Why I Created College Swimming Guide

Why I Created College Swimming Guide

We became a “swim family” in Houston when our oldest son joined the neighborhood summer league team. Before long, the other two joined and we were all in. Although all three enjoyed it socially, it quickly became clear that only my youngest, Greg, was truly passionate about the sport. In fact, he begged to join a club team and swim year-round. I thought the commitment was crazy, especially for a 7-year-old, and I said no. The following year, he won the 25-yard backstroke in a summer regional championship meet and begged again to swim year-round. I finally relented, assuming he would lose interest as he did with soccer, T-ball, basketball, piano, chores, etc.

Fast forward to now and he just started swimming in college as a freshman. And, yes, the commitment and schedule have been crazy all these years!

Once we joined a club team, I realized it was a whole different world. I did not understand the lingo – what on earth was a BB time? Which meets should I register for? What does it mean to qualify for Age Group Champs? What is a tech suit? I navigated my way through, wishing someone had created a handbook or even offered an info session to explain all of this to newbies.

I also listened to the more seasoned parents discuss the sport. I was appalled at how competitive many of them were! They would watch practice and analyze their child’s behavior, as well as that of the other swimmers. I heard the statement “this will pay off when my child gets a full ride swimming in college” numerous times. I did not think much about that at the time as I was not expecting Greg to swim through middle school, let alone college!

As he climbed the ranks and qualified for more competitive meets, I heard these comments more and more often. As 9-year-olds qualified for Age Group Champs, their parents were discussing the idea of college swimming. As 10-year-olds were placing in the Top 8 in the state, their parents were discussing which specific colleges their children might consider.

It is great for kids to set goals. At age 11, Greg attended swim camp at University of Texas and decided he wanted to swim for them. He rocked UT apparel for the better part of 2 years. I did not realize what a pipe dream that was and how few kids would ever qualify to swim for UT! At the time, I just thought it was great for him to have a goal and I still believe that.

As kids grow and their bodies change, as well as their commitment level, some of them are not placing at the top of the high level meets as they did when they were 10. Others plateau for a while until they hit a growth spurt. Many of their parents have trouble adjusting their own goals. They still expect their child to qualify to swim at the NCAA Division I major schools and are frustrated when that looks unlikely. They put more pressure on their child to perform which never helps the swimming or the relationship.

I watched all of this occur with kids older than Greg and was determined not to fall into this cycle. He wanted to swim in college, although he had periods of time when he plateaued and was not sure that was his goal anymore. My only requirement was that he think it through thoroughly if he decided to quit swimming. It could not be an impulse decision based on a hard training cycle or a difficult coach. By his freshman to sophomore year in high school, he was very focused on swimming in college and knew he wanted to pursue it.

I had been through the process of helping my two older sons conduct college searches at schools all over the country but adding athlete recruiting to the process was daunting. There seemed to be much confusion about the entire process, realistic goals, how to contact college coaches, the timing, etc. There are services you can hire but we were not in a financial position to do so and I felt that we should be able to conduct the search ourselves with a little guidance. Club swimming coaches are typically helpful and will speak to college coaches on your behalf, but they will not conduct the actual search for you and should not be expected to. I could not find a straightforward guide anywhere so I pieced it together by spending gazillions of hours searching the internet and creating spreadsheets, asking parents of kids who were swimming in college, reading articles, and absorbing everything I could find.

The recruiting process had many ups and downs. Greg went on four official visits which were an eye-opening experience in many ways. He received offers from three of the schools. Many people told him this was the best time of his life – there were days when we would have definitely disputed that as it was very stressful! Once he committed, we breathed a sigh of relief. As I looked back over the process, I again wished I had a roadmap to guide me through the process.

Thus, College Swimming Guide was born. I will walk you through the steps through regular information feeds and timelines of action items. I will cover the process of researching colleges and conferences, things to consider, how/when to contact college coaches and what to say, how to schedule visits, questions to ask of coaches, NCAA requirements, and much more. I will also give you lists of the colleges with swim programs in each conference and spreadsheets which detail the times required to place in each event at all college championship meets.  I will conduct Q&A webinars and you can join my Facebook Private Group where you can ask questions and join discussions with fellow swim parents.

