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What You Need to Know About Campus Visits

A campus visit is an essential component of determining which college is right for you. It’s your opportunity to get a sense of the school and the team first-hand. Going on a campus visit—especially if it’s unofficial—is a great move because it proves to the coach that you’re serious about his or her team.

CAMPUS VISIT

If you do a good job promoting yourself to college coaches, they’ll ask you to come visit. If they don’t ask, you should volunteer. Let coaches know that you’d like to come see the place. It’s better to visit once the coach has a pretty clear sense of you personally and as an athlete, so the best time for most recruits is during the fall of your senior year—once you’re well into the recruiting process and are poised to actually apply. If your schedule demands that you visit before the coach has seen you play, it’s not the end of the world. Before you start making major travel plans, make sure the coach has your cover letter and recruiting profile. 

VISIT YOUR TOP SCHOOLS

For most, visiting your original list of 10-15 colleges will not be feasible. By the time you’re ready for college visits, your list should be narrowed down to 5 or 6 top choices. Take this opportunity to look over your notes, speak with the people you trust, and assess the quality of feedback you have received from the college to this point and visit the schools that you feel the most comfortable with. Don’t be afraid to let a few of the less appealing schools fall by the wayside – it’s a natural part of the recruiting process!

OFFICIAL VISITS

If you’ve promoted yourself well, you’ll be asked to come on an official visit. Such visits are paid for by the team—meals, admissions to campus athletic events, and transportation may be paid out of team funds.The NCAA allows a recruit to make only five visits to Division I schools, limited to one per school. Official visits to DII and DIII schools are also limited to one per school, but there is no limit on the total amount of visits. With the exception of top recruits at top Division I teams, it’s unlikely that the team will pay your travel expenses. Teams’ budgets are already stretched thin, and you should be willing to get yourself there.  

Check the recruiting calendar for your sport on the NCAA website for more information.

UNOFFICIAL VISITS

When a visit is unofficial, you must pay all of your expenses, including travel, meals and admissions to athletic events. The best time for unofficial visits is during the spring of your junior year to get a feel for a campus. You may make as many unofficial visits to a campus as you like.

Unofficial visits may not be as glamorous as official visits, but they are no less important. Going on an unofficial visit is a great way to convince a coach that you’re really serious about the team. You should still coordinate your visit with the coach, even though it’s not official. They’ll be able to help you arrange to stay overnight with one of the players, which is one of the most important things to do while you’re there.

UNANNOUNCED VISITS

Your visit might also be entirely different from two planned scenarios described above. You might take a whirlwind 20-day, 16-state college trip during the summer, when hardly anyone is on campus.

Whatever the circumstances, email or call in advance to arrange to meet the coach while you’re on campus. If for some reason you can’t give advanced warning, find the coach’s office and knock on the door.

THE RULES OF VISITING

Strict NCAA guidelines govern official visits, and you should familiarize yourself with the rules before making any visiting commitments. A few of the most important rules are listed below. The NCAA Guide for the College-Bound Student-Athlete describes the rules in greater detail.

  • Recruits are limited to five official visits.
  • Only one official visit may be made at each school that is up to 48 hours in length, or over the span of a weekend.
  • The school can pay for you and your parents/guardians: transportation to and from the campus, lodging throughout your visit, three meals per day and three tickets to a home sports event.
  • D1 men’s basketball, recruits can begin taking official visits starting January 1 of their junior year of high school.
  • For D1 women’s basketball recruits may begin taking official visits in April of their junior year of high school, beginning the Thursday following the Women’s Final Four tournament.
  • Due to a rule update by the NCAA, effective May 1, 2019, official visits for all other DI sports can begin August 1 before the athlete’s junior year of high school.
  • Official visits are not allowed to occur during recruiting dead periods.

Check the recruiting calendar for your sport on the NCAA website for more information.

ON CAMPUS AT LONG LAST

You may arrive for your visit and find a schedule waiting for you. Don’t be freaked out if you aren’t given a hero’s welcome. Some coaches roll out the red carpet for recruits while others require you to be more self-sufficient.

While you’re on campus, keep in mind that this is an opportunity for you to evaluate the school and the team. You have a lot of say in this decision. As much as you’re trying to win the coach over, so too must the coach, the school and the team prove that they’re right for you. If you don’t like a college, you don’t have to go there just because the coach wants you to come. Most importantly, recognize that this is your potential team for the next four years.

Do you like what you see in terms of style, quality of play and instruction, the team’s attitude on the field, as well as the social dynamic? There are many components to a successful visit. Whether or not an itinerary has been made for your visit, while you’re on campus you should meet with the coach, watch a game or practice, and stay overnight with a player.

MEET WITH THE COACH

There’s no substitute for a face-to-face discussion with the coach. Arrange a time during your stay to drop by their office for a chat. Prepare yourself with questions you want to ask. Don’t feel like you have to start the conversation with the tough questions about where you stand. Instead, be prepared to start with a normal conversation about your stay, your current high school team, whatever. Most coaches want to get a sense of you on a personal level—as you should of them.

Create a free CaptainU profile today to get your college athletic recruiting process underway!

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