When swimmers (and parents!) think of college scholarships, they typically think of swimming scholarships. However, there are actually several different types of scholarships and availability varies by college and depends on what Division the school is in. NCAA Divisions, NJCAA and NAIA have different rules regarding scholarships.

College Swimming Scholarships

The maximum number of swimming scholarships allowed per Division is listed below.

NCAA Division I                                   women 14                               men 9.9

NCAA Division II                                  women 8.1                              men 8.1

NCAA Division III                                 no athletic scholarships

NAIA                                                    women 8                                 men 8

NJCAA                                                 women 15                               men 15


Even though a school is allowed to offer a certain number of scholarships, they may not have enough money to fund them. Some schools choose not to offer athletic scholarships even though they are allowed to – Ivy League schools are an example of this. If a program offers the maximum number of scholarships allowed, they are “fully funded.” Swimming and Diving share scholarship money so the scholarship amounts are divided between both sports.

It is uncommon to be offered a full ride as coaches often prefer to divide up the swimming scholarships so they can offer them to a larger number of swimmers. Swimming is an “equivalency sport” so coaches may divide the scholarships between as many athletes as they wish. If they have five funded scholarships for men, they can offer a full ride to five men, or a half scholarship to ten men or a quarter scholarship to twenty men or some combination thereof.

The number of swimming scholarships available varies from year to year as they may not be balanced evenly. For example, if a school has 12 scholarships for women, they would ideally have three to offer each year. However, there may have been a year where they offered fewer scholarships, or more scholarships, so it may not be even. It will depend upon the number of scholarships being opened up by the graduating swimmers.

This information is not readily available at most schools, partially because coaches try to put together packages that include different types of scholarships to attract recruits.


Academic scholarships are dependent upon grades and vary by school. Some schools have a formula and post it on their web site. A good example is University of Alabama which makes it easy to calculate by posting the requirements on their web site. If your child has a 3.5 GPA and a 1320 (new) SAT score, she will qualify for the Collegiate Scholarship which awards $4,000 each year.

Look at where your swimmer falls in relation to average test scores. If she has a 26 ACT and the midrange is 27-30, she is unlikely to qualify for any academic scholarships. If she has a 31 ACT with the same midrange, she will be much more competitive at that school and be much more likely to qualify.

Leadership and Service

Many schools offer scholarships for leadership and service and automatically evaluate your student’s application when they apply. Two of my sons were awarded scholarships for their leadership and service activities – a very welcome surprise and a nice reward for their hard work.

Often a college coach will ask for an early read from both Admissions and Financial Aid on an athlete to be sure the student will be admitted and to see if they are likely to qualify for any scholarships. There is no point in a coach or swimmer wasting each other’s time if it is doubtful that the swimmer will be accepted.

It is important for swimmers to be involved in leadership and service activities outside of swimming to help them qualify for scholarships. This can be difficult to juggle with the rigorous schedule of a swimmer but there are some extracurricular activities that work well for swimmers.

Need-Based Financial Aid

Need-based financial aid depends on your family’s situation. In order to get an approximate idea of the amount your family and your student will be expected to contribute toward your child’s education, go to FAFSA4caster and input your personal information. It will calculate an Expected Contribution (EC) toward the annual cost of attendance. The Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) web site has more information explaining EC and other aspects of financial aid.


Coaches will usually try to find as many sources of scholarships within the school as they can if they are really interested in a swimmer. The amount of money available varies between schools and even year to year.

Most teams are made up of a combination of athletes on scholarship and not on scholarship. The majority of swimmers who do earn scholarships end up with a package that includes different types of scholarships. All athletes on the team receive the same perks in terms of athletic apparel, tutoring, study halls, and early class registration, regardless of whether they have swimming scholarships or not.


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



Make A Splash!

Subscribe to get the free newsletter and learn how to prepare your swimmer to swim in college.

Powered by ConvertKit

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This