Throughout the year, I will send you information and links letting you know what to do and, most importantly, when to do it in order to guide you every step of the way. I spent years figuring this out and I am able to present it in a nice, neat format so you are not frustrated and do not have to recreate the wheel. Together, we will make sure you and your swimmer have the skills, knowledge and confidence to successfully navigate the journey of college recruiting.


Michelle Lombana is committed to helping parents like her whose children want to swim in college.  When she’s not working on swim time spreadsheets, she can be found at www.collegeswimmingguide.com.

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Parent Perspective: My First College Swim Meet

Parent Perspective: My First College Swim Meet

I attended my first college swim meet last week. Since my son goes to school far from home, I was not sure I would get to attend any of his meets so I was thrilled when the 1st meet was scheduled the night before Parent Weekend. I had no idea what to expect at a college meet but I was excited to be there.

Well, to be technical, I did attend part of an ACC championship meet when my son was 9. I asked him which events he would like to watch and he said “the mile”. He was fascinated with the fact that anyone would swim a whole mile and I thought it was going to be like watching paint dry. We really had no idea what was going on but it was interesting to see the college kids who looked so old to me back then!

When I arrived at this meet, there were already several parents there in team spiritwear and a mom was handing out name tags so we could identify ourselves and our swimmer. Everyone was very friendly and welcoming to the new parents. It seems as though any parents who live within about 2-3 hours try to attend all of the home meets. Many others just attend the big meet in December and conference championships. The parents cheered for all of the members of the team as they swam which was fun and helped me learn the names of some of the swimmers.

Even from the stands, I could feel the sense of camaraderie among the swimmers. They all supported each other and cheered as they swam – from the upperclassmen to the freshmen. They clearly wanted to swim well, but they were also there to have fun. For the most part, our team dominated but there were some good races for 2nd and 3rd place throughout the meet and the relays resulted in a lot of cheering.

In college swimming, the team captains fill a vital leadership role by inspiring all of the swimmers, sharing important information and providing encouragement. They were particularly helpful to the freshman who were experiencing their first college meet by telling them “good effort” and giving tips before races.

The opposing team was about a two-hour drive away and this in-state rivalry is often the first meet of the season. The men’s team has a tradition of growing facial hair before the meet and the freshmen fit right in and did their best to participate.  At the end of the meet, a theme song played and both teams jumped in the water. After getting dressed, our swimmers went out to ring the victory bell on campus.

Overall, the meet felt like a cross between a high school meet and a club swimming meet. The spirit and sense of team were strong as was the desire to swim well. I really enjoyed the meet and it was great to meet some of the kids that my son has been telling me about. I think part of the purpose of Parents Weekend at any college is to let the parents see that their kids have adjusted and are doing well at school. Attending my son’s first college swim meet did the same thing and I was so happy to see firsthand that my son has found a college team where he feels at home.


Michelle Lombana is committed to helping parents like herself whose children want to swim in college.  When she’s not attending college swim meets, she can be found at www.collegeswimmingguide.com.


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Excellent Extracurricular Activities For Swimmers

Excellent Extracurricular Activities For Swimmers

Swimmers have grueling schedules between school work and swim practice, let alone trying to eat well and get a minimal amount of sleep. Trying to squeeze in any extracurricular activities can seem next to impossible. However, it is important that they find a couple of activities to engage in, both for their own personal growth and to bolster their college applications.

The list of possible extracurricular activities is endless but there are a few that are often easier to handle with year-round swimming than others. Many college admissions counselors recommend that activities be consistent – in other words, do not join German Club one year, Technology Club another year, then tutor the next year. Instead, get involved in one or two areas and stick with them, preferably taking on a leadership role at some point.


Honor Societies

Schools often offer multiple Honor Societies from National Honor Society to Spanish Honor Society to National Technical Honor Society and many in between. These groups often meet at school and sometimes even during the lunch period which makes it easier for swimmers to attend meetings. Requirements vary and usually involve some community service hours, but are often not as rigorous as other clubs.


