A campus visit is an essential component of determining which college is right for you. It is 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.
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. You should also gauge their interest.
VISIT YOUR TOP SCHOOLS
For most, visiting your original list of 10 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. If not, before you break the bank visiting them all, evaluate each school and try to narrow the field. Look over your notes and review your impressions. Ask the people that know you best to help trim down your list to only those schools that are the best fit. Assess the quality of feedback you’ve received from each school. Visit the candidate schools that you determine are best suited for you. 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!
If you’ve promoted yourself well, you’ll be asked to come on an official visit during the fall of your senior year. Such visits are paid for by the team—meals, admissions to campus athletic events, and transportation may be paid out of team funds. 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.
Some sports now allow official visits during the spring of your junior year. Check the recruiting calendar for your sport on the NCAA website for more information.
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.
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. 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.
- Official visits may only occur during a recruit’s senior year of high school.
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. Others require you to be more self-sufficient. Some coaches just aren’t organized well enough to put together a detailed schedule for you. Make airport pick-up arrangements before your trip, so you don’t have to spend the night on the baggage carousel.
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!