Taking a college visit is an important part of the recruiting process. Understanding the differences between official and unofficial visits can help you plan your recruitment efficiently. An official visit is an opportunity for a college to pay for a recruit’s transportation, food, and accommodations, while an unofficial visit requires the recruit to pay for those expenses. Both visits allow the school to purchase tickets to a home sporting event for the recruit. In this article, we will explain the details of an official visit.
WHAT IS AN OFFICIAL VISIT?
A college campus visit that has any part financed by the school is considered an official visit. College coaches typically save official visit invitations for their top recruits, and players they believe could deserve a scholarship offer. To be invited on an official visit is a great opportunity for your recruiting process.
Official college visit rules vary, depending on the level a school is regulated. NCAA Division I has the most strict regulations, listed below are the rules you will need to follow:
Schools can pay expenses for you and your family. The school can pay for transportation to and from the campus, accommodation during your visit, three meals per day, and three tickets to a home sporting event for you and two of your family members (most schools require parents or guardians specifically).
Schools can only provide transportation to and from the campus for family members if they travel in the same car as the recruit. Flights, or separate bus/train tickets can’t be purchased for family members.
Official visits can last up to 48 hours, or the duration of one weekend.
Official visits for Division I sports are allowed on August 1, before a recruit’s junior year of high school. This rule excludes Division I Men’s & Women’s Basketball.
Men’s Division I basketball recruits can begin taking official visits January 1 of their junior year of high school.
Women’s Division I basketball recruits can begin taking official visits in April of their junior year of high school, the Thursday after the Women’s Final Four tournament.
Official visits are not allowed during recruiting dead periods.
NAIA (National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics)
NAIA rules are not as specific as the NCAA. You will need to communicate with your coach about the details involving the costs and activities of your visit.
There is no limit to the number of NAIA schools a recruit can visit, but they are limited to one per school.
Expenses covered or reimbursed for recruits is at the discretion of the school. Expenses can include transportation, accommodation, and/or meals.
School funded attendance at ID camps or individual evaluation sessions are considered official visits.
NJCAA (National Junior College Athletic Association)
Junior College rules vary, depending on the regions and institutions. Here are a some of the most common rules to follow:
There is no limit to the number of NJCAA schools a recruit can visit, but they are limited to one per school.
Expenses covered or reimbursed for recruits is at the discretion of the school. Expenses can include transportation, accommodation, and meals.
Schools are NOT ALLOWED to pay expenses for a recruit’s parents/guardians or family members that join them on their visit.
A recruit must have completed their junior year of high school to be eligible for an official visit to a NJCAA school.
WHY TAKE A VISIT?
If a coach invites you on an official visit, you should consider it a good sign that the program is serious about your recruitment.An official visit is an additional opportunity for coaches to evaluate recruits. Throughout the visit coaches will be trying to get a better understanding of your personality & character. They will try to determine if you are a good fit for their team and school.
Coaches will pay close attention to how a recruit interacts with their parents/guardians, to help better determine an athlete’s general demeanor. Does the recruit act respectfully, courteously, and kindly to their parents & family? Or does the recruit respond rudely?
Coaches will also use the recruit’s answers to questions to gather a better understanding of a player. Does the recruit give thoughtful answers, or quick one word responses? Does the recruit ask questions in response, or just expect to only give answers during conversations?
Official visits require prep work from recruits before the visit takes place. Here are a few tasks to be completed when taking an official visit.
Register with the NCAA Eligibility Center
To take an official visit, the coach needs to know that you are eligible to compete at their school. To visit Division I and Division II schools, a Certification Account is needed. The NCAA Eligibility Center will issue you a NCAA ID number upon registration. Coaches will ask you for the NCAA ID number before your official visit.
Be added to the Institutional Request List
Ask the coach to add you to the Institutional Request List, which will fast track your NCAA Eligibility Center application process. Because of the large number of requests received by the NCAA Eligibility Center, the IRL makes sure that athletes can be cleared quickly due to time constraints.
Send the admissions office your transcript
The school should be able to access your transcript and test scores through the NCAA Eligibility Center, but you should send your transcript and scores to the admissions office to ensure that you meet the academic criteria of that school. The NCAA Eligibility Center only ensures that athletes meet the academic requirements needed to compete in college sports.
Be ready to respond to an offer
An official invite does not guarantee an offer, but you should definitely be prepared for the best case scenario. If you have additional visits scheduled, it might make sense to ask the coach when the offer will expire and if it's possible to take some time to think about your answer. If you have no more visits scheduled and are offered by your top choice, saying yes as soon as possible could be the right choice. No matter the decision made, you should be prepared for that conversation on your visit.
Have questions for the coach
At some point during an official visit, you will be able to ask questions of the coaches. This is one of the major advantages of taking an official visit, and the opportunity should not be wasted. You should create a detailed list of questions to ask the coach, and bring the list with you on the visit. The list will ensure all your questions are answered, as well as impress the coach with your high level of preparedness.
Parents & family members have an important role during an official visit - Ensure the recruit is the focus of the experience. Family members should allow the athlete to ask questions and direct the conversations. The recruit should be able to hold open & honest conversations with the coach throughout the visit. Family members can allow the athlete to make their own opinions about the school, before adding perspective. Once the conversation makes its way to finances, school costs, and scholarship opportunities, the family members are expected to jump in and contribute to the conversations.
WHAT HAPPENS ON A VISIT?
Every official visit will be different, but there are some similarities that can be counted on.
Sit in on a class
Visit the housing options (on & off campus)
Meet the training staff
Eat in the school dining hall, food court, or cafeteria
Meet with an athletic-specific academic advisor
Meet team members (sometimes the entire team)
EXPECTED COACHES QUESTIONS
You will have an opportunity to speak with coaches one-on-one at some point during the visit. As previously stated, having questions ready for the coach is helpful, but you will also need to be ready for the type of questions coaches will ask. Here are a few examples that can be expected from a coach during a visit.
What other schools are recruiting you?
What other colleges are you visiting?
When can you commit?
What is the most important aspect of your decision?
What do you enjoy most about our program?
Why do you think you would be a good fit at our school?
Will you accept our offer for an athletic scholarship?
THE FOLLOW UP
After each visit, be sure to follow up with coaches. Send them a “thank you” note, or message, thanking them for their time & effort, as well as explaining what were your favorite parts of the visit. The follow up shows coaches that you are a thoughtful person & keeps you in their mind during the recruiting process.
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