In this recruiting guide, we will dive into the world of Official and Unofficial visit. While both are the result of your planning and visiting a college campus, they differ greatly in the timing during your high school career, the responsibility of cost and length of stay. So let’s dive in and talk about Official Visits to kick us off.
The NCAA defines an official visit as any visit to a college campus in which any part is financed by the school. These invitations are usually saved for the top recruits a school is hoping will verbally commit (or maybe already has) and ultimately sign a National Letter of Intent. It’s important to prepare in advance for this crucial part of the recruiting process. Continue reading to help you prepare for this critical step in your recruiting process.
Now the process gets fun! Not only do you have the opportunity to see a college campus in person but being invited means the coaches and university want you to pick them to spend your next four to five years. This is your opportunity to get to know the campus, the culture, the team, and then decide if you would feel comfortable living there for the next four years.
WHAT CAN & CAN’T THE SCHOOL PAY FOR DURING OFFICIALS
Each division level has its own set of rules surrounding official college visits. Division I has the strictest regulations and listed below are some of the specific rules around Official Visits and expenses and activities the school may pay for during your visit:
The NCAA allows a recruit to make only five visits to Division I schools, limited to one per school. Official visits to DII and DIII schools are also limited to one per school, but there is no limit on the total number of visits.
A prospect, the prospect’s parents or legal guardian(s) may receive three meals per day in addition to a snack. Meals must take place within a 30-mile radius of campus. The prospect and his/her family must incur the cost of meals for additional persons accompanying the prospect (e.g., brother, sister, grandparents, etc.). There are times schools can request a special waiver to add a minor age sibling to go over the family member limit. Don’t hesitate to ask if you have a small brother or sister.
The school can pay for the following for you and your parents/guardians: transportation to and from the campus, lodging throughout your visit, three meals per day, and three tickets to a home sports event.
Schools may pay for a recruit’s transportation to and from campus. However, they can only provide transportation for parents/guardians if they travel in the same car as the recruit. Flights and separate bus or train tickets may not be purchased for parents.
At all levels, recruits can take only one official visit per school.
A prospect may participate in recreational activities during a visit to campus, provided the activities are not organized or observed by members of the athletics department, are not designed to test the athletics abilities of the prospect and any institutional facility used by the prospect is open to the general public.
Each official visit may be up to 48 hours long, or the span of one weekend.
Effective May 1, 2019, official visits for all other DI sports can begin August 1 before the athlete's junior year of high school. For almost all sports, this bumps up the official visit date.
Official visits are not allowed to occur during recruiting dead periods
Different schools will conduct their official visits in slightly different ways. Most schools will pay for the entire trip including travel costs for you and a few family members, meals, lodging, and transportation. Some smaller schools may not be able to afford a similar experience and will pay for what their budget allows.
WHAT ARE THE NEW RECRUITING RULES AROUND OFFICIAL VISITS?
According to the new rules, DI recruits in most sports can now start taking official and unofficial visits starting August 1 before their junior year of high school. In the past, official visits weren't permitted until the athlete's senior year of high school and there were no restrictions on unofficial visits. While this is exciting news for recruits eager to visit campuses, these rule changes will also likely put more emphasis on athletes and families needing to be proactive early in the recruiting process. With top prospects being offered official visits their junior year, this means even more schools can lock down their recruiting classes early. As a recruit, you need to start the recruiting process as early as possible so you're ready for an official visit to invite August 1 of your junior year.
HOW DOES AN OFFICIAL WORK?
Depending on the sport and division level, athletes can begin taking official visits during their junior year. A coach may extend an official visit offer to recruits during a phone call, email, text or direct message. Once a coach invites you, work with your family to ensure availability during that weekend and confirm your attendance without hesitation.
While receiving an invite does indicate you are at the top of a coach’s recruiting list, it doesn’t mean you’ve locked in your spot just yet. This means the coach will be evaluating you during your entire official visit. Most importantly, visits are a great way for coaches to get a better understanding of your personality and character. They want to see if you are a recruit who will be a positive asset to their team and the school.
Tips for your Official Visit: During each Official visit, regardless of where the school is on your rankings of potential locations you end up picking, you need to treat the coaches, staff and faculty like they are your top priority. First, you never know what might change between your Official Visit date and signing-day that may cause you to reshuffle your order of schools. Second, coaches move all the time! If a coach from a school lower on your list moves in the off-season to your top-choice, you want to ensure you have a good relationship with that coach and it’s an easy transition to your new home.
Keep reading this e-book: Official vs. Unofficial Visits