold.com.au. To make a FREE 30-minute appointment to discuss your college readiness program, go to https://calendly.com/waynegoldsmithcoaching/us-college-athlete-readiness-program-living-excellence.

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