College Visits -
There are two types of college visits according to NCAA regulations - official and unofficial. Official visits are taken during the athlete's senior year and are financed in whole or in part by the respective institution. Unofficial visits, however, are those that are typically taken during or before the end of an athlete's junior year.
The official college visit: What goes on?
When a coach invites you to take an overnight visit it is a good sign that you are a player the program is very interested in. At this point the coach has determined you are academically eligible and have the ability to contribute to the athletic program. Rules on these visits will vary depending on the NCAA classification.
You are allowed 5 official visits to different schools. You cannot be offered an official visit without receiving initial eligibility from the NCAA Clearinghouse. These visits are paid for by the school and will include transportation, lodging, food and even perhaps tickets to the game you might be a guest at. Official visits cannot extend beyond 48 hours.
From the schools point of view, the overnight visit enables the school to:
- Show off what their program has to offer you. Getting you on campus for a visit gives the coach and players a chance to impress you with the facilities, the weight room, meeting other players and even alumni. At some schools, it is a chance to hard sell you and ask for a verbal commitment. You are seen as vulnerable: without parents; awed by the big time environment; stoked by a night out with the current players. Be careful not to get caught up in the emotion of the moment.
- Evaluate you as a person and teammate. Host student-athletes are usually hand selected by the coaching staff as the best representatives the team has. Usually they speak the party line and will show you a good time on campus. Aside from this the coach also respects and asks for the opinion these student-athletes have about the recruits. Basically the evaluation is simple. Good guy or jerk? Will he fit on the team or not? Did he enjoy the campus or not? Coaches consider this input very carefully when recruiting.
From your point of view, you should go into a college visit with the following goals in mind:
- Talk to as many players as possible from the program, athletes from other teams, and regular students. Like any selling proposition, the coaching staff would like to steer you away from the negative aspects of a school or program. Besides asking your host, filter around to other players and ask them questions. Don't forget the regular students on campus.
- Sit in on a class in the area of study you are considering. Don't forget that the real reason to be in college is to study and prepare for life after college. Talk to a professor or two. Check out the class size. Find out how many people are in your major. Any other players taking the same major?
- Visit all facilities. Make sure to inspect the facilities/areas that you will be spending your time in. Practice and game facilities, weight room, training room, dining hall, library, computer labs, dorm rooms, etc.
- Meet your position coach (if you have one). In college you have more coaches, and the position coach is the one you will spend the most time with. The head coach gets his info on your performance from the position coach. Make sure you speak with this person and see if you get along.
- Parties. Part of being on a trip is being taken to college parties by the players. Whatever you do, be responsible for your actions. Do not make poor choices that may make you lose a chance at a scholarship at the school of your choice. Use your head.
Finally, while you want to visit as many schools as possible to see them in person, reserve the overnight or weekend visit for your top 4 or 5 schools. Not only is it time consuming, but you should not go to someplace just for fun. Be fair to yourself and the host school, take these trips only if you are seriously interested.
The unofficial college visit: What goes on?
The biggest difference between an unofficial visit and an official visit is who the seller is...during the unofficial visit, the athlete is the one trying to get the coach's attention. You are showing the coach why you should be a serious consideration for a scholarship or be given the opportunity to be a part of the coach's roster in the years to come. That is why it is so vital that you be proactive in setting up your own unofficial visit. If you don't do it, no one will.
Unofficial visits are also regulated by NCAA guidelines. During an unofficial visit, the school may provide the athlete complimentary admission to an on-campus athletic event. They can also provide transportation within 30 miles to off-campus practice and competition sites...but not to attend an athletic event. In Division I or II schools, a meal can be provided to the prospect in the school's on-campus dining facility (or off-campus if all on-campus facilities are closed). In Division III schools, a meal can be provided if it is a normal policy to provide a meal to all prospective students. Players can take an unlimited number of unofficial visits to any campus and can make them before their senior year in high school.
What steps should you take to set up the unofficial visit?
- Call or email the coach. Let the coach know that you intend to visit their campus, and you would like to set up some time to talk with them. Arrange a specific time to meet...don't just ask if you can "drop by" their office while you're on campus. You want to make plans to meet at a specific time and place.
- Be direct when talking to the coach. Say something like, "Coach, I am in the process of scheduling my unofficial visits and would like to visit your university. Would you be available to meet with me next Saturday or Sunday? And, is there anything you need me to get to you ahead of time?" Keep it simple, and make it your goal to get the meeting time with the coach.
- Fill out a player profile. This is commonly found on the school's website under "Recruits". This way the coach can review your information and have some idea on how you might fit into their program before you come on campus for your visit.
- Set up an admissions office meeting. Part of the process of continuing your academic and athletic career at college is making sure you have everything in order when it comes to being admitted to the college. That is something that the coach will be concerned with, and it's something that is your responsibility to coordinate while you are on campus. Make sure you sit with someone in the admissions office to review what you will need to give them in order for them to move forward with your application.
- Finally, it is always a good idea to send a thank you note or email. Good manners go a long way!
A FINAL NOTE:
Though daunting, it is the responsibility of the student-athlete to ensure that he is in compliance with NCAA regulations throughout the entire recruiting process. Failure to do so can result in his inability to compete on the varsity team during his freshman year at college.