When it comes to swimming scholarships in the United States, most are only familiar with the NCAA. While NCAA scholarships are a great opportunity for many talented swimmers, they aren’t always the best option. Some swimmers and divers may want to consider NJCAA scholarships instead. Here is what you need to know about NJCAA swimming scholarships to determine if they are right for you.
The NJCAA and Community Colleges
For international students, the American system of higher learning can be pretty confusing. There are universities, colleges, and junior colleges (also called community colleges).
- University: This is a 4-year institution which can be either private or public. Universities each set their own admission standards. Many universities have graduate programs.
- College: Colleges in the United States are basically the same as universities. They are also 4-year institutions which can be public or private, and often have graduate programs. The only real difference is that colleges tend to be smaller than universities. Some universities have divisions called “College of Engineering” or “College of Liberal Arts.”
- Junior College: A junior college, aka community college, is a 2-year institution. Graduates will get an Associate’s Degree or a Technical Degree. They have much lower admission requirements than universities and colleges.
The NJCAA (which stands for National Junior College Athletic Association) is the association which governs sports at the Junior College level. Like the NCAA and NAIA, it has three divisions: D1, D2, and D3. With Swimming and Diving, there is only D1. Full NJCAA D1 scholarships are available for swimmers and divers.
Reasons for Aiming for a NJCAA Swimming Scholarship
NCAA and NAIA institutions are very competitive and getting a scholarship may not be realistic. There are simply too many talented swimmers and divers out there, so you might not be able to get a good scholarship offer. The academic requirements at the NCAA and NAIA level are also fairly stringent. If your grades aren’t in order, then you may not be eligible for a NCAA or NAIA swimming scholarship. By comparison, the NJCAA has much lower standards. Each college sets its own admission requirements, but some literally have no other requirement than that you’ve finished high school – even with bad grades.
Here are some of the reasons you may need to consider a NJCAA swimming scholarship:
- Your grades are bad and you don’t meet NCAA or NAIA requirements
- You need to improve athletically, but are good enough for NJCAA
- You started the recruiting process late and there are no more scholarships available at the NCAA and NAIA level
- You want to get your feet wet (literally and figuratively) to see if you like being a student athlete, and then transfer to a 4-year college.
- NJCAA colleges are much cheaper
About this last point: NJCAA colleges are much cheaper. Since you are aiming for a swimming scholarship, costs shouldn’t matter right? This isn’t the case, especially since freshman swimmers rarely get full ride scholarships in the NCAA or NAIA.
According to College Board, the average cost of a 4-year university with tuition and fees is $31,231 per year (private colleges) and $22,958 per year (public universities). By comparison, a year at a community college only costs about $2,076. This is 10x less!
Even if you are great swimmer, the chances of you getting a full ride at a NCAA or NAIA institution are very slim. Ohio State’s coach Bill Dorrenkott says, women “need to be in the top 8 NCAA corer or very close walking through the door and even then they need to be able to contribute significantly on relays.”
For men, Florida’s Gregg Troy says, “If you are not in the top 8 at nationals or an outstanding high school short course swimmer, a full ride is probably not a reality.”
Consider that the average women’s swimming scholarship is about $9,500 and the average men’s swimming scholarship is about $6,500. This may not come close to covering the costs of a year at a NCAA or NAIA institution. You may be much better off starting at a cheaper junior college and then finishing your academics in a 4-year institution.
Using Your NJCAA Scholarship to Get a NCAA Full Ride
Consider what one college swimming coach had to say:
“We never give a full scholarship to a high school senior. It’s a $110,000 gamble on a 18 year-old kid. Internationals are another story. They’re older, more experienced and you need to pay full to get them.”
The takeaway from this? Coaches are more likely to give full scholarships to swimmers with experience. One way that you can get experience and prove your commitment to swimming is by competing for 2 years at a junior college. Coaches will consider you less of a risk and be more likely to offer you a larger scholarship or even a full ride.
It is completely normal and common practice in the United States for students (and student athletes) to start at a junior college, finish the 2 years, and then transfer their course credits to a 4-year university. This won’t just save you money on the first 2 years of education, but can increase your chances of getting a full-ride scholarship at the institution since you’ve already proven your commitment by playing with the NJCAA.
NJCAA Colleges with Swimming Scholarships
There are many junior colleges in the United States with Division 1 Swimming & Diving, particularly in New York State. Full scholarships may be available to you as a talented international swimmer.
- Borough of Manhattan Community College – New York, New York
- Fashion Institute of Technology – New York, New York
- Genessee Community College – Batavia, New York
- Herkimer County Community College – Herkimer, New York
- Hostos Community College – Bronx, New York
- Indian River State College – Fort Pierce, Florida
- Iowa Central Community College – Fort Dodge, Iowa
- Iowa Lakes Community College – Emmetsburg, Iowa
- Jamestown Community College – Jamestown, New York
- LaGuardia Community College – Long Island City, New York
- Lincoln College – Lincoln, Illinois
- Monroe Community College – Rochester, New York
- Ocean County College – Toms River, New Jersey
- Queensborough Community College – Bayside, New York
- South Georgia State College – Waycross, Georgia
- Southwestern Oregon Community College – Coos Bay, Oregon