Reapply for Colleges as an Athlete after Gap Year

My son is HS class of 21, and is a D2/D3 level competitive swimmer. He turned down athletic offers from several schools in an attempt to get into his dream school. He was first deferred in EA and rejected during RA. He has been accepted in several safety schools, some of them have given him good scholarships. However, none of schools he was accepted has a swim program, or an open spot on their competitive team. He is devastated at this point, as he wants to continue swimming in college. So, now he is thinking to take a gap year and reapplying next year.

He has a 4.0 unweighted GPA and 4.32 weighted GPA (up to 1st semester of Sr. year). He is also a full IB diploma candidate. He only took SAT during the Jr year without any studying and scored 1460. He was planning to retake it in the summer after Jr year. However, he did not get any opportunity to retake it due to the pandemic. He is planning to retake SAT and subject tests if he decides to reapply next year.

I would like to get pros and cons of the gap year approach. I have also heard the top schools do not like to admit students after they take a gap year.

1, What are his chances to get into his dream school as an athlete after a gap year?
2, Can coaches offer roster spots again to someone who will reapply to the school?
3, Also, what are his chances to transfer to a top school as an athlete if he chooses to attend one of the schools that he is accepted at?

College Board not offering subject tests anymore. Hopefully you let the school know he didn’t study for it.

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That is good to know. Thank you.

He has mentioned that in his application. But it did not make any difference. There are too many applicants this year. Unreal.

S21 is in a similar position here. He turned down a few opportunities for his dream school and , a with coach backing was deferred and then rejected, The coach made it seem like he was gonna get it so it HURT. We would’ve done EA differently,
He’s thinking of taking a gap year to try and make the cuts of the D1’s he’s accepted too, but that’s not appealing. He might also try club swim…
I don’t have a lot of advice other than you’re not alone. Have him email coaches and talk to them, they might help with gap year advice. We’ve had some success.
Good luck! Swim. mom life is hard sometimes!
Hugs from the pool deck :slight_smile:

I am totally with you on the coach things. We thought he had a good chance to get in based on his conversations with coaches… It really hurts.

Yes, he is planning on talking to coaches. He is still waiting for a few more decisions come out… What advice has your son’s coaches given him on the gap year? Can they support him again if he chooses to reapply?

One hasn’t retuned any emails ( nothing like being ghosted by a college coach) but another is open to it. But there are also several D3’s he didn’t even talk to that he might go after for class of 2026. Both the D1’s he was accepted gave him time cuts that would earn him a spot. I think ( hope) most coaches will understand it’s been a crazy year and are a little more forgiving.

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Under these circumstances, you might explore a PG year at a Boarding School over a flat out gap year. It’s a little late and likely much more expensive. It could fill in a bunch of the holes.

What’s the “dream” school?

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You may get more answers if you post this in the athletic recruits forum.

Academically, reapplying to the same schools doesn’t seem to work and the advice is usually to find a new mix of schools. I’m not sure how swimming plays into the mix though.

My gut is for your son to go to a school that has accepted him and swim club. There are no guarantees that there will be a different outcome after a gap year.


DS is a H21 swim recruit as well. We know how difficult it is with this process. I think one has to be very realistic regarding one’s times and strokes when choosing a college swim program. You need to see if your son’s times or stokes are what a particular coach needs. Unlike D1, only a few D3 school coaches have a few actual spots to give to their top recruits, the rest are up to the admission. I really believe that the best thing is to have really clear dialogue with the coaches, they know best.
Also, what is your son’s dream school? Some of the H22 have already begun to commit to the D1 and Ivies. Your son needs to regroup soon! Hope he finds his fit.


Your son seems like a very strong academically and I would think he would have a lot of options for schools. Below are some general thoughts from my end for what it’s worth:
-Tough decision on gap year, especially if it based on playing a sport/swimming at just 1 or 2 specific dream schools.
It is difficult to comment as I do not know the school but I would look very closely at his chances to get into the dream school(s) on his own thru admissions, and if admitted, what are his chances to be on the team, do they have spots for walk-ons, would he be scoring points in meets right away (in general to be a recruit at at Top academic school or good program, the coach would want the student to walk in and be able to sore points at meets).
-It is easy for families, both the student and us parents, to fall in love with a school, especially if it is a reach but I would caution if possible to Not fall in love with “dream school”. There are many good schools out there. In fact the coaches & schools want to play to our emotions to fall in love with the school.
-I am not sure if this applies for swimming but would a PG be an option? That is common for sports like football & hockey where they coach/school is looking for additional growth both academically & athletic wise.
-Transferring is an option, though I would think being on the team would be similar to being a recruit. I personally know a # of students that transferred out of school mostly as they were caught up in the recruiting excitement and went to the school for athletic reasons but ended up not liking it there, and/or not playing the sport anymore.
-Regardless of the above, I would make sure that you are picking the school based on will it be a good fit and would he want to go to that school if he was not swimming. There are many college kids that start out wanting to play a sport but do not for a variety of reasons. There is a lot to the college experience outside of sports and playing a sport often takes away from some of those opportunities or experiences.


If he attends ANY college, with or without swimming, his NCAA time clock starts to run. He’d have 5 years to swim for 4. That would be true if he started at a school and planned to transfer too.

