There’s no better way to get the scoop on a school than by checking it out yourself. And because college visits are powerful tools in your selection process, make sure you don’t waste the opportunity by treating them like minivacations. They are business trips that can help you make one of the biggest decisions of your life.
You can take as many unofficial visits as you like. However, the NCAA allows only five official visits, so you need to make the most of them.
Many professional athletes, including Shaun Alexander of the Seattle Seahawks, have told us that they “trusted their gut” when selecting a school. This might be a wise thing to do, but the only way to get a gut feeling is by spending time on campus—and spending it right.
Understand that college coaches are auditioning for you when you arrive on campus. You will be hosted by a successful, happy player, who will make sure that you see only the best qualities of the school. The coaching staff will do their best to plan a picture-perfect weekend for you, so that you leave with what The Student Athlete’s Handbook: The Complete Guide for Success calls “a biased, rose-colored picture of the school, making it seem more like Disneyland than college.” So it’s your job to find any aspects of the school that were swept under the rug during your visit.
We asked recruiting expert Jack Renkens, president of Recruiting Realities, for the best way to investigate these aspects. He offers the following tips:
Meet the WHOLE Team
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, and then meet them.
Find free time on campus and talk
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. Use your free time 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
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 when you will interact with students and learn about campus life.
Go to class
I strongly recommend getting on campus Friday morning so you can attend a class. 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 try to set up a meeting with an academic advisor in your desired field.
When a Coach Visits Your Home
Controlling Your Recruiting Opportunities
Receiving Financial Aid
Division & Sport Breakdown
Academic Eligibility Requirements
Getting Noticed by College Coaches
Communicating with a College Coach
Gauging a Coach’s Interest