Official vs Unofficial College Visits for Student-Athletes
NCAA rules are very strict when it comes to official visits for colleges that may be interested in recruiting you. While unofficial visits do offer more flexibility and freedom, they differ in that the school is not allowed to pay you for anything on the trip, often costing you and your families thousands of dollars. Here is what student-athletes need to know regarding NCAA visits:
The Difference Between Official and Unofficial Visits for Student-Athletes:
A paid visit is when a school officially invites you to come on to their campus and meet with the team and its coaches. For Division I, official paid visits begin September 1st of your senior year and a student-athlete is allowed just five official paid visits. Division II official visits begin June 15th after your sophomore year and are unlimited. Division III official paid visits begin January of your junior year and are unlimited. Costs for hotels, travel, meals and entertainment will be covered for the student-athlete.
Additionally, in football they may only be made during a student’s senior year of high school, typically in the fall. This differs by the sport. For example, in basketball official visits can begin during junior year. The benefit of such a paid visit is that everything is covered. The downside is that strict rules limit the length of such a trip to just 48 hours, and you can only visit a school one time. Itineraries become hectic in this tight window and the trip is often a whirlwind of running around meeting people and seeing facilities. However it is almost entirely free for the student as costs are covered for hotels, travel, meals, and entertainment.
The difference with an unofficial trip is that families have to pay for the trip out of pocket. The school is bound by the NCAA to not provide anything except for tickets to a game. However, student athletes can take as many unofficial visits as they want, whenever they want, and they can often meet with the team and coaches in a very casual and relaxed way. There’s no time limit for length either, and student-athletes can visit a particular school more than once.
The only way to be eligible for an official visit is to be invited by the team or its coach. This is a great way for an aspiring college athlete to weigh a particular school’s interest in them. Official visits cost them money and they only hand them out to students they are serious in recruiting. If a school cannot offer you a paid visit, it may suggest that they are not serious about offering you a scholarship.
A student athlete will likely receive paid visits to various colleges if there is heavy interest in them. It is an amazing opportunity to learn about the program and get a sense as to whether it is the right fit. Obviously these trips are more important for families that cannot afford to take unofficial visits, but for any student considering a school, the official visit can be a great viewing opportunity to see the school and its program.
The college recruiting process is a game and student-athletes must know the rules. One way to stay ahead of the game is to purchase the Recruiting Realities book, the ultimate road map for student-athletes to learn how to get noticed and get recruited!