The issue I think he would have in taking a gap year is how would he keep his times and progress current for coaches to consider. Can he swim for a club that has times he could submit? Would he have local coaches that could help him with a college coach?

What type of school is he looking for? You said D2, and a lot of those schools are in the south. Colorado School of Mines is D2 and has a good swim program, but it’s a tough school too.

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He currently swim with a local swim club. He has improved dramatically, and be able to make several national cuts in the recent swim meets, despite not being able to compete this past year. That is one reason he wants to continue swimming in the college. He will continue club swimming if he decides to do a gap year.

We realized that we made a wrong approach in applying to colleges. He did not apply for any safety schools who have a swim program.

Any schools with last ditch applications? SLU? Birmingham Southern? U of St. Joseph? LaGrange?

I can’t really tell if your son went through the regular athletic recruiting process. If your son opts to take a gap year, or a PG year, and reapply you might want to really familiarize yourself with the process as with coach support your son’s odds of being accepted skyrocket. Forgive me if you are already familiar with recruiting.

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Have you checked out Spire Academy? The have a gap year program that they train HARD and have internship options. If my son chooses to go he’ll build and race drones while training with a former NCAA coach. He has a former teammate there now and is loving it!

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I’d personally have him go to his best/favorite available academic option. You would be shocked how many kids I see drop out of swimming after freshman year or worse yet, get injured. Does he like any of his “admitted” colleges, and can he see himself (academic-wise) at any of his “admitted” schools? If your son likes a school and has a chance to swim on top of it, that’s a bonus, but he may regret choosing a school for the sole purpose of swimming. My advice would probably be different if he was an Olympic/NCAA A/B finals swimmer or receiving an athletic scholarship that makes college affordable (rare for swimming). This is the same advice I gave my own DD; as her head coach used to tell her: “you’re not majoring in swimming.” What does he want to study?

There are a lot of great options out there. Schools like UNC, NCSU, UGA, UTK etc have great club teams. They train, travel, compete, have nationals, etc. Many D2 and D3 schools have club teams as well. [Look up College Club Swimming] This path isn’t for everyone; he can also train with a local USMS or USA club team with a solid college or post college training program. Many USA teams have created special niche training groups for swimmers who want a higher level of training; they’re insured/registered as USMS, but train at a higher level than most USMS practice groups. Don’t rule out USMS programs either, many train at top NCAA facilities, with access to accomplished coaches. Either may be a good option if he’s working towards a walk-on spot at an accepted school. Our team has had good luck with the following; not sure if any are still accepting apps or offering $, but you can check:
Florida Southern
Lees McRae
Queens (NC)
Good luck!


Good advice from @Tigerwife92I’d personally have him go to his best/favorite available academic option. You would be shocked how many kids I see drop out of swimming after freshman year or worse yet, get injured. …
I would agree and that was always an important factor for us when choosing a school, including when being highly recruited. I have also seen many kids drop out of sports for a variety of reasons including getting injured.


What does he want to study?

I’m familiar with most of the schools @Tigerwife92 listed (my daughter played at Florida Tech). Florida Tech is good for engineering, sciences, psychology. Florida Southern has a nursing program, some sciences like bio but also music and theater, Queens for Business. Florida tech has a gorgeous pool (outside) and Florida Southern has very nice athletic facilities.

I think coaches from those schools could work miracles for the right athlete to get them merit money, athletic money, and into school even at this late date. Other schools in the Sunshine State Conference (Florida private schools like Rollins, Lynn, St Leo, Tampa) have different academic specialties but all do a good job of supporting athletes, and swimming is a favorite.

I loved D2 athletics. I thought my daughter got a good education, competitive sports, but not too much travel (all the schools are within a few hours of each other). Every once in a while, there is a star athletic team or individual star. The Florida Tech rowing team beat Michigan at the Dad Vail a few years ago in one of the most exciting races I’ve ever seen. A few football players have been drafted in the NFL. A woman swimmer at Florida tech just did something important (saw it in the newsletter but don’t remember what). This spring they are only competing in the conference because of covid but most of the schools are competing and enjoying it.

It’s okay to ask coaches what they like of taking a gap year too. They’ll tell you if they think it’s a good idea or a waste of time.


I rarely post in a swimming capacity for anonymity, but I used the pandemic as an opportunity to step away from the 18 and under swimming world, woohoo! I’ll be happy to return to masters meets though, complete with beer gardens. I’ve seen a lot over the years; “luckily” we had DHs experience to give us a little perspective. He chose his favorite D1 school over his highest ranked offer. He had a freak accident freshman year and wasn’t able to continue competing; even without swimming, he still loved his school. Swimming isn’t a sport you just jump back into, but he was able to parley his skills into a walk-on crew spot. It gave us perspective about the recruiting process with DD. I love the sport, and really do want kids to continue in college, but not at the expense of their education (yes, I’ve seen that over the years as well). The OPs situation is tough; I hope they’re able to find a way to get a great school he loves and still train/compete. Not as familiar with other regions, but FL, NC, TN and GA have some great opportunities to continue training beyond high school, even without swimming in college. Hard to know if they’re viable options for the OP’s swimmer, but hopefully it gave them some food for thought.