Official visits are not meant to be mullet-style trips—business in the front, party in the back. They are opportunities for coaches to sell you on their programs and—in case a coach is on the fence about offering you a full ride—for you to sell coach on your academic and athletic credentials.
Per the NCAA, you’re allowed only five official visits (where the university picks up the tab). For advice on making college visits successful and for tips on what to look out for when on campus, we chatted with top recruiting experts and athletes from our Elite 50 schools.
Meet the Team
Learning about a school’s positives is great, but its negatives are important to know, too. Wisconsin cross country All-American Matt Withrow suggests that meeting with teammates may be the best way to learn both. “Talk to people that have already been there, people that know more than you do,” Withrow says.
Don’t forget to chat with non-starters and nonvarsity players. Find out what it’s like to be on the sidelines. The Internet makes it easy to stay in the know about players you meet, to keep track of how they are doing athletically and to contact them in case you have questions you forgot to ask on your trip.
Go to Class
Recruiting expert and Get Paid to Play author Nancy Nitardy suggests sitting in on a class, since it’s a great way to get a feel for the full college experience and see some of what the school offers academically. “Meet with somebody in the department that you are interested in [majoring in],” Nitardy says. You’ll learn what your course load will be and whether the school will fit your academic needs.
Stay on Campus
Forget that luxury hotel with room service. Jack Renkens, president of Recruiting Realities, believes that a 10×10 dorm room is the best place to stay during your weekend visit. It will give you a real feel for collegiate housing. During your time in the dorm, you’ll interact with athletes on the team and with other students, and learn about campus life at that school. Later, you can compare it to your experiences at other schools.
Visit As Many Schools As Possible
The biggest recruiting regret of University of Wisconsin senior decathlete Brennan Boettcher is not making a lot of college visits. “Keep your options open,” he says.
To determine your top choices, take as many unofficial visits as possible (you pay the freight), and don’t limit yourself exclusively to big-name schools. Peter Christman, senior midfielder on Notre Dame’s lacrosse team, advises: “Figure out your [academic and athletic] niche, and don’t get caught up in the program’s name.”
At-Home Visits With a College Coach
Getting Attention from College Coaches
2009 Key Recruiting Checklist
Bob Sanders’ Recruiting Experience
Financial Aid 411
Communicating With a Coach
Gauging A Coach’s Interest
Official College Visits
Key NCAA Rules & Regs