Visits, whether official or unofficial, are not weekend getaways. You can take as many unofficial visits as you like, but the NCAA allows only five official visits, so it’s important to take full advantage of your documented time on campus.
Stick to the following guidelines to help you get an accurate picture of campus life. Your experience at each school will help you narrow down your college choices and find the best fit.
Stay on Campus
To get the full college experience, you need to spend a night in a dorm. Don’t sleep in a nice hotel just because the school is picking up the tab. Ask to stay with some of the freshmen players, so you can get a feel for the school’s social life—what goes on after class and practice—which is important when picking a school.
Meet the Team
Since you’ll be hanging with a team you might like to join, ask to room with players from your town or region. That way, you can learn how the school’s location compares with home and what it’s like being away from family and friends. Buffalo Bills WR Lee Evans shared a unique bond with former Wisconsin receiver and current Kansas City Chief Chris Chambers during Evans’ visit. Both hail from the same hometown and high school in Bedford, Ohio. “I was able to bring [Evans] on a visit and kind of sell him on Wisconsin,” Chambers recalls.
Find Free Time
Jack Renkens, recruiting expert and president of Recruiting Realities, advises high schoolers on college trips to find time to wander around campus. “Most colleges will have a full 48-hour agenda for you when you arrive,” Renkens says. He suggests “request[ing] a copy of [the agenda] before you head for the school so you can see whether you’ll have some free time to walk the campus alone. Use your free time to talk to people—staff members, a maintenance guy, [non student-athletes]—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.”
Sit in on a Class
Renkens believes the most crucial part of a college visit is attending a class in a subject you may want to major in. “I strongly recommend getting on campus Friday morning so you can attend a class,” he says. “Ask the coach for a schedule and pick a class from your desired major—instead of letting the coach pick one for you. If you have to come in Friday afternoon and leave on Sunday, you won’t get to attend a class; so [instead] try to set up a meeting with an academic advisor in your desired field.”
University of Virginia head men’s tennis coach Brian Boland suggests having questions ready for coaches and players to build a profile of the school. He says, “Take the time to find out really what you want in your [college] experience. We may be one of the top programs, but we may not be the best program for every single student-athlete. Ask the coach some tough questions; and when you [go] on visits, ask the student-athletes some tough questions—and don’t be afraid to do that, because you can really find out some great answers that you can help evaluate: ‘Is this the right place for me?’”