Choosing a college is one of the biggest decisions you’ll ever make. “The impact of the college and its athletic department and coaches will influence you for the rest of your life,” says recruiting expert Jack Renkens, president of Recruiting Realities. “This is not a four-year decision; it’s a 40-year decision. And if multiple schools are actively pursuing you, you’d better make the right match.”
Use the official on-campus visit to help you find that match. With 48 hours on a campus, you can learn what the school offers academically, socially and athletically. The coaches and players who want you there will make sure you see the school’s best assets, so finding its downside is up to you. Renkens’ following four tips will ensure that you learn all you need to know about your potential university.
Meet the WHOLE team
Since the coach wants you to have a good time, he’ll assign as your host a student-athlete who’s loving his experience at the school and with the team, has similar personality traits and interests as you, and is possibly from your home town or region. In this situation, you won’t be exposed to unhappy teammates—which every team has—so visiting each member of the team is imperative. Ask your host who on the team doesn’t get a lot of playing time, then meet them.
Get some free time on campus
Most colleges will have a full 48-hour agenda for you when you arrive. Request a copy of it before you head for the school so you can see whether you’ll have some free time to walk the campus alone. If you get no free time, ask the coach if you can have some. Then use it to talk to people—staff members, a maintenance guy, students—and say, “I’m visiting as a potential student. What do you think of the athletic program? What do you think of the coaches?” Get as many perspectives as you can.
Stay on campus
Find out where you’ll be staying during the visit. Are you staying on campus with the general student body, or are the coaches putting you up in a nice hotel? A lot of coaches go for the luxury of the big-time hotel, big-time meals, big-time everything—it’s all just sales. Always request to stay on campus for at least one of the two nights you’re there. That’s where you will interact with students and learn about campus life.
Get to class
I strongly recommend getting on campus Friday morning so you can attend a class. Ask the coach for a schedule, then pick a class from your desired major—instead of the coach picking one for you. If you have to fly in Friday afternoon and out Sunday, you won’t get to attend a class, so try to set up a meeting with an academic advisor in your desired field instead.