College, Swimming

Pros and cons of being a college swimmer

tl;dr if you want to do clubs in college, don’t swim D1.

Context: I swam D3, so I’m heavily biased toward recommended athletics to future college athletes. It can be challenging to decide whether or not to continue on a sport that may or may not have been fun along the way. For many people, including myself, athletics has been an integral part of our lives. This makes deciding when to go from participating to permanently on the sidelines extremely tough. I decided to finish my four years in college, and if I were to do it all over again, I’d still do it that way. But there are also downsides to participating in varsity athletics in college. I’ve listed what I think are the best pros and cons to swimming in college and also some pros of participating in D1 or D3 swimming. Whether or not to swim four years is another topic that I’ll hopefully discuss another time.

Pros of swimming in college:

  • Upperclassmen and community: Knowing upperclassmen is always the best move if you need career advice or need someone to talk some sense into you. Also, they know things about campus and classes.
  • Stay in shape without thinking: When you have a coach, it’s hard to make silly excuses not to go to practice. Practice is also a great time to decompress and stop thinking about homework.
  • You’re a student-athlete: It has a great ring to it. Also, being an athlete on top of school gives you more satisfaction in getting good grades. Furthermore, buffet dining swipes are always worth it.
  • You’re going to waste that time anyway: If you feel like college athletes have no free time, you’re probably right, but most students who don’t exercise somehow don’t know what happened to their time anyway between classes and dinner. That’s a sign you might as well exercise and get the benefit of a better sleep schedule.


  • Practices are still hard and tiring as they ever were (although less than high school)
  • Weekends are busy: Swim meets can take up entire weekends and leave little time to do homework. 
  • Life can still be very regimented: It’s hard to be spontaneous.
  • Busy days with class load: Knowing you can’t pull all-nighters every week doesn’t change that homework will still be due. Sometimes, you got to de-commit from social activities :(.
  • It can be hard to join clubs: non-athletes live a very different life on campus. They always schedule meetings during practice or late at night. And weekends? Don’t get me started on weekends.

Pros and cons of swimming D1 vs. D3:

Pro D3:

  • Team culture without the time commitment: You don’t have to spend the entire day with swimmers, but you probably will.
  • Better student life balance: If there’s a test the next day and you haven’t studied, chances are you can skip practice and not have to make it up. Because of this, it’s easier to leave the team on good terms, for better or worse.
  • Summers aren’t for swimming: They’re for internships, working, and chilling.
  • Time to join clubs: Who says you can only commit to one thing?

Pro D1:

  • If you vibe, you vibe
  • Money is money: Scholarships and other amenities just for athletes are always a plus. The amount of gear they get for free is insane. The amount I got over four years? A practice suit and t-shirt a year. :P. Also, when was the last time you saw an athlete not wear a school shirt?
  • Addition tutoring and academic support: It’s a double-edged sword, but it’s nice to have free tutors.
  • Friends go a much longer way than just in college: You spend a lot of time together.
  • Everyone is committed to the cause: getting fast is people’s number one priority. Un-committed people who don’t want to live and breathe swimming will leave quicker.

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