Choosing a College to Dive For
The last few years of high school can be an exciting and nerve wracking time for young student-athletes. Not only will a diver need to decide if he/she will continue to dive in college, but they must also go through the daunting process of choosing a school that is right for them.
Student-athletes often get so caught up in the process of obtaining scholarship funds that they forget to acknowledge the importance of this choice. Money is certainly a factor, but it shouldn't be the only consideration.
Other factors such as the quality of education the school offers, the status of the swimming & diving program, and the size and location of the school are all significant. Educate yourself thoroughly on all aspects of the various colleges before making a decision — it will likely impact your life for years to come.
Earning a Scholarship
Let's face it: Education isn't cheap and tuition costs just keep rising; a four-year degree from a public institution is now estimated to cost around $80 thousand. It is no wonder many student athletes simply go to the school that gives the most money.
But a financial package is not always everything it is made out to be. Make sure to ask yourself some important questions before you accept a scholarship:
- Amount: Make sure the amount that is offered is suitable for you and your family. In addition, if it is a partial scholarship, determine if there is any chance the amount can increase over the years due to diving or academic performance.
- Education: How does the money you are offered compare to the education you will receive? The true value of the scholarship is contingent upon the quality of education available at the school.
- Quality of program: What type of diving program does the school provide? Is it a valued and established program? Swimming and diving programs are often the first to be cut during tough financial times, so it is important to make sure that the team is fully supported by the school.
Education & Athlete Accommodations
Diving, just like any athletic career, will, at some point, come to an end. But a quality education will stay with you for the rest of your life. If you know what you want to study, make sure the school's program has a solid reputation (or is offered at all); if you are undecided, evaluate the different majors available to ensure you will have plenty of options to choose from.
Many schools give athletes priority when enrolling in classes so they can fit courses into their demanding schedule. In addition, many schools also offer athletes special tutoring programs to help them with time management and academic studies.
When doing your research, find out if the schools you are considering offer these incentives.
Location & School Size
Both the size and the location of the school are important to consider: Some are large and some are small; some are remote and others are located in large metropolitan areas.
When considering the size of school, ask yourself these questions:
- Large school: Do you mind taking a class with more than 100 students, frequently taught by teaching assistants (TA's)? Larger universities offer a wide variety of resources but often at the cost of personal attention in the classroom.
- Small school: Do you prefer a school where the largest class is only around 40 students? How would you feel spending four years at a school with only 1000-6000 undergraduates? Smaller schools offer more one-on-one attention, but may be insufficient for students seeking the excitement of a larger school.
When looking at a college's location, you need to consider two factors:
- Distance from family: Some students want to attend a school that is a good distance away from their parents, while others feel like staying closer to home.
- Remote or metropolitan: Is it out in the middle of nowhere, where the nearest city is 20-plus miles away? Or is it in the midst of a major metropolitan area? Some feel trapped at a school that offers little in the way of night life, whereas others would feel most comfortable in a school that is remote and secluded.
Diving Coach & Facility
Finally, as an athlete, it is important to make sure you like the diving program and coach at the school. Don't just base your assessment on another person's experience — a coach that is amazing for one diver may not work for you. Know what style of coaching best suits and motivates you, then visit and chat with the coach(es) at each school to see who is more in-line with your philosophy.
In addition, make sure the school has a good diving facility. If you are a platform diver, make sure there are platforms available on campus. If there aren't, where does the team train?
Assess the resources beyond the pool as well. Some programs have dryland facilities while others may warm up with the gymnastics team. Does the school offer a weight training program? All of these facility questions are important if you want to grow as a diver and continue to excel in the sport.
In the end, you need to choose a school that is best suited for you. Money is important, but it cannot be the only factor on which you base your decision.
Make sure you weigh all the pros and cons: Evaluate each school, and then narrow down your choices, based on your research and personal experience. It is a big decision — one that is well worth the extra time and effort it will take to make the right one.