Important NCAA Recruiting Terms

Sometimes it seems as though recruiting terms are a whole different language. I will define some of the more important relevant terms for you below. These terms are applicable to swimming as well as to other sports.


Celebratory Standardized Signing Form: (used by Division III institutions). A standard NCAA provided, nonbinding athletics celebratory signing form after a college-bound student-athlete has been accepted for enrollment at a Division III school.

Contact: A contact happens any time a college coach says more than “hello” during a face-to-face meeting with the swimmer or their parents off the college’s campus.

Contact period: During a contact period, a college coach may have face-to-face contact with a swimmer or his parents, watch the swimmer compete or visit his high school and write or telephone him or his parents.

Dead period: A college coach may not have any face-to- face contact with a swimmer or his parents on or off the college campus at any time during a dead period. The coach may, however, write and call a swimmer or his parents during this time.

Evaluation: An evaluation happens when a college coach observes a swimmer practicing or competing.

Evaluation period: During an evaluation period, a college coach may watch a swimmer compete, visit his high school and write or telephone him or his parents. However, a college coach may not have face-to-face contact with the swimmer or his parents off the college’s campus during an evaluation period.

Financial aid: (scholarship) Any money you receive from a college or another source, such as outside loans or grants. Financial aid may be based on athletic ability, financial need and/or academic achievement.

Full-time student: Each school determines what full-time status means. Typically, a full-time student is enrolled for at least 12 credit hours in a term (but some schools define a full-time student as someone who takes fewer than 12 credit hours in a term). Check with the specific school if this is a concern.

International student: An international student is any student who is enrolled in a secondary school located outside the United States.

National Letter of Intent: A National Letter of Intent is signed by a college-bound student-athlete agreeing to attend a Division I or II college for one academic year. Participating colleges agree to provide financial aid for one academic year to the student-athlete as long as the student-athlete is admitted to the school and is eligible for financial aid under NCAA rules. Other forms of financial aid do not guarantee the student-athlete financial aid. The National Letter of Intent is voluntary and not required for a student-athlete to receive financial aid or to participate in sports.

Signing a National Letter of Intent ends the recruiting process because participating schools are prohibited from recruiting student-athletes who have already signed letters with other participating schools.

Official commitment: When the swimmer officially commits to attend a Division I or II college, he signs a National Letter of Intent, agreeing to attend that school for one academic year.

Official visit: During an official visit, the college can pay for transportation to and from the college for the swimmer, lodging and meals (Division I allows for up to three meals per day) for him and his parents or guardians, as well as reasonable entertainment expenses including three tickets to a home sports event. Before a college may invite a swimmer on an official visit, he will have to provide the college with a copy of his high school transcript and ACT or SAT scores (test scores are required for Division I only) and register with the NCAA Eligibility Center.

Prospective Student-Athlete (PSA): A PSA is a student who has started classes for the ninth grade.

Quiet period: During this time, a college coach may not have any in-person contact with a swimmer or his parents off the college’s campus. The coach may not watch him play or visit his high school during this period. The swimmer and his parents may visit a college campus during this time and talk to a coach. A coach may write or call a swimmer and his parents during this time.

Recruited: If a college coach calls a swimmer more than once, contacts him off campus, pays his expenses to visit the campus, or in Divisions I and II, issues him a National Letter of Intent or a written offer of financial aid, he is considered to be recruited.

Recruiting calendar: NCAA member schools limit recruiting to certain periods during the year. Recruiting calendars promote the well-being of college-bound student-athletes and ensure fairness among schools by defining certain periods during the year in which recruiting may or may not occur in a particular sport.

Unofficial visit: Any visit by a swimmer and his parents to a college campus paid for by the swimmer or his parents. The only expense he may receive from the college is three complimentary admissions to a home athletics contest. A PSA may make as many unofficial visits as he likes and may take those visits at any time. The only time he cannot talk with a coach during an unofficial visit is during a dead period and Division I coaches cannot speak to swimmers until after September 1stof junior year.

Verbal commitment: A verbal commitment happens when a PSA verbally agrees to play sports for a college before he signs or is eligible to sign a National Letter of Intent. The commitment is not binding on the PSA or the school and can be made at any time.

Walk-on: Someone who is not typically recruited by a school to participate in sports and does not receive a scholarship from the school, but who becomes a member of one of the school’s athletics teams.


Michelle Lombana is committed to helping parents like her whose children want to swim in college.  When she’s not defining recruiting terms, she can be found at


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