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Am I Fast Enough to Swim in College?

Am I Fast Enough to Swim in College?

Am I fast enough to swim in college? You need to be very fast to swim in college. It shouldn’t surprise you that it’s more competitive than high school.

How fast you need to be depended on the type of team you’ll be joining. We’ve discussed this, as well how you can improve your chances of getting recruited into a team.

How to know if I am good enough to swim in college?

How fast you need to be depended on the tier of swimming you have to do. You’re probably aware that there are 3 main college swimming divisions: division 1, division 2 and division 3. They are all governed by the National Collegiate Athletic Association, the most popular board.

Division 1 is for the most serious athletes, followed by D2 and then D3.

The following are the times you’ll need for each:

Tier 1 (Elite D1)

  • 50 free – 19.9 and faster
  • 100 free – 43.8 and faster
  • 200 free – 1.36.3 and faster
  • 500 free – 4.23.3 and faster
  • 1650 free – 15.26.1 and faster
  • 100 fly – 47.4 and faster
  • 200 fly – 1.46.7 and faster
  • 100 back – 47.7 and faster
  • 200 back – 1.45.0 and faster
  • 100 breast – 54.3 and faster
  • 200 breast – 1.58.4 and faster

Tier 2 (Elite D2 – D3, Mid – D1)

  • 50 free – 20.5 – 20.9
  • 100 free – 44.9 – 45.4
  • 200 free – 1.38.5 – 1.39.8
  • 500 free – 4.27.9 – 4.31.5
  • 1650 free – 15.36.9 – 15.46.9
  • 100 fly – 48.9 – 49.9
  • 200 fly – 1.49.9 – 1.52.1
  • 100 back – 49.0 – 50.8
  • 200 back – 1.48.5 – 1.50.6
  • 100 breast – 55.9 – 57.4
  • 200 breast – 2.02.5 – 2.05.7

Tier 3 (Mid-Major D2-D3, Low-Mid D1)

  • 50 free – 21.1 – 21.4
  • 100 free – 45.9 – 46.5
  • 200 free – 1.40.9 – 1.41.8
  • 500 free – 4.35.5 – 4.37.1
  • 1650 free – 15.55.9 – 16.05.0
  • 100 fly – 50.5 – 51.1
  • 200 fly – 1.52.9 – 1.53.7
  • 100 back – 51.5 – 52.1
  • 200 back – 1.51.9 – 1.52.8
  • 100 breast – 58.1 – 58.7
  • 200 breast – 2.07.5 – 1.53.5

For less competitive D3 schools, competitive times won’t be needed.

D1, D2 and D3 are all governed by the NCAA. However, there is the NAIA as well. These schools need times according to Tier 3.  They’re not as popular, however.

How Fast Is the Average College Swimmer?

Measuring how fast a college swimmer is can be tricky. However, we can talk about the average improvement between a high school swimmer and a college swimmer.

Men and women in D1 teams would see an increase in performance by around 0.2%. Men would see increases of around 0.3% in D2 and D3 teams, while women would see an increase of around 0.2%.

This is because the more time a swimmer spends training, the more injuries they would accumulate. But there are many other hypotheses around.

Is It Worth It to Swim in College?

There is a multitude of benefits when it comes to collegiate swimming. We summed up some of them:

A Support System

You’ll be swimming with the members of your team for 4 long years. You’ll establish friendships that would last. Although this is a plus, if you don’t get along with others, this may not work out well.


Schools with division 1 and 2 swim teams can give out scholarships.

D1 colleges are the largest in the country.  They have the biggest budgets to facilitate athletic programs, so you’ll be able to get a full scholarship. Some D2 schools can offer full scholarships, but most of them only offer partial ones.

You likely won’t get a scholarship for a division 3 school. However, you’ll be met with financial aid packages.

Improve Yourself

How serious of an athlete are you? D1 colleges have the best swimmers, so you’ll be trained by the best coaches. As you’ll be competing against the best, you can also challenge yourself.

