Rowing Recruiting – A Parent’s Guide to Selective College Admissions

As the parent of a junior rower or junior rower yourself you already know that rowing demands dedication and continuous improvement. It’s what parents and rowers love about the sport. But earning a spot on the water isn’t always easy, especially at a selective college or university. 

A critical first step is to match programs that fit your student’s academic interest and desired athletic level of intensity. As a college counseling service, we work with families to understand general guidelines for rowing recruitment and match programs that are likely to provide a fulfilling college experience for each student. We’ve seen that after uncovering which programs would be a great fit, developing a roadmap toward college recruitment becomes much more relevant and actionable. 

In the guide, you will learn about the role of rowing recruiting in college admission uncover what coaches really want from a recruit, get answers to frequently asked questions, and tips for creating an action plan. 

The Role of Rowing Recruiting in College Admissions

Parents often want to know how rowing recruiting can positively influence admission to a selective school. While rowing is a plus on a college application, the recruiting process should not be a method to assure admission or a college scholarship. To assume so would be short-sighted. Each coach’s relationship with their respective admissions department varies; and erg scores can’t make up for substandard grades or a lack of passion for the sport. 

On the flip side, if your junior rower does meet academic standards, has competitive 2k erg score and is genuinely interested in a program, then there is a greater opportunity for recruitment. Coaches with greater influence may summarize your student’s athletic and academic experience, and how that makes the student a viable candidate for the team and a great addition to the academic community. But in order to get here, you need to give coaches what they need 

What Rowing Coaches Really Want 

Collegiate rowing is competitive. Coaches will be carefully evaluating skills, erg scores and racing results.  Every factor indicative of a recruit’s talent and ability to compete and contribute in a collegiate setting is considered. But metrics aren’t the only factors considered. What coaches really want to see in recruits is the capacity to improve, enthusiasm to learn, and dedication to the sport. 

The great thing is that your rower doesn’t have be an elite athlete to be a candidate for a great program.  If your rower meets academic standards, maintains a competitive edge, and has the desire to row, then you have the necessary ingredients to plan for a positive experience. 

Frequently Asked Questions

When does the college rowing recruiting process start?

Most top tier programs want to complete their recruiting classes the summer before a prospect’s senior year of high school. This means that junior year is a prime year for elite athletes. Non-elite athletes have a bit more time, with most programs completing their recruiting classes during a prospect’s senior year. 

What are the most important factors in college rowing recruiting?

Ergometer scores (erg scores) are a critical factor in recruitment. Always have your student list their 2k erg scores in their first correspondence to coaches and keep them posted on time improvements. The best way for junior rowers to improve their skillset is to expand their training and rowing experiences. Consider a college-based summer rowing camps after their novice year. 

How can my student-athlete get discovered for college rowing? 

Evaluation and talent identification typically occur at summer camps, tournaments, and showcases the summers before junior and senior year. But don’t rely on chance encounters to for your student to get discovered. For non-elite rowers, its best to proactively communicate during junior year of high school. Complete online program questionnaires for each school of interest and have your student contact coaches directly, providing periodic updates on 2k erg scores. 

How can my student-athlete get a college rowing scholarship? 

Rowing is an official NCAA sport for women, meaning that recruiting and participation is governed by the rules of the NCAA. It also means that there are generally more rowing and scholarship opportunities at Division I schools.  For men, while there are quite a few colleges that have Varsity Men’s rowing programs that are supported by the school, many of the competitive rowing teams are actually club sports – “unofficial teams” that have limited to no support from the school. Club teams generally have little influence in the admissions office. However, many men’s college club teams row competitively in the same regattas as the Varsity programs.

Should I use a rowing recruiting (publicity) service?    

Recruiting services act as third party facilitators for the recruiting process. Sites like NCSA, BeRecruited, and a growing number of others offer this type of service. Parents often believe they need to invest in such a service to increase their student’s chances in recruiting success. 

While these services do have their place, especially among mid to low-tier athletes and attractive to rowing programs with limited funding, these services are not necessarily advantageous in rowing.  

A well-researched approach, realistic planning, and proactive communication go a lot further in rowing. This is best achieved investing in a consulting service rather than a recruiting service. Why? Because a consulting service does not reach out to college coaches on behalf of athletes; instead a counseling service provides information to potential student athletes on college programs that would be the best fit academically, athletically, and socially. 

Creating Your Plan of Action 

The fact that you’re here means that you’re on the right track. You’re educating yourself on the necessary steps to fully support your student make their transition from junior rower to college athlete. We know that the process can seem incredibly complicated. But with the right information, proper planning, and actionable advice, you can make a roadmap that will make this experience what it should be for you and your junior rower – exciting and rewarding.