Coach Summer League Swimming/Swim Lesson Instructor

This is a natural fit for many year-round swimmers – as long as they enjoy working with kids. From a schedule standpoint, it is highly desirable as it usually takes place in the summer when there is no school.

Coaching or teaching lessons offers the chance for swimmers to share their talents and help younger kids. It can be done on a volunteer basis as to earn some spending money. The kids love to learn from teens and look up to them as they are “fast”. This is also an activity that is consistent with your swimmer’s other activities so it is valuable on a college application.



Tutoring is typically very flexible which makes it easy to fit in with a grueling practice schedule. Sometimes it can even be done during lunch if the student being tutored attends the same high school. If not, the tutor can arrange a convenient location and a convenient time to meet. Tutoring often counts as service hours for honor societies if done on a volunteer basis.

My son tutored students in Physics and Spanish during lunch at school in both his junior and senior years. He earned service hours for National Honor Society and it fit well into his schedule.


Church Youth Groups

Youth groups often meet weekly on Sundays which should only conflict with swimming if there is a meet. It is a chance to socialize and to participate in community service activities.


Animal Shelters

Animal shelters sometimes need people to come in and just play with the animals while the staff or full-time volunteers complete other work. This can be scheduled on a one-time basis without requiring a regular commitment, even during school breaks or days off.


Special Interest Groups

There are many special interest groups, both through school and in the community, that are flexible and allow members to attend whenever they are available. These could include computer groups, ethnic food groups, music, the arts, or almost any other option you can imagine. Your swimmer should explain his schedule when inquiring about the group to make sure it is truly flexible enough.

My son participated in a robotics league all four years of high school. It was very difficult to juggle the schedule but his teammates knew his schedule constraints up front and they scheduled their weekly work sessions on Saturday afternoons. He was not able to make it on swim meet weekends but everyone understood. His team unexpectedly made Super Regionals his junior and senior year, then Worlds his senior year, which required time off school and swimming to travel. We scrambled to find pools in the cities we visited so he could practice and his coach was not thrilled but it all worked out. I was hesitant about him taking this on but he was determined and it forced him to become better at both time management and negotiation. It is amazing what they can work into their schedules if they are motivated! He loves robotics and will possibly pursue a career in this area so it was certainly worthwhile activity for him.



It is important for your swimmer to not become overwhelmed with extracurricular activities as they are often exhausted and stressed on a regular basis!  If they find an activity that allows them to follow their passion, it is all the better as they will enjoy it more and hopefully learn from it.  Keep in mind, there is life after swimming.



Michelle Lombana is committed to helping parents like herself whose children want to swim in college.  When she’s not looking for extracurricular activities for swimmers, she can be found at www.collegeswimmingguide.com.



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4 Of The Greatest Benefits Of High School Swimming

4 Of The Greatest Benefits Of High School Swimming

4 of the Greatest Benefits of High School Swimming 

High school swim season is almost upon us and it is a great opportunity for year-round swimmers to participate at a different level than club swimming. Here are 4 of the greatest benefits for your swimmer when participating in high school swimming.

Represent His High School

Your swimmer is representing his school and representing the students he goes to school with every day. Swimming is not a high profile sport like football or basketball so swimmers typically get less recognition than other athletes – this is their chance to shine! Wearing the “Alpine High School Swim Team” shirt down the hall during swim season makes your swimmer feel proud.

Team Spirit

To put it simply, high school swimming is fun! There is some pressure involved in swimming well, winning, qualifying for conference, regional and state championships, but it is typically a less intense pressure than in year-round swimming.

The team spirit and pride seem stronger, the cheers on deck seem louder, the atmosphere at meets is more electric. The after-meet trips to Cookout exemplify the more laid back atmosphere – a year-round coach is not going to join you for burgers and shakes after a meet on a school night!

Be A Star

In club swimming, there are usually many fast swimmers and it is hard to be a star. In high school swimming, there are often only a handful of year-round swimmers. This is the chance to swim on the A relays and to medal in events that may not be possible at year-round meets.

