The words of this college coach still ring in my ears.
“Visiting schools speaks loudly to college coaches.”
I probed further with this experienced D1 coach and he went on to tell me why. And I thought that as fall approaches, this would be good for you to know.
We’re not talking about official visits. You get five of those, paid for by the program. Obviously, if your family has a genuine interest in the program, your athlete should make the official visit. But remember the five-visit limit. Five official visits.
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But you can make as many unofficial visits as you want. And you should do that generously, especially with schools in your state or region– where there is a sincere interest.
Let’s look at the difference between an official and unofficial visit. The NCAA states:
Any visit to a college campus by a college-bound student-athlete or his or her parents paid for by the college is an official visit. Visits paid for by college-bound student-athletes or their parents are unofficial visits.
During an official visit the college can pay for transportation to and from the college for the prospect, lodging and three meals per day for both the prospect and the parent or guardian, as well as reasonable entertainment expenses including three tickets to a home sports event.
The only expenses a college-bound student-athlete may receive from a college during an unofficial visit are three tickets to a home sports event.
Your official visits won’t come until senior year. You don’t want to wait that long to rally get to know a program, school and coaching staff. That’s why unofficial visits are so key.
Here are three reasons my D1 coach interviewee told me:
- It shows the coach(es) that you are genuinely interested in their program. Do you realize the statement you are making by showing up on campus and spending time touring the school and meeting with the coaches? It sure beats an email conversation and even a phone call.You will certainly be remembered. Whether your talent level and the program’s needs are a good fit, that’s another thing. But at least you’re taking the initiative to show interest, and the coach will consider you.
- It gives you a realistic experience with the school and the coach(es). I have a set of questions every family should ask a coach regarding athletic, academics and college life. This is a great opportunity to ask those questions in person. You can read them in this past blog post.You’ll get a feel for the school. While it may look good online, a visit is always different. You’ll get that 3-D impression. That’s what you want. While I was looking for a program for myself (way too long ago), I visited three schools, I believe. As for my sons, we made five unofficial visits in their junior year. These visits were priceless.
- It gives you something for comparison. When a coach is recruiting your athlete, he or she will their best foot forward. They aren’t trying to deceive you, but just like you, they want you to see the strengths. Without visiting schools, you don’t have any good way to compare schools.It’s the unwritten or undefinable things that cause you to make your school choice. Some schools “feel right” and others don’t. When you visit schools, you’ll be able to make that call. So, the earlier the visit the better. You don’t want to waste your time with programs and schools that you know won’t be a good fit.
Here’s the challenge: there’s only so much money to go around. You can’t visit dozens of schools. Maybe not even one dozen. But anything you can do in your power and resources to make school visits will be well worth it.
Here’s your action step. Calendar your school visits for this year. No matter what year your athlete is in. If he or she is in their senior year, don’t wait for official visit offers. You may want to take the initiative to narrow down your choices and use the fall and winter to help do that.
One last thing. If you’re in your senior year, athlete, don’t hesitate to ask a coach if they will invite you for an official visit. This will give you an indication of how high their interest is.
If you’ve visited schools, share your experience in the comments section below. I’d like to know. And other families can learn from your experiences.