Experiencing a campus and getting a taste of what your day-to-day would look like as a collegiate athlete is imperative in the recruiting process. College visits are make-or-break for recruits and will undoubtedly influence the way a recruit thinks about their options. 

Today, on The Wire, we will be discussing what to expect on college visits. What’s the difference between official and unofficial visits? How you can use them to make informed decisions regarding your college choice?

What is a College Visit?

When you are being recruited, it can serve you well to visit a college’s campus. Learning more about a school’s social scene, living quarters and athletic facilities can have a major impact on your decision. 

“There is nothing that replicates an unofficial or official visit,” states Marshall Cherrington, Director of Player Personnel at the University of California. “Virtual visits, videos, and pictures really don’t tell you the whole story. (On visits) you are able to see all the little things that matter in regards to your college experience.”

Marshall Cherrington

Marshall Cherrington

In college visits, you will typically be joined by coaches on a tour of the campus/facilities, shown what your day-to-day would look like, and courted in one way or another (food, merchandise, or in Brian Kelly’s case, dancing videos). 

The goal is to be able to decide more definitively if you are a fit for the school. There needs to be a certain level of trust between recruits and the coaching staff, and a college visit is where that initial trust can be established. 

“Talk to multiple people around the building, whether it be players or staff members, and get a true sense of what a day in the life is like at the school,” reiterates Cherrington. “You can’t pick up on body language over the phone or on Zoom – you can in-person.” 

Official Vs. Unofficial Visits

It’s important to note the differences between unofficial and official visits. The reason this distinction exists is to bridge the gap between small-budget schools and large-budget schools like Ohio State or Alabama. Additionally, early, unethical recruiting can be mitigated through the guidelines and regulations set in place for official visits. 

Here are some of the differences between unofficial visits and official visits:

Official Visits

  • 5 per athlete, but only 1 per school 
    • D-II and D-III are unlimited but still only 1 per school
  • 48 hours in length
  • Must be registered with the NCAA Eligibility center for D-I and D-II
  • 3 meals per day
  • Paid transportation/lodging
  • Schools may provide up to 5 tickets for home games

Unofficial Visits

  • Unlimited number of visits allowed
  • No limit on length of visit
  • NCAA Eligibility registration is not needed
  • No meals, transportation, or lodging
  • School may provide up to 3 tickets for D-I and 5 tickets for D-II

For both unofficial and official visits, recruits will still be allowed to meet with coaches and tour facilities. Attending home games at the end of the day is also very common for both types of visits. 

Regardless of the differences and similarities, the goal remains the same. Visiting campuses is encouraged and essential in the recruiting process. 

Questions to Ask During Recruiting Visits

The primary purpose of a visit is for the school to convince the athlete to commit to their program. However, there are also things you can do, as a recruit, that can enhance your experience and give you a better idea of your fit.

Here are some questions that can be asked during your visits:

For Coaches

  • How many recruits have committed to your program in this year’s graduating class?
  • Which positions do you need to fill?
  • What is the practice/training schedule?
  • What does an athlete’s day-to-day schedule look like?

For Athletes

  • Is the practice/day-to-day- schedule manageable?
  • How is your relationship with the coaching staff?
  • If you could restart your recruitment process, would you still choose the same school?
  • Can you offer any advice?

For Support Staff

  • What programs are in place to help me succeed academically?
  • Is there anything I need to be doing now in order to prepare myself for admissions or to join the team?
  • Are there any degree programs that athletes are unable to enroll in?

Coming prepared with questions can separate you from other recruits and show that you are serious about the school. Spend some time researching the school you are visiting beforehand. 

Final Words

College visits are an important step in every recruit’s journey to signing day. They need to be taken seriously.

Trey Wilson, a defensive end from Texas, recently went to USC on an official visit. In an interview after the visit, he was appreciative of the time and effort that the program put into the recruits that were visiting.

“There were a lot of other highly-rated recruits there and I wanted to see how much attention I would get because there were so many people,” Wilson said. “They made the time, it was very appreciated – and they did it for everyone else – not just me. I was glad to see that. There wasn’t any favoritism or anything, so that was good.” 

It’s apparent how much emphasis is placed on these visits in today’s recruiting landscape. It can be make-or-break for a recruit. 

“It is critical to take visits to schools you’re seriously considering and can even help your recruiting profile in some cases. Take your trips,” reminds Cherrington.

Prepare today, and start planning out times to visit campuses on official and unofficial visits. Your college choice shouldn’t be a guess.