At this time of year whether you are a senior, junior, sophomore or freshmen, you are going to want to start visiting college campuses. Many D3 colleges have Open Houses which are great opportunities to see campus, meet faculty, as well as coaching staff and players.
For the NCAA and a student athlete, there are two kinds of visits— the “official” visit and the “unofficial” visit. By definition, the official visit is:
Any visit to a college campus by you and your parents paid for by the college. The college may pay the following expenses:
• Your transportation to and from the college;
• Room and meals (three per day) while you are visiting the college; and
• Reasonable entertainment expenses, including three complimentary admissions to a home athletics contest. (Source: www.ncaa.org)
An unofficial visit is defined as:
Any visit by you and your parents to a college campus paid for by you or your parents. The only expense you may receive from the college is three complimentary admissions to a home athletics contest. You may make as many unofficial visits as you like and may take those visits at any time. The only time you cannot talk with a coach during an unofficial visit is during a dead period. (Source: www.ncaa.org)
(The “dead period” does not apply to NCAA Division III recruiting- basically it is a time period when college coaches may not have in person contact with recruits or their families.)
Let’s look at the unofficial visits first. Those you can make anytime you want. You can come when classes are in session or when school is on break. Most campuses are open, so you can just walk around and get a feel for the place. I recommend that you get an official tour of campus from the Admissions office. While you are there you will want to meet the head coach and players on the current team; so be sure to contact the coach in advance to set something up. (Side note- if you call the day before or the day of your visit to say you are coming and ask if we can meet, you will not be making most coaches happy- we have lives and schedules too!)
While you are there, be sure to ask a lot of questions. Come prepared! Think about what you want to ask the day before; sit down with your parents and get them to help you if you need help, but ask lots of questions. Don’t be too shy or intimidated to ask. If you need help getting started with questions, see The More You Know… for some suggestions.
And be prepared to answer questions. See the post Questions to Expect When Meeting College Coaches to give you an idea of questions that D3 coaches will ask you.
I suggest that you make as many unofficial visits to a school as you can. First of all, the second time you go there, everything won’t be new so you’ll be more familiar with everything. Second, if you can see the campus on a different day of the week (i.e. a weekend versus a weekday), you may get a different perspective on campus life. This will depend on how far away the school is and what your schedule is like. You should get started making visits to schools in your junior year, that way you can visit again in your senior year either for an official or unofficial visit.
For an unofficial visit, the money is coming out of your pocket. For an official visit however, the college will basically pay for everything. For NCAA Division III you are only permitted to do one official visit per institution and you can only do them during your senior year of high school. So you could make official visits to Johns Hopkins, Moravian, Haverford, and Arcadia, but only one per institution. What I recommend to most recruits is do an official visit as an overnight visit. For this you come to the campus, get paired up with a current player on the team, hang out with them for the day, sleep overnight in their room and leave the next day. The great thing is that you get to experience the campus from the perspective of a student—what is the campus like after classes are over? Is it a crazy party campus or is everyone sitting in the library studying? You will get to experience the cafeteria food which at most places is better some days than others. You will get to meet other students on campus- athletes and non-athletes. Most importantly you will get a feeling of whether you belong there or not.
To me, that is the most important aspect of the visit. You want to come away from an official visit with the feeling of this is the right place for you or it is not. And once you make your decision, let the coach know. It will put your mind at ease to have one more school off your list and narrow your choices.
Or if you know that is the school you want to go, let the coach know. We love to get emails like this one:
I loved my stay at the University on Monday night. The players were so nice to me and made me feel right at home. They talked to me and included me in their conversations which was very nice of them. My host took me to both the Women’s and Men’s basketball games so I got to see more of the college life on campus. I loved the diversity and everyone was so nice to each other. Your school is now my #1 choice and I would love to be a part of the soccer team. My parents will send in my room and board information ASAP. Thank you for letting me stay over Monday night! I really do appreciate it!
The bottom line is this—be sure to make the most of your visits to the colleges that you are investigating- both official and unofficial. You want to see the campus as many times as you can so you are confident in your choice.
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