Try New Events

High school swimming is comprised of some different events than club swimming. The longest race is the 500-yard free and most other events are not longer than 100 yards so distance swimmers and middle distance swimmers typically cannot swim their best events at high school meets. It is kind of fun to swim the 100 IM for the first time since 6th grade!

The 4 years of high school fly by and suddenly, it is senior year and the end is near. The season is bittersweet and it feels like it goes by too quickly. The whole season your swimmer is thinking “this is my last regional meet”, “this is my last pasta pump-up”, “this is my last awards banquet”.

Tell them to enjoy it while it lasts, cheer as loudly as possible, wear his high school spiritwear proudly, go to the Pasta Pump Ups, and give advice to the underclassmen as, all too soon, it will be just a memory.


Michelle Lombana is committed to helping parents like her whose children want to swim in college.  When she’s not timing at high school swim meets, she can be found at www.collegeswimmingguide.com.

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How To Register With The Eligibility Center

How To Register With The Eligibility Center

One of the first steps in the recruiting process is for your swimmer to register with the NCAA or NAIA Eligibility Center. The function of the “Initial-Eligibility Center is to determine the initial eligibility of a Prospective Student-Athlete (PSA) by reviewing a combination of his completed high school curriculum and college entrance examination scores. NCAA Divisions I and II require clearance from the NCAA Initial-Eligibility Centr prior to participation and NAIA has their own online eligibility center.

Neither NCAA Division III nor the NJCAA require the PSA to register.

The NCAA encourages students interested in competing at Division I or Division II schools to register during their sophomore year. Athletes bound for NAIA schools must register with that organization’s eligibility center by their senior year.

A PSA can register through the respective online eligibility centers by visiting the NCAA Eligibility Center website or the NAIA Eligibility Center website.

From there, follow the prompts. It is recommended that the athlete allow 45 minutes to register completely although it is possible to save and exit then complete the information at another time.

Account Creation

The athlete will need to provide a valid email address to create an account (make sure it is an email address that will be active after he graduates from high school). This email address must be unique for each PSA so use a different address if there are siblings that have previously registered. Your swimmer needs to check this email address frequently in order to respond to information regarding the account.

About Me

This section includes name, address, date of birth and gender.

My Coursework

The PSA will need to enter the name and location of the high school he currently attends. If your swimmer has attended more than one school (including summer school) during grades nine, 10, 11 or 12, he will need to list those schools as well. Be sure to include ALL schools, regardless of whether he received grades or credits. He must also include information about courses he may have taken through other programs, such as an online school or credit recovery program for a class he did not pass or took to improve a grade.

My Sport

In the “My Sport” section, your child will select swimming and reply to any questions about any teams outside high school, such as club teams, and events he has participated in during his high school career. The league is usually “USA Swimming” and Division is “senior” unless your swimmer participates in a different type of club team. The question about signing any documents with the team refers to professional type agreements, such as being paid or receiving items of value.


The account will be eligible for processing once the registration fee has been paid by debit, credit or e-check (or submission of a fee waiver if eligible). The registration fee is $90 (NCAA) or $80 (NAIA) for students in the United States.

All fees are nonrefundable once registration is completed.


The Eligibility Center needs an official transcript from ALL high school(s) or program(s) attended. Each school district is different in the method used to request transcripts so your swimmer should check with his guidance counselor if he is unsure.

Most high schools now have the capability to upload transcripts directly to a student’s account from the High School Portal which is the quickest method. The NCAA Eligibility Center does not accept faxed or emailed transcripts.

SAT/ACT Scores

Every time your swimmer registers for the SAT or ACT, use the NCAA Eligibility Center code of 9999 to ensure the scores are sent directly to the NCAA Eligibility Center from the testing agency. The code for prospective NAIA student-athletes is 9876. Test scores on transcripts will NOT be used for academic certification.


An ACT sum score is calculated by adding the English, math, reading and science subscores.


A combined SAT score is calculated by adding the critical reading and math subscores.

