I Want to Swim in College. Where Do I Begin?

alabama crimson tide pool

I Want to Swim in College. Where Do I Begin?

Many swimmers would like to continue their careers at the college level, but many of them just don’t know where to start. Here are a few questions you should ask yourself as you begin the search for the next step.

Is It Cool? Or, Is It Cool and Functional?

This was one of the best pieces of advice I received when I consulted a coach about choosing a potential college. Now don’t get me wrong, state-of-the-art facilities certainly have merit, but what good are they if they serve no genuine purpose? A coach will tell you everything that they think is cool to sway your decision. Choose practicality. Always. You want the place that you end up to make you happy, regardless of the circumstances. On a rainy Tuesday in the middle of November, does this school have everything you could possibly want? Often, those interesting tidbits about the history of the school or the alumni who attended have little to no effect on your experience. Don’t be blinded by fun facts or fancy amenities. Can they make for interesting anecdotes? Absolutely. But they should never be deciding factors.

What Is Important To You?

Seems obvious, right? But with so many components factoring into the college search, it’s easy to lose sight of what matters. I recommend sitting down with a trusted adult and writing down all the qualities you want your dream school to have. Having another person who knows you can help to put things in perspective. No detail is too small. Once you have your list, you can begin to narrow down your choices. Beginning to look at schools may feel overwhelming at first because there are so many different options. Knowing what you want, and equally important what you don’t want, can be very helpful.

How Far Do You Want To Be From Home?

airplane view

Photo Courtesy: Kate Santilena

It’s a good idea to consider the pros and cons of being far from home before pursuing your options. Far from home can be great if you’re looking to experience more independence or explore a new city, but a longer commute has many downfalls as well. For instance, when many of your peers who live closer to home have a break from school, they may not be too eager to remain on campus. When visiting schools in person, be sure to take note of the commute. How long is it by plane? How long does it take to get from the airport to campus? If you’re someone who may struggle at first with “leaving the nest,” it may not be the best idea to abruptly move across the country. However, if you find that there are more pros than cons, choosing a college that is farther from home may enhance your experience.

What Coaching Style Would Serve Me Best?

If you have the chance to watch a practice, pay close attention to how the coach acts during a workout. If you’re the type of swimmer that needs a lot of support, you probably shouldn’t sign with a coach who screams during a workout. Conversely, some swimmers are motivated in this way, and may not benefit from a more demure style of coaching. Know yourself as an athlete, and picture how you would feel in that workout. Another thing to keep in mind is the coach who invited you to watch the workout wants you on their team, therefore, they’re going to be on their best behavior. If you have the chance, ask some of the swimmers if this is how their coach acts regularly. You want to have all the information because it will allow you to make as informed of a choice as possible.

Do You Like Where You Fit Into the Team?

missouri-state-msu-cheer-team-huddle-mac

MSU team cheer.
Photo Courtesy: Missouri State Athletics

Think about your club or high school swimming experience. Were you one of the fastest swimmers? Did you always find yourself on relays? Look at what times the swimmers on your potential future team are going. Some swimmers may find more success in the long run if they’re a bigger fish in a smaller pond, whereas some swimmers thrive under the added pressure of not always being guaranteed a spot on a relay. There’s no right or wrong. It’s all about analyzing yourself as an athlete and choosing the place that’ll best assist you in meeting your full potential. Don’t fall victim to prestige or earning bragging rights, because, in the end, they won’t mean nearly as much as the quality of your college experience. Be honest with yourself.

Do I Like the Climate At This School?

Now I know it seems arbitrary, but trust me, you’ll want to consider this. If you’re someone who is easily affected by weather patterns, it may not be the best idea to choose a school located in an area with cooler temperatures or gray skies. Note your ideal climate and pursue colleges that fit into it. It makes no sense to choose a school that is perfect in every way, but you can’t enjoy it because the weather is making you miserable.

All commentaries are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Swimming World Magazine nor its staff.

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