D2 swim teams would have great coaches and competition, but they’ll still be a tier down from their counterpart. A perk of division 2 schools is that you won’t have to come to school during the summer to train. However, you might have to if you’re going to be a part of an elite division 1 team.


Stating that you were part of your college’s swim team would look great on your resume. It would look even better if you’ve won titles.

Who wouldn’t want to boast that they were a collegiate swimmer? You can impress anyone you meet.

Training Trips

If your college is serious about its swim team, they would take you on training trips. You could visit exotic locations like Puerto Rico.

How Many Hours Do College Swimmers Practice?

It’s common to spend 2-3 hours at each practice, and it would likely be 4-7 times a week. As you won’t be in high-school anymore, you’ll have the luxury of being able to start training at 6 or 7 am.

Practice would usually be around 3-8 miles, but this would differ depending on the competition(s) coming up.

You’ll have time allocated for lifting. It would likely be 1.25 hours 2-3 times a week. Weights are in the mornings.

As mentioned, if you’ve joined an elite D1 swim team, you’ll still have to train a couple of times during the summer.

Know that the NCAA has rules about how many hours a week you can train. The maximum would be 20.

What Do College Coaches Look for in Swimmers?


It’s only natural for a coach to want his team to win as many trophies as possible. This won’t be possible if they recruit members who are slow.

Leadership Abilities

A coach would want a fearless individual who can tackle the bull by the horns – you should be someone who drives the team to reach its goals.

Have your sights on being team leader? Gaining experience by being an active leader in a high school club would help.

Individual Qualities

Do you think you’re a well-rounded individual? What can you contribute to the team while in and out of the pool? The coach would want someone with enough personality and passion that would benefit others. Your specific background may be something that he or she is looking for as well.



Although you may be a great athlete, you may not do so well at your studies. The team shouldn’t have to worry about you being able to balance academics and practice.

There won’t be a point of recruiting you if your grades are not good enough to get you admitted to the college.

To ensure that you’ll be able to handle your studies, you need to show that you can time manage well – so you need to be punctual.

Passion for Swimming

We mentioned the importance of having a work ethic in the point above. Something that would influence this would be your passion for swimming. The most elite division 1 teams were designed for students who want to pursue careers in the sport.


College coaches want to see your sportsmanship abilities. You should be able to handle losses and disappointments well. You’ll bring shame to the team if you break out in a tantrum mid-competition.

How To Get Recruited for College Swimming?

Here are some tried and tested tips use by countless collegiate swimmers.

Start Early

You need to start laying the foundations early. Swimming during your sophomore year would help become a better athlete, while swimming during your junior year would help build your skill and dedication. Swimming during your senior year would help solidify your place in the team.

Verify Yourself

Let the NCAA know that you’re interested in becoming a collegiate swimmer. You can identify yourself on their site. You’ll have to include data on your track record as well as your academic capabilities. The site would say whether you are eligible for a D1, D2 or D3 school or not.

Social Media

Social media isn’t just for posting pictures of yourself. By creating a presence, you’ll be able to attract college coaches. Be mindful of what you post, though. Anything scandalous would bring negative attention.

Visit the College

Show the college that you’re interested and visit them. You’ll be able to meet the coach, and possibly the team. You can get a tour, which would help you understand the dynamics of the campus.

Go for an overnight stay if possible.


We mentioned earlier how important your academics should be. It’s a common misconception that you can get a swim scholarship even if your grades aren’t good. Not only would you need the proper grades, but you will also need to take specific classes to attend the school if they are not up to the mark.

You’ll need to be an exceptional swimmer if you’re interested in joining a division 1 team. You’ll be surrounded by the best coaches there are, and will be competing against the best. To improve your chances of getting recruited, you should also be good in your studies. A college coach wouldn’t bother trying to recruit you if your grades won’t let you get admitted into the college.