By Mike Gustafson//Contributor | Monday, April 2, 2018
Every Monday, I answer questions from swimmers from around the country. If you have a question, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I am a senior in high school. I didn't plan on swimming in college until this year. I did not think I was fast enough. My coach recently told me at the end of last year that I was fast enough and so I've been looking at different schools. It looks like I would be able to swim for either a D2 or D3 school. I'm more of a freestyle sprinter. I really want to swim in college but I'm getting very stressed about where to go. I do have a dream of a few D1 schools, but I don't think I would be able to swim for them since I'm not fast enough. I was curious if you had any advice? I haven't had too much help from my coach with looking at schools or what to look for. If you have any type of advice for me then I would gladly appreciate it!
Looking To Swim In College
Hey “Looking To Swim In College,”
Picking a college is a stressful time — be sure to remember to breathe. Take a walk. Read a book. Do some self-care. Like many modern weddings these days, don’t let what should be a fun process become daunting and stressful.
Just like every swimmer has a different preference for goggles, choosing a college is all about fit. Let me explain:
My favorite goggles cost about four bucks. They aren’t fancy. They aren’t name-brand. They don’t have bells or whistles. But they fit.
When picking a college, forget about divisions, prestige, and name-brands. Forget about the logo on the cap.
Instead, focus on fit.
Visit the campus. Many (if not all) colleges offer tours for prospective students. Sign up for one, walk around, try on the campus. Do you like it? Do you feel comfortable walking around? Pay attention to your gut and your instinct — often, your gut will tell you more truth about a place than your tour guide. Do you see yourself walking to class? Do you see yourself happy there?
Attend a practice. Some coaches will let interested swimmers watch along. Contact a coach and ask. Doesn’t hurt to ask. If you can see a practice or attend a meet, you need to do some detective work. Swimmers and coaches might not tell you the entire truth about the team’s inner-workings. It’s up to you to use observational skills: Does the team look passionate? What’s their body language like when walking around the pool deck — do they slouch and look tired, or do they look passionate, like they are chasing a unified dream? What do they say to each other before diving in for practice? Do they talk during practice? Do they pay attention to their coach? Are they supportive of each other? Do they make fun of each other?
In other words, my advice to you is—if possible—to try on your college.
See if it fits. Visit the campus. Talk to coaches and swimmers. Even if you’re not sure if you’re fast enough. To start, pick three schools: 1) a dream school with a fast team, 2) a school where you’d be middle of the pack, and 3) a school where you’d be one of the best people on the team. Make sure each school offers good academics and programs you are interested in; and begin researching.
Picking a college is like trying on goggles: Maybe those fancy, mirrored, $30 goggles leak. Everyone is different, and every fit is unique. The only way to find out is to start trying them on.
Mike Gustafson is the co-editor of the book, Notes From A Public Typewriter. You can follow him on Twitter @MicGustafson.