NCSA: How to get recruited for women’s rowing

NCSA: How to get recruited for women’s rowing

High School Sports

NCSA: How to get recruited for women’s rowing


At the college level, women’s rowing offers great opportunities for student-athletes. Many rowing teams are located at top academic schools, and they also have some of the largest roster sizes in women’s college sports, with an average of 61 women per team at the NCAA Division 1 level and 31 women per team at the NCAA Division 2 and Division 3 levels. However, the experience of earning a roster spot differs greatly for recruited athletes who rowed in high school and walk-on athletes who are learning to row at the college level. To shed light on this experience, we here at NCSA compiled the Guide to Getting Recruited for Women’s Collegiate Rowing, which all potential college rowers should read and reference. Here are just some of the main takeaways from this recruiting guide.

Scholarships and financial aid

Athletic scholarships are available for women’s rowing at the college level, but competition for scholarships is stiff, and it’s important for athletes and families to be aware of other ways to help pay for college. For example, a large portion of women’s rowing teams are NCAA D3 or D1 Ivy League (Yale, Princeton, Penn, Harvard [Radcliffe], Dartmouth, Cornell, Columbia, Brown) programs that do not offer athletic scholarships. However, these colleges do help with obtaining academic scholarships and other forms of financial aid, and rowing can help boost your chances of getting accepted into a prestigious school. With that said, athletic scholarships are available at the Division 1 and Division 2 levels, though the majority of athletes will receive only a partial scholarship. Read more about scholarships and financial aid for women’s college rowing.

Recruiting guidelines

For women’s rowing recruits, college coaches look for a few things in order of importance (give or take a spot):

  • 2k erg times
  • Academics
  • Technique
  • Physical attributes
  • High school or club experience

Simply put, 2k erg times are the first thing that college coaches look at. It’s what they use to gauge speed in recruits and is the best predictor available for athlete performance. However, strong grades and test scores are also very important because rowing teams must often deal with very high academic standards set by the school’s admissions office. Technique is tricky because while it is important, it is difficult for coaches to get a complete assessment of technique without seeing recruits row in person. If they do see a recruit at a prominent race or get to evaluate them enough at tryouts, it can be a great boost. College coaches are always on the lookout for tall recruits. Finally, rowers from an established high school or club team can work in conjunction with their high school or club coach to share a recommendation with college coaches. Read more about women’s rowing recruiting guidelines.

Recruiting tiers and 2k times for open weight rowers

Tier 1:

  • 2k in low 7:20s and under
  • 5’10”+
  • Top Division 1 teams.

Tier 2:

  • 2k in mid 7:20s to 7:30s
  • 5’9”+
  • Top Division 3 teams.

Tier 3:

  • 2k in 7:30s to 7:50
  • 5’8”+
  • Division 2 teams, middle Division 3 teams and lower Division 1 teams.

Tier 4:

  • 2k under 7:55
  • 5’7”+
  • Lower Division 3 teams and top club teams.

Read more about tiers and 2k times, including for lightweight rowers.

Women’s rowing camps

Attending the right rowing camp can be a tremendous benefit for athletes. There is something about the intensive process spanning multiple days that tends to get rowers to improve and find a new gear in their performance. However, before attending a camp, athletes and families should always consider their budget and realize that camp attendance does not necessarily lead to securing a roster spot or athletic scholarship money. Camps can help boost skills and learn-to-row camps can introduce potential walk-on athletes to the sport. Read more about women’s rowing camps and find a camp near you.

Women’s rowing walk-ons

Walk-ons make up a good portion of varsity women’s rowing rosters at all but the most accomplished teams. While there may be few walk-on spots available at elite programs, there are plenty of athletes without rowing experience who earn roster spots on strong varsity teams. Walk-ons need to exhibit raw athletic ability and learn quickly to show progress throughout tryouts. Read more about becoming a women’s rowing walk-on.

Colleges with women’s rowing

Women’s college rowing is an NCAA sanctioned sport and enjoys some of the largest roster sizes of any women’s sport, especially at the Division 1 level. However, lightweight women’s programs compete as part of the Intercollegiate Rowing Association (IRA), which is not part of the NCAA. With that said, there are currently around 156 varsity programs competing in college women’s rowing. Additionally, according to the cMax in-season rankings, there were more than 40 American College Rowing Association (ACRA) club teams competing during the 2018–19 season. Read more about women’s college rowing teams and see a full list.


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