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December 10, 2017

What Student-Athletes Need to Know Before Going on an Official College Visit

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Official visits are a critical part of the recruitment process. The NCAA defines the official visit as any visit to a college campus by you and your parents paid for by the college. The NCAA allows a recruit to make only five visits to Division I and Division II schools; this is combined. The institute may pay for all or some of the following expenses: your transportation to and from the college, room, meals (three per day) while you are visiting the college, and reasonable entertainment expenses, including three complimentary admissions to a home athletics competition.

As you prepare for an official visit, there are a few things that you should expect. First, you will be staying with a host or a current member of the team. This is an excellent opportunity to ask about academic classes, team dynamics, the coach, and how he interacts with the team. It would help if you also remembered to pack appropriately; you don’t want to be remembered as the recruit who forgot his or her toothbrush or underwear. Prepare yourself mentally for some nerve-wracking situations. Your host or the student-athletes might ask you many questions; you might be asked to go to a party where there might be drinking, or you might have to sleep on the floor. Never stray from who you are and what your beliefs are.

The team and coach have to follow the NCAA rules when it comes to hosting a recruit. The duration of an official visit lasts 48 hours. The host institution cannot provide a car for the host or his/her family during the stay. The prospect should sleep and eat meals as regular students do. If you are asked to join in on an activity, it must be within a 30-mile radius of the school and at a location comparable to the amenities of the host institution. The host can provide entertainment for the prospect and his/her guardians, but they cannot offer it to his/her friends or other relatives. (The 30-mile rule applies.) A host may provide complimentary tickets to the institution’s athletic event at the time of their visit, but this service may only be given to the prospect and their guardians, and the ticket must also be located in the general admission section. So that’s a no-go on the sky-box or owner’s suite. There should be no cash given to the prospect for entertainment purposes during the visit. Lastly, the host should never purchase any school-related souvenirs or products. So if you want a t-shirt, you will have to visit the bookstore and pay out of pocket. Official visits cannot be made until the opening day of classes your senior year, no matter what the division is. Official visits are not allowed to occur during recruiting dead periods. 

What you should do during your 48-hour official visit is sit in on a class. It is essential to see if you like a more substantial class size or if you would prefer a smaller one. Smaller class sizes will allow you to know most of your classmates, and the professor will be sure to know your name. You should check out the library since you will be spending much time there. Take the time to visit the different housing options, both on and off-campus, eat at the school cafeteria, watch a practice or game, and set up a meeting with an academic advisor. If you want to get a good feel for the campus, you might want to watch the dynamics of the students, or maybe talk to some of them. You can learn a lot by just observing, so maximize your time on campus.

One of the primary purposes of an official visit is to meet the coach. This meet and greet may feel like a hard-sell, but you have to remember the coach is trying to get you to “buy into’’ the school. Try to decipher what the coach is saying and look for red flags. If something sounds too good to be true, it might be. You should also come prepared with questions, find out the length of the scholarship that they might offer you, does it get renewed every year, what happens if you get injured and playing time? What is the ideal GPA score for that particular school, academic requirements, what is the off-season like, and lastly, what is the balance between the sport and school life? 

Professionally displaying yourself is critical. As a male, you should wear a button-down, sweater, khakis, and clean shoes. You want to give the coach and players a firm handshake when first meeting them. As a female, you should wear slacks, button-down, sweater, and clean shoes. It would be best if you also gave the coach and players a firm handshake. I would not recommend sweatpants, ripped jeans, a hat, or sneakers. You should be confident, project your voice, and be respectful. Do not mumble your words, text while visiting, or seem like you are disengaged. Remember, all eyes are on you, whether you like it or not. 

What is the parent’s role? They need to understand that this is your visit, your time to shine, so you need to be the adult and ask the questions. However, parents should be involved when talking about finances, scholarships, and paying for college. 

Keep calm, have fun, and trust your gut.