I love the summer. It’s time off school when I can focus on swimming, hang out with friends and not care about anything related to my future.

At least, that’s what summer was about before. This past summer between my sophomore and junior year of high school was different, though.

Not only were a lot of my swim friends going to college, but I also had to start thinking about college myself now! I was technically supposed to start thinking about college the summer before sophomore year, but I had thought the recruiting period was too far away to even bother.

I’m not saying I wish I had started my college search earlier, since I managed to get all of my letters of interest – which I send to coaches to let them know I’m interested in swimming at their college – together before Sept. 1, but I do wish I could have prepared myself a little better for the stress of this summer.

If you aren’t a swimmer, you might be wondering, “Wait a second, isn’t Becca a junior? Sure, she has to start thinking about colleges, but she doesn’t need an actual list and letters of interest until senior year!” But the summer before junior year for swimmers who are planning on competing in college can be one of the most stressful summers of their life, because on Sept. 1 of their junior year, they will start to be recruited by college coaches.

Some of my teammates were much more organized than I was this summer, with lists of colleges ready and questions prepared for each coach. Meanwhile, I was still wondering how I was already a junior. I mean, I can drive a car now! I have a purse like my mom! When did all these changes happen? It feels like just yesterday I was in eighth grade, pretending I was cool because I got to wear high heels to a dance for the first time. (Side note: High heels and I don’t mix very well; according to some of my teammates, I’m terrifyingly tall.)

Anyway, I digress. I’ve started the recruiting process and couldn’t be more thankful to my parents and coach, all of whom helped me figure out what I was doing along the way. It was beyond exciting to wake up on the first and see the emails sitting in my inbox; getting to open them almost felt like unwrapping gifts at Christmas.

I don’t think I’ll have any more completely relaxed summers for the rest of my high school career, and unfortunately, free time is a commodity I don’t often see because of my busy swim schedule. But now, with college on the horizon, I can finally see everything I do coming together for a great cause.

—By Rebecca Waterson

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