Pursuing the American Swimming Dream: An International Student’s Experience with Program Cuts

Jul 17, 2015; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; United States swim team members wave a flag during the medal ceremony for the women's swimming 400m individual medley final the 2015 Pan Am Games at Pan Am Aquatics UTS Centre and Field House. Mandatory Credit: Erich Schlegel-USA TODAY Sports
Photo Courtesy: Erich Schlegel/USA Today Sports Images

By Daniela Navarrete, Swimming World College Intern.

International college swimmers beware; are you trying to pursue the “American Swimming Dream”? Here’s a fair warning – college athletic programs can get cut unexpectedly.

While most international students choose to attend school in the U.S. due to increased athletic and academic opportunities, many do not consider the possibility of those opportunities being taken away.

During 2017, two universities cut their swimming programs: the University of Buffalo cut the men’s team, and Wright State University cut both men’s and women’s teams. Earlier this year, Eastern Michigan University announced the discontinuation of men’s swimming for next season. On April 25th, just two weeks before the semester ended, Limestone College  announced that it was cutting the swim program starting the 2018 season.

Limestone College’s Case

Limestone swimming has excelled at both conference and national levels, scoring at the NCAA Division II Championships eight times on the men’s side and seven times on the women’s. In addition, they boast more than 145 All-American honors in total.

Another special feature about the Limestone swim program is that it’s famous for having a wide diversity of international swimmers. Just this past season, 69% of the team was foreign.

Photo Courtesy: Jena Johnson.

Issues Faced by Non-U.S. Athletes

International student-athletes choose to go to the United States because of the collegiate system that allows people to practice a sport according to their level while studying the major of their choice. Back in most of their home countries, the opportunities to attend college while swimming competitively are limited due to the lack of institutional support given to sports (depending on the country).

Although international and domestic swimmers go through almost the same recruiting and admissions process, foreigners must file extra paperwork, which takes several months to be issued and incurs additional expenses to be able to live the “American Swimming Dream.”

Most internationals go to the United States to pursue athletic goals at the same time they are getting high quality education. However, the truth is that not all of them have a large budget to rely on. Most depend on a combination of athletic and academic scholarships to afford the best suitable program.


Photo Courtesy: Limestone College Athletics

In Need of Regulation

Colleges and universities are like any other businesses in which numbers are crucial to their productivity. Maybe swimming was not giving the institutions the expected revenue, yet some of the athletic departments did not take into account how critical it is for the athletes to be informed in a timely manner.

For example, Wright State University notified its student-athletes a year in advance before shutting down the program. In that way, swimmers could figure out if they wanted to transfer to continue swimming or stay at the institution for their studies. In contrast, Limestone College informed the team during the grind of finals week with two weeks of classes left.

Now, as the recruiting period for the upcoming fall semester is practically over, it will be difficult for Limestone swimmers – especially for internationals – to find a school that fits their budget and goals. Most schools have strict deadlines for transfer academic applications and have been closed since March or the beginning of April.

It was a long journey for international students to get to the United States, and now it will be difficult to find an adequate institution in which to transfer with such a brief time-frame.

To respect the effort of all these young athletes, the NCAA should have rules to regulate the timing in which an academic institution announces the cut of any athletic program. Athletes must be informed before the recruiting signing period concludes or within a semester or a year in advance, depending on how serious the situation.

An international swimmer’s goal is to live the “American Swimming Dream,” yet they should be aware that a program can get cut at any given time.

Long way

Photo Courtesy: Nextvoyage from Pexels

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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4 years ago

Omg I am so proud of the awesome author!!
Love you dani ❤️❤️

4 years ago

Marina Carbonari

4 years ago
Reply to  Katie McNerney

Yeah, she’s my friend! She was a freshman in Limestone this year

4 years ago

Gia Dalesandro

4 years ago
Reply to  Gabriela Rajic

Hahaha omg that’s brutal

Jenny Tassell
4 years ago

Amazing Daniela. Super proud.

Christian Bryant
4 years ago

Well said Daniella!!

4 years ago

Dani, I’m so proud of you! Keep on writing and swimming! Love you 🙂

santiago Orozco
4 years ago

Que ondon Dani, me gusto la netss JAJAJJAJAJAJJA

4 years ago

I hope your post gets to proper authorities to make the right decitions and avoid unconviniences to the “internationals”.

Ema fuentes
4 years ago

Muy buen artículo Dany que bueno que aún en las peores circunstancias luches por tus sueños y por dejar claro que todos los estudiantes deben de tener las mismas oportunidades sea cual sea su origen y que no se vale que tiren a la borda los
Sueños y metas espero que este artículo sirva para que las
Universidades no se tomen con ligereza estas desixiones que si bien para ellos no sean tan trascendentes para muchos estudiantes son fundamentales en su estapa estudiantil ojalá resuelvas de la mejor. Antes esta situación y te echamos porras desde Cancún besos