Every year, swimmers who are looking to compete at a college level and apply for a scholarship ask a familiar question: Should I search for Division 1, Division 2, or Division 3 schools to further my swimming career?

Deciding to competitively swim in college may be viewed as a risky agreement for some swimmers. As you dive into the world of college swimming, you are going to learn the differences of truly competing at a college level.

The NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) and NAIA (National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics) were established to determine which association is best suited for a student-athlete based on their long-term goals. The NCAA is a larger association than the NAIA, and consists of larger schools and universities. This association is broken down into three divisions, D1, D2, and D3.

Division 1 schools are the largest universities that tend to offer highly advanced facilities for their collegiate swimmers. A D1 school often attracts highly ranked swimmers and receives the most attention from the media. Typically, Division 1 schools hold the fastest swimmers in the nation. 

Smaller than a Division 1 school, Division 2 schools frequently combine athletic and academic scholarships. Although a Division 2 school may not be as large as a Division 1 school, a D2 school can still be strongly competitive in the swimming world.

Division 3 schools are the smallest of the NCAA group. A D3 school is not allowed to offer athletic scholarships to their incoming freshman. Although, it is possible to earn an academic scholarship to a Division 3 school if you meet the requirements.

Similar to the NCAA Division 2 schools, the NAIA consists of small 4-year colleges that offer collegiate swimming opportunities. Swimmers that choose to compete at an NAIA level, are competing equally at a Division 2 standard.

Some competitive swimmers may insist on competing at a specific division level, however, there are other opportunities to ensure you attend the school of your dreams. Even if you do not meet the requirements to swim at a particular division, there is the possibility of competitively swimming for the schools club team. This opportunity is presented at the University of Florida, as you can competitively swim at Gator Swim Club. 

It is important to consider all of your options when deciding to competitively swim at a collegiate level. Searching for schools that best fit your ultimate goals will lead to your long-term happiness with finalizing your swimming career. Be sure to stay in contact with any schools of your interest as communication is very important when approaching your upcoming college years as a swimmer. Don’t forget to contact Florida Swim Network after finalizing your commitment to swim at a collegiate level!

 Written by Ashley Schrader