From High School to College Swimming: Tips To Make the Transition Easier

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From High School to College Swimming: Tips To Make the Transition Easier

Here’s what you need to know to make the transition from being a teenage sensation to becoming a college swimming star.

All the hard work, the early mornings, the tough dryland sessions and the long workouts have all paid off—and you’re off…to college!

Now the real work begins.

There are five important transitions you need to make as you go from being a high school swimmer to a college swimmer:

1. Make THE workout—YOUR workout.
2. There is an “I” in TEAM—and that’s you!
3. If it is to be—it is up to me.
4. Practical skills—the “C’s” of cohabitation: cooking, cleaning, courtesy.
5. R.A.C.E.: Responsibility, Accountability, Connection, Excellence.


When you’re an age group swimmer or a high school swimmer, your coach writes THE workout…and like every swimmer on your team, you complete THE workout.

In college, one of the most important transitions you can make is to turn THE workout into YOUR workout.

This doesn’t mean not following the coach’s training program. They’ve spent a lot of time figuring out the best combination of laps and loads.

Making THE workout YOUR workout means looking at every set, every repeat and every lap, and thinking, “How can I make this even better for me?”

So, THE workout might be:

• 12 x 100 freestyle on 1:40

But YOUR workout might read:

• 12 x 100 freestyle on 1:40, counting my strokes, controlling my breathing and exploding in and out of turns without breathing inside the flags

With every swimmer on your college team doing THE workout, your edge is to make every workout—YOUR workout—by doing things smarter, better and more focused on helping you become your best.


If there’s one thing that defines great college swimming programs, it’s being a brilliant team.

There are a lot of wonderful age group and high school teams, but being part of a high-performing, competitive college swimming team is something else.

The strength of every great team lies within the commitment of each individual member of that team to the achievement of each other’s success.

The key here is selflessness: developing a genuine, authentic commitment to the success and the performance of your fellow team members.

In a high-functioning, effective team, each member of the team is dedicated to the achievement of his or her own personal potential while selflessly contributing to the success of the other members of their team.

There is an “I” in TEAM, and that “I”…is YOU.

Be the best you can be and help everyone on your team be all they can be, too!


If your mom is like most swim moms, she’s spent the last 17-18 years helping you pack your bag, she’s made your breakfast, she’s driven you to practice, washed and dried your wet gear…along with a million other things.

Well…welcome to college—and your mom ain’t here!

It’s time to take responsibility for everything you do—in AND OUT of the water.

If you really want to make your mom (or dad) smile, before you head off to college, ask them to teach you these 10 essential college survival skills:

1. How to cook three simple, nutritious and affordable meals
2. How to use a washing machine and dryer
3. How to write and stick to a budget
4. How to wash dishes and how to correctly pack and use a dishwasher
5. How to go shopping for healthy, nutritious and affordable athlete-appropriate food
6. How to clean your house—e.g., how to use a vacuum, a broom and a mop (and a toilet brush!)
7. How to make your bed
8. How to set your alarm
9. How to pack a swim bag
10. How to hang up and dry your wet towels.

And if you’ve got your own car at college—at the very least, learn how to add gas, how to check the tires, how to add water/fluid to the cooling system, and how to add water to the window washer!


Unless you’re fortunate enough to be able to afford your own apartment at college, chances are you’re going to have to share—i.e., share a house, share an apartment, share a room. For most students, College = Cohabitation!

This can be a big challenge, particularly for rookies and freshies who’ve always had their own room and only ever lived with their parents and siblings. There are three things that never fail when it comes to learning to live with someone else in college:

1. Learn to cook. Nothing makes friends faster than being able to throw together a tasty pasta dish, a delicious rice dish or a quick homemade pizza!

2. Keep it clean. More college accommodation situations break up due to messiness than almost anything else. If you use it…put it away. If you made the mess…clean it up. If it’s your rubbish…throw it in the trash.

3. Courtesy, respect and kindness are everything. If your roomie is like you, they’re learning to grow up, living in a new city, they’re away from friends and family, working hard on their study program AND swim training. Adopting the good ol’ “treat-others-as-you’d-like-to-be-treated” philosophy works!


You can summarize the college transition this way:

• Responsibility. Take ownership over your own swimming: planning, preparation, practice and performance.
• Accountability. Accept that everything that happens from the moment you arrive at college until you head home for your holiday breaks comes down to you and the choices you make…or don’t make.
• Connection. Look, listen and learn. You’re part of the college community—an extended “family” of people who are there to help you enjoy the experience of college and to support you through your study and sports program.
• Excellence. Do what you do the best you can do it. College is a place where you can be the best version of yourself and start to discover all that wonderful potential inside of you.


1. High school swimmers heading to college won’t fail because they’re not capable of swimming fast at the college level. It’s got nothing to do with talent. It’s not about speed or endurance or strength or power.

2. Success as a college swimmer is about you making the transition from being dependent to independent…and taking responsibility for every element of your swimming program—in and out of the water.

3. And most important of all: Write and call your Mom! She loves you and misses you, so make sure you write and call her at least once a week!

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 more than two 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 and

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