The USA TODAY High School Sports Recruiting Tips are provided by our recruiting partner, Playced.com.
Visiting the campus of the colleges you are most interested in is a critical step in the recruiting process. There is no better way to decide which college environment is best for you. When it comes to the college athletic recruiting process, there are two types of college visits: official visits and unofficial visits. If you want to play your sport in college, you need to know the difference between the two and you need to know how to maximize each. Here’s the definition of an official and unofficial visit and some advice on how to make the most of both.
The difference between official and unofficial visits
An official visit is any visit to a college that is offered and paid for by the university. You and your parents will have your transportation to and from the college paid for. Also paid for by the college will be your hotel, meals and entertainment expenses. Generally, you will receive three free tickets to that college’s home game the weekend you are in town. Each official visit can last up to 48 hours. You are only allowed 5 official visits at the Division I and II levels.
The simple definition of an unofficial visit is anytime you (or you and your parents) visit a college and your parents foot the bill. You can take as many unofficial visits as you like. Unofficial visits to colleges in which you have an interest are a great idea and can start as early as you like.
How to make the most of your college visits
You need to be strategic with your all college visits. If you’re lucky enough to be asked on a few official visits, then you’re most likely a top prospect for those schools. Enjoy the experience and be proud of your accomplishment. That said, you should only take official visits to the schools you are truly interested in. Don’t waste a coach’s time or the school’s money unless you are truly interested. An official visit should not be viewed as a free three-day vacation.
If you’re scheduling some unofficial visits, make sure the programs are a match for your abilities and you have a genuine interest in the college. Then, alert the college coach that you will be on campus and if the weekend is not during a dead period then perhaps a short meeting might be possible.
Here are some things you should consider doing on your visit (official or unofficial) that you might otherwise overlook:
- Meet with the academic advisor
- Sit in on a class to be sure you are comfortable with the classroom atmosphere
- Meet and talk with team members
- Watch the team play or practice
When you go to a college campus whether the visit is official or unofficial, soak it all in. Visit the student union. Talk with students about college life. Get a real feel for the atmosphere. Your college decision isn’t a four-year decision, it’s a forty-year decision.