College Eligibility

Have you ever performed in a paid exhibition or show? Have you ever received compensation for competing? If so, you may not be eligible for varsity competition at the collegiate level.

In 1995, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) dubbed synchro an "emerging sport." While the sport of synchronized swimming has not been fully sanctioned by the NCAA, college-bound synchro athletes should still be made aware of the potholes, road hazards and curves ahead. The following notes apply primarily to athletes looking at varsity synchro programs, but USA Synchro supports compliance with these standards for ALL collegiate synchro swimmers.

Don’t Go Pro

As of the 1996 collegiate season, USA Synchro requires ALL college synchro athletes to maintain amateur status as defined by USA Synchro, FINA and the NCAA (Bylaw Article 12). The NCAA’s definition of "amateur" is much stricter than either USA Synchro or FINA. Following are some guidelines to help you determine if you are an "amateur", or have knowingly or unknowingly achieved "professional" status.

  • The NCAA says you are a "professional" if you:
    • Are paid (in any form) or accept the promise of pay for competing in an athletics contest.
    • Sign a contract or verbally commit with an agent or a professional sports organization.
    • Use your athletic skills for pay in any form, i.e., you are paid for an appearance in a TV commercial, exhibition, demonstration or clinic.
    • Participate with a professional team.
    • Participate on an amateur sports team (club or National Team) and receive any salary, incentive payment, award, gratuity, educational expenses or expense allowances (other than competition and training apparel, equipment, and actual and necessary travel, room and board expenses).
  • Before enrolling in college, you may:
    • Tryout (practice, but not compete) with a professional sports team at your expense.
    • Receive actual and necessary expenses from any professional sports organization for one visit per professional organization not in excess of 48 hours.
    • Receive a fee for teaching a lesson in the sport.
    • Note: Each school is a member of an athletic conference, and each conference may have additional regulations about recruiting, eligibility and financial aid. Ask your recruiter about these rules.

The Clearinghouse

If you are looking at a Varsity program, you will need to register with the NCAA Clearinghouse.

Divisions I-II

The NCAA Initial Eligibility Clearinghouse will certify your athletics eligibility for Divisions I and II. If you intend to participate in Division I or II varsity synchro as a freshman, you must register with the Clearinghouse. It’s best to register after your junior year of high school, though you can register at any time. If you register late, however, you may face delays that will prevent you from participating early on.

Your guidance counselor can obtain the materials by calling (317) 917-6222. Please note that initial-eligibility certification pertains only to whether you meet the NCAA requirements for participation as a freshman in Division I or II and has no bearing on your admission to a particular university.

Division III

Each Division III university will certify you based on that university’s particular standards.

Who Can You Call?

If you have questions or concerns:
  • First, consult with your high school’s athletic director or guidance counselor. Ask for an "NCAA Guide for the College-Bound Student-Athlete" and a "Making Sure You Are Eligible to Participate in College Sports" brochure (they’re free). The guides will answer many common questions, and also discuss academic requirements.
  • Second, if you are being recruited, tell the recruiting coach you want to talk to the compliance officer at that university. Discuss any concerns you may have, and ask the compliance officer to discuss any potential problems with you and your recruiter.
  • Third, for general questions, contact the NCAA Membership Services division at (317) 917-6222.