Campus visits are an integral part of the recruiting process. You can find out if a college and athletic program is a place you can see yourself. A campus visit is like a job interview for you. Coaches are evaluating if you are a good fit as much as you are evaluating them. How do you treat your parents? How are you dressed? Don’t look like you don’t care.How do you interact? How is your handshake? Do you hold doors on a campus tour? Do you do the talking or do your parents talk for you? You need to own the visit and be someone that a coach wants to recruit.
Official vs Unofficial Visit
Official visits are any trips to college campuses by a prospective student-athlete that’s paid for by the college they’re visiting. Unofficial visits are completely paid for by the prospective student-athlete or their family. Many visits you will go on are technically unofficial, the college doesn’t pay for the visit, but in reality, the coach sees them as an “official” visit. If they are inviting you to campus to visit, they want you to be a part of their program. When I was coaching, I just didn’t have the budget to pay for prospects to visit. Most of the players I recruited were from the region, so visiting my programs wasn’t a huge expense. If a coach/coaching staff is spending a ton of time with you on a visit, I’d probably consider that “official”, whether it is paid for or not. With my top recruits, I would spend the entire day with them and their family on a visit.
The benefit of official visits is that they allow a college to really “wine and dine” a recruit. When hosting someone for an official visit, college programs can pay for the transportation needed by the recruit to get to and from campus, their housing and three meals per day for both the athlete and a parent. Colleges can also include tickets to a home sports event.
The NCAA enforces some regulations on official visits. At the Division I and II level, student-athletes are allowed just one official visit per school and up to five total. If you find yourself being asked to go on several official visits, you need to be thoughtful of how you spend them. There is no limit at Division III or NAIA schools with regard to total official visits made by a recruit, but they can only make one official visit per school. If you’re taking unofficial visits, though, recruits and/or their families can visit as many colleges as many times as they want.
Also, don’t just set up an unofficial visit randomly through the Admissions office and hope to get an appointment with the coach. If you want to visit a college and coaching staff, reach out to the coaches to set this up. If they want you to visit and you are important to them, they will arrange everything and spend a significant amount of time with you. Coaches will usually send you an itinerary for your visit.
What can you expect on a visit?
A good visit may include any of the following:
- Attend a game or practice
- A meeting and/or meals with coaches
- Meet with team members
- Tour of athletic facilities
- Meeting with admissions counselor / financial aid
- Meeting with professor in desired major area
- Spend night with players in dorms
- A meal with team members
- Sitting in on a class
At NCAA II and NAIA you can train with the team on a visit. At other levels, sometimes you are invited by the players to play a pickup game.
The big, overarching concept that’s the same between both official and unofficial visits is how one evaluates the school itself. Don’t forget, it’s important to like more things about a school than solely the athletics program. Asking yourself the same questions regardless of what type of visit you’re on is crucial to making an informed decision when the time comes.
- How are the dorms?
- Is the food any good?Hey, this is important! You have to eat at least three times a day for four years.
- What are the academic buildings like? Are you a fan of the campus layout?
- What about the surrounding area? Would you be excited to attend this school even if sports weren’t a factor?
- What majors, advising programs, and internship opportunities are available? What resources are available to help you succeed?
- Did you get a feeling of trust and caring from the coaches, team and campus?
- How do you feel when you come away from the visit? Can you see yourself there?
In addition to these questions, head over to the student union area and ask current students (both athletes and non-athletes) as many questions as you can, and try to research any unanswered questions after you get home.
When you go on visits, you’re going to see the best and most wonderful things about that school. That’s literally their job. There are plenty of awesome colleges out there, but no place is all sunshine and rainbows. Exploring the campus by yourself is an opportunity to get a sense of what potential downfalls there are, and it’ll give you a chance to decide whether any of them are deal-breakers or not. In addition to the official tour, take some time to walk around on your own.
- Do people hold doors open for you?
- Are students walking around campus with a smile on their face?
- If you get something to eat in the cafeteria, can you sit down with a random person to eat without feeling like an outcast?
- Is it easy to set up a meeting with the dean of students?
Whether your experiences are positive or negative, it’s a decent indicator of what your experience at that college/university could be like.
- How does the team interact with each other?
- Do they like their coaches?
- Do they have fun?
- Does the team seem to fit your personality?
- Do they embrace you as a good player that can help them or does your presence scare them? The reality is, you might take their playing time. You can tell in good cultures that they want to get better and the competitiveness does not scare them.
Visits are an integral part of the college admissions process, regardless of whether you’re a recruited athlete or not. When you get the opportunity to visit a campus you’re potentially interested in, take full advantage of the time you have there. On a visit, ask questions to the coaches and current student-athletes and others. Don’t have your parents do all the talking. Coaches want kids that are independent. It is okay to have a notebook with questions for the coaches that you break out on your visit. I actually think this shows your seriousness and that you don’t want to forget any important questions. Again, remember how you act is being evaluated on a visit too.
If you are going on a visit or want to set one up and have questions – let me know how I can assist you.