Men's Swimming & Diving Frequently Asked Questions

Academic Benchmarks

What grade point average, rank in class and SAT scores do I need to be considered for admission to Harvard?
The answer is complex as the above-mentioned components of an applicant's academic performance are only a part of a broad picture that is considered when the admissions department reviews applications. For more information on Harvard admissions requirements, visit the Harvard website.

Harvard is one of the most respected and selective universities in the world. Accordingly, Harvard maintains the highest standards for admission. The Harvard Admissions office has the expertise and experience to look at candidates on the whole. When performing preliminary, basic evaluations of prospects, we look for students who have taken a challenging curriculum and have been successful; who have performed well on standardized tests (although there is a wide range); and who are in the top 15% of their graduating class.

Can a prospect's candidacy for the swim team increase his chances of gaining admission?
We will support applications for admission by candidates for the swim team on an individual basis. Support from a trusted and reliable source (including coaches, interviewers, alumni, faculty, etc.) will often make a significant impact on admissions decisions. However, since we are not admissions officers and do not make admissions decisions, we cannot guarantee admission to anyone.

The amount of support we can provide and the number of candidates we are able to actively support is limited. Our support is generally based upon the following four criteria:

  • The ability of a prospect to help our team achieve the mission, vision and goals we have established;
  • The likelihood of the individual's gaining admission based upon academic and extra-curricular factors;
  • The likelihood that the prospective student-athlete will attend Harvard if admitted; and
  • The likelihood of committing to the team for four years of college.

How do students manage their time between school work and swim team commitments?
Athletics is a primary component of the educational experience at Harvard. The ability to prioritize and manage time is an important part of the learning process for Harvard students, especially Harvard student-athletes. The amount of time team members commit to the swimming and diving team is significant and requires discipline on the part of the student athlete.

A significant percentage of Harvard students are involved in extracurricular activities and must plan their schedules accordingly. This planning and discipline is an integral part of the Harvard experience. Approximately 1,000 of the nearly 7,000 undergraduate students at Harvard compete in intercollegiate athletics, proving every day that it is realistic for Harvard students to be successful student-athletes. A great example of this success was displayed as recently in the spring of 2008, when senior swimmer Geoff Rathgeber was awarded the William J. Bingham Award for the Most Outstanding Male Student-Athlete at Harvard as well as the John P. Reardon Award in recognition of his scholarship, leadership, character, and athletic ability.

Do the swimmers and divers train and compete together?
Harvard is fortunate to have ample space at Blodgett Pool so that our swimmers and divers can all train together every day. While the divers are training on the boards, we have two 25-yard courses (a 6-lane and an 8-lane), which gives us 14 swimming lanes and additional water for drills and weight training. Also, there is ample deck area for dryland work for all groups. This allows the swimmers and divers to arrive and leave together, and promotes a very strong team bond.

Athletic Benchmarks

How fast do I need to be to become of member of the Harvard Men’s Swimming team?
Harvard Men’s Swimming and Diving has been consistently ranked among the best men’s swimming programs in the country (most recently 22nd in 2007-2008). Accordingly, most athletes that we actively recruit are at or approaching the senior national level or have achieved multiple junior national time standards. However, we are looking for the best possible athletes who want to be challenged, achieve great things, and have potential to get faster. Therefore, we stay in close contact with other prospective athletes who are excited about the opportunity to compete at Harvard who may not have achieved national time standards as of yet.

Our Recruiting Approach

How does the Harvard Men’s Swimming and Diving Team establish and maintain contact with potential team members?
HMSD is looking for candidates who are excited about the opportunity and challenge of a Harvard education. We seek out athletes who desire a comprehensive and supportive program that allows them to reach their highest aspirations in the sport. If we believe a candidate is a person who has the potential to help our program and has a good chance of gaining admission, we will invite them on campus for one of our two recruiting weekends in the fall. If a candidate has agreed to an official visit, we like them to submit their completed application either before they arrive on campus or shortly after. Additionally, we feel that getting to know the athlete’s club and high school coach is paramount in this process and we will call or contact them to gain a broader prospective on the athlete. It is our goal to disseminate all the pertinent information to the recruit, his coach, and his parents as early as possible so that they can make an informed decision before the early signing period.

Competition, Practice and Schedule

What is the practice schedule?
NCAA rules allow a total of 20 hours per week during the regular season. The schedule will differ for the needs of individual athletes based on their best events, training history, and time of year. A total of 10 two hour training sessions will be offered each week. Additionally, we also utilize our strength and conditioning coach between 2-3 times per week with a heavy emphasis on core strengthening, injury prevention, and race specific power and speed development.

With what other colleges do you regularly compete?
The Harvard Men’s Swimming and Diving Team competes in the Ivy League and EISL and will swim all members during the dual meet season. All team members will have the opportunity to compete and travel during the season. Additionally we actively seek out the best competition available to us and have competed against teams from the SEC, ACC, Big East, Big 10, and others.
Scholarships and Financial Aid

I would really like to attend Harvard, but I have several scholarships from other schools. Can you provide any information that will help me with this decision?
Harvard has an outstanding financial aid program that allows people from all financial backgrounds to attend. Since Harvard applicants are the "best and the brightest," they frequently have other opportunities available to them. Yet we feel that the opportunity to compete at Harvard in the pool and the classroom can often rival these other offers. The goal of the Office of Financial Aid is to work with each family to ensure access to the Harvard education students have worked so hard to secure. All of our financial aid is awarded on the basis of demonstrated financial need—there are no academic, athletic or merit-based awards. Harvard meets the full need of every student, including international students, for all four years.

Building on the success of the Harvard Financial Aid Initiative (HFAI), which eliminated the parental contribution from families earning $60,000 or less, Harvard recently announced major financial aid enhancements to ensure greater affordability for middle- and upper-middle income families. Beginning in the 2008–09 academic year, parents with incomes of $180,000 or less will be asked to contribute significantly less to the cost of a Harvard education. Additionally, home equity will no longer be considered in determining a family’s ability to contribute and students will not be expected to take out loans, which will be replaced by need-based Harvard scholarship. To learn more about the details of this initiative, (click here: FAQs about the new initiative)


December 2007: Harvard announces sweeping middle-income initiative

March 2006: Harvard expands financial aid for low- and middle-income families

Additional information regarding all matters of financial aid can be found on the Office of Financial Aid website.

Athletic Questions:
A top athlete and student should be sure he is choosing a school that will foster his personal growth in all areas. Ivy League schools have a unique view of athletics that allows its member schools to provide this balance and development. Visit the Ivy League's official website for more information about the league.

Part of the reason for Harvard's success is the ability of Harvard teams to compete with the best programs in the country - including winning national championships and being ranked in the top 20 in several sports each year. Our roster of 41 varsity sports means that Harvard not only has a fantastic athletic department; it is the largest Division I program in the nation both in terms of sports offered and student-athletes served.

The mission statement of Harvard Athletics states, “Harvard values the lessons that have long been taught by athletic participation: the pursuit of excellence through personal development and teamwork; ethical and responsible behavior on the field and off; adherence to the spirit of rules as well as to their letter; leadership and strength of character; and sportsmanship -- including respect for one's opponents, acceptance of victory with humility, acknowledgment of defeat with grace, and respect for the value of cross-cultural understanding and acceptance. In teaching these lessons to its students, Harvard instills habits that will lead students to better and healthier lives. While winning is not an end in itself, we believe that the efforts by our intercollegiate teams to be their best will lead them to succeed.” We invite you to visit our website at to learn more about our department as a whole.