This is the second in a 3-part series of guest posts by FloridaSwimNetwork.com‘s Bess Auer, who took her son on a college tour this summer. 8 states, 6 colleges, 4 days. You can connect with Bess on Twitter or on Florida Swim Network’s Facebook page. You can read Part 1 here and then part 3 here.
So nobody in my family has ever been interested in attending an Ivy League school. (Er, we probably wouldn’t have ever qualified to attend one, but that’s beside the point!) And it was nowhere on my son’s radar either until one was mentioned to us by Sid Cassidy, the swim coach at St. Andrews School. Knowing Jackson was a pretty good student, Sid mentioned that he really liked the Yale coach Tim Wise, and that we should look into it.
Sure enough, Jackson was a strong fit for Ivy League swim times overall, meaning he could come in and be very competitive, so this peaked my son’s interest. Jackson continued to explore the different Ivy League school websites and decided he’d like to visit a few on our college tour. So, as mentioned in my last blog post, Yale, Princeton, and UPenn went on the list to visit on our trip.
We flew into Newark, rented a car, and drove up through New York to New Haven, Connecticut where Yale University is located. Yale was founded in 1701 and is the third oldest college in the U.S. The campus of Yale is just incredible, with the gothic architecture reminding us of what Oxford University must look like. Similar to Oxford, students are put into Residence Halls, which become their home away from home. (Imagine Harry Potter’s Gryffindor, Slytherin, Ravenclaw, and Hufflepuff.)
We met briefly with Yale swimming assistant coach Kevin Norman who answered Jackson’s questions and then showed us the way to the swim facilities. I must say, the Yale pool, built in 1932, is one of the most amazing places – imagine the Thunder Dome in Ivy league pool form! (It really was a highlight of our trip!)
Coach Norman explained that Yale swimming had the highest GPA of any team on campus (Gulp!), and they took great pride in their studies. He felt the school struck a good balance between swimming and studying, though, as Yale also sent two swimmers to the U.S. World Trials. And to connect back home, Yale has Ryan McCrae, a very fast swimmer from Palm Harbor Y Swimming in Florida, coming in as a freshman in the fall.
As our first introduction any of us had ever had to an Ivy League, Yale was a good start.
The next stop on our trip was Princeton, New Jersey for Princeton University, where we had several friends who were swimming alumni. (They were very eager for Jackson to enjoy his visit.) Princeton was founded in 1746 and its campus has lush landscaping and the coolest strip across from the university. (Loved the shops and restaurants!) Here Jackson talked briefly with Princeton swimming’s assistant coach Mitch Dalton, who compared Jackson’s current times with Princeton’s current team times. We then walked around the swim facilities, a bit more modern than Yale’s.
Princeton’s swim team won the Ivy League Championship this year (see results and times here) and also broke into the Top 20 of Division I swim team rankings this season. In addition, they just announced a swimmer from Florida, Sam Smiddy of AK Sharks, is an incoming freshman. This impressed Jackson as Sam competed well at the World Trials this year.
Last on our Ivy League tour was Philadelphia where we visited the University of Pennsylvania. Started in 1740 with the aid of Ben Franklin, the heart of UPenn creates a welcome respite from the crazy, busy city of Philly. We did not meet with any of the coaching staff here but did view Penn swimming’s facilities.
Although they are Division I, Ivy League schools do not give athletic scholarships for any sport. In fact, athletes who compete for Ivy Leagues still must gain admittance on their scholarly merits. There is a very complicated formula that combines an applicant’s SAT/ACT scores and GPA to arrive at an Academic Index score. This score gives guidance to swim coaches as to whether a swimmer will be able to make it through the admissions process. (If you score below the AI number set for that year, the coach cannot recruit you, no matter how fast you are!)
However, while Ivy League schools do not give athletic scholarships, there is plenty of need-based aid, so never let a lack of money deter you.
The advantage to having such strenuous standards for athletes is to assure that they will not struggle academically. Unlike other students, Division I student-athletes have to worry about a full-time practice and competition schedule in addition to their schoolwork. And, if an athlete decides to not continue swimming all 4 years, they do not lose their aid and continue on their Ivy league journey. Nice!
So the Ivy League schools were the first three stops on our college tour, and they set the bar quite high as we then continued on to Washington, D.C. for our next two schools. Stay tuned for my next blog post for Georgetown, George Washington University and then UVA later on.