A PSA may take the SAT or ACT an unlimited number of times before enrolling full time in college and the eligibility centers will take the best subscore from different tests to calculate the best possible score.


When your swimmer registers with the NCAA or NAIA Eligibility Center, he will be asked a series of questions about his sports participation to determine his amateur status. More than 90 percent of student-athletes who register are automatically certified. In some instances, the Eligibility Center staff may need to gather additional information to evaluate amateur status.

The following activities may impact amateur status:

  • Signing a contract with a professional team;
  • Playing with professionals;
  • Participating in tryouts or practices with a professional team;
  • Accepting payments or preferential benefits for playing sports;
  • Accepting prize money above expenses;
  • Accepting benefits from an agent or prospective agent;
  • Agreeing to be represented by an agent; or
  • Delaying full-time college enrollment to play in organized sports competitions.


Both sites have resources to assist your swimmer as he prepares to apply to colleges. The NCAA Eligibility Center includes a list of core courses that must be completed in high school. Users on the NAIA site can connect directly with college coaches.

Remember that registering with the NCAA and NAIA Eligibility Centers doesn’t take the place of applying to college. Students must follow all requirements for submitting applications, test scores, transcripts, and other documents for each school they want to apply to.

Michelle Lombana is committed to helping parents like herself whose children want to swim in college.  When she’s not preparing spreadsheets of conference championship swim times, she can be found at www.collegeswimmingguide.com.


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Balancing Competing Priorities With Swimming

Balancing Competing Priorities With Swimming

For years, we have scheduled our activities around the swim meet schedule and worked out conflicts when we can. I have known families who did not let their children swim in meets on Sundays so they would not miss church. This works for a while, but eventually the children reach a level where they have to compete in the meets.

There are also families who miss a week or so of training in the summer for family reunions or vacations or mission trips. Once the kids are sophomores or juniors in high school, they often tell their parents they cannot participate in these activities any more.

How did we get to the point where swimming governs our family life?

My son had his tonsils out as a senior in high school. We knew it would be a rough recovery even for someone used to putting his body through pain every day in the pool.

He had been getting sick increasingly often over the past few years with terrible bouts of tonsillitis that took multiple rounds of antibiotics to knock out so we had to do it. Also, we we were concerned about him living in a college dorm with germs all over, so we felt a sense of urgency.

As with anything else, swimming governed the schedule. Many kids would have surgery over Winter Break or in June when school let out. Not swimmers! They cannot miss Holiday Hell training or take time off in the already condensed long-course season.

As with any important family decision, we huddled up with the swim coach. By abbreviating his short-course season and having him swim in his taper meet and skip the last meet, he would have 2-1/2 weeks to recover before beginning long-course training

From a school standpoint, it would have been better to schedule it over Spring Break but that would have meant missing the first week of long-course training. He thought it would be harder to catch up from that than from missing a week of school right before midterms. This decision sounds crazy even as I write this. At least the coach had our priorities straight!

In other situations, it is difficult to determine whether to make swimming the priority over other events. Do you schedule the SAT or ACT during a swim meet weekend if it is the best weekend in terms of studying for it?  What about family reunions? Weddings?

My son actually missed his oldest brother’s college graduation because his long course taper meet was the same weekend. This was a very difficult family decision (one that we made without the coach!) but the rest of the family gathered and celebrated while my swimmer traveled to the meet with the team. We would not have made that same decision for a non-taper meet, however.

Sometimes these decisions depend on the goals of the swimmer – if she has the goal of swimming in college, it is important for her to train all the way through the summer and to compete in meets throughout the year. If she swims for exercise and socialization, it may not hurt for her to miss training and meets.

There is no right answer and it depends on the competing priorities like family and school. If your swimmer is not doing well in school, he may have to miss practice to meet with a tutor. No matter how fast he swims, he cannot get into college without graduating from high school!

Looking back, I think we’ll likely cringe at some of the decisions that were very logical at the time. All for the love of the sport and the swimmer.


Michelle Lombana is committed to helping parents like her whose children want to swim in college.  When she’s not juggling family priorities between swimming and other activities, she can be found at www.collegeswimmingguide.com.



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