Official Visit vs. Unofficial Visit - Overview
Official Visits are any trips to college campuses by a prospective student-athlete where the recruit’s transportation, food, and accommodations are paid for by the college they’re visiting.
Unofficial Visits are completely paid for by the prospective student-athlete and their family.
The benefit of Official Visits is that they allow a college to really “wine and dine” a recruit.
However, there is NO flexibility for college athletic programs to pay for anything when it comes to an Unofficial Visit.
That said, both types of visits do allow the school to reserve tickets for the recruit and their family to a home sports event.
FOR FOOTBALL RECRUITS:
The earliest they are allowed to begin going on UnOfficial Visits is August 1st of their Junior Year in High School (11th Grade) . . . Just before Junior Year begins!
The earliest they are allowed to begin going on Official Visits is April 1st of their Junior Year in High School (11th Grade).
You will most likely feel like a high school student during these visits, so Act Natural because you are a high school student.
Official Visits vs. UnOfficial Visits - Detailed
The following information is a synopsis of an article provided by Next College Student Athlete (NCSA). The full article is available for you to read at:
Effective May 1, 2019, the NCAA changed its rules around unofficial visits at the Division I level to curb the trend of athletes receiving such early scholarship offers.
With the new rule change, however, athletes in most sports and their families are not allowed to arrange unofficial visits with a school’s athletic department (including the coach) until August 1 of the athlete’s junior year. Families can still go on unofficial visits before August 1 of junior year, but they aren’t allowed to have any recruiting conversations with the coach while on campus
Understand that many student-athletes never receive an invitation to go on an official visit, as programs might have limited budgets and aren’t able to offer many official visits to recruits.
Therefore, unofficial visits can be crucial in a student-athlete’s recruiting process and a key reason to go on these is to evaluate if a college is the right fit for you, especially if you’re not yet a junior in high school. Get a campus tour, check out the dorms and get a feel for if you could live there for four years.
Keep in mind, the NCAA recruiting rule changes are only applicable for DI schools.
If you’re interested in visiting DI schools, you can’t arrange the visit with the athletic department, or talk about recruiting with the coach while you’re there, until August 1 of your junior year of high school.
If you’re an upperclassman visiting D1 schools, you can use your unofficial visit as a chance to advance your recruiting with the coach at that school. To do so, you need to make sure that the schools you’re visiting offer real recruiting opportunities. Ask yourself each of the following questions before you set up the visit:
Have you already been communicating with the coach?
Has the coach approached you or your high school/club coach about setting up an unofficial visit?
Has the coach reviewed your academic information?
Has the coach seen your highlight video?
Have you reviewed the school’s information and determined that it might be the right fit for you?
Most importantly, you want to ensure that you have been in communication with the college coach. You don’t want to waste your time visiting a school that may not be a realistic recruiting opportunity for you. To set up your visit, call the coach and let them know you’re interested in seeing the campus. Ask them what dates they would be available to meet you and your family. Some recruits lean heavily on their high school or club coach to help them set up unofficial visits with college coaches. Either way, Be Proactive!
If you’re an underclassman interested in D1 schools, you can take unofficial visits to those D1 schools as if you were a regular student. Tour the library and the campus at large. Check out the town. Ask questions, take notes and determine what you like about the campus.
What happens on an unofficial visit
Most coaches will take some time to speak with you and your parents/guardians about the school and their athletic program. Come prepared with questions for the coach and use this opportunity to get them answered. Then, the coach may take you on a tour of the athletic facilities. The rest of the time will be up to you to arrange a tour of the campus and possibly meet with an academic adviser. You and your family may also be invited to attend a home sporting event.
A few key ways to familiarize yourself with the college campus during your visit:
Check out the library and sit in on a class.
Visit the different housing options, both on and off campus.
Meet your future training staff.
Eat in the school cafeteria or food court.
Set up a meeting with an academic adviser.
Hang out on the campus grounds.
Take a couple minutes to write down your thoughts. As you visit schools throughout the year, they can all start to blend to together. This way you can always refer back to your notes later on when you’re working on narrowing down your target list of schools.
What are the NCAA unofficial visit rules?
According to the NCAA unofficial visit rules, you are allowed to stay on campus with an enrolled student, but there are some specific rules the institution must follow based on its division level.
Questions to ask the coach during your unofficial visit
One of your top priorities should be to ask the coach any questions you have about the school and the program. Before you go, write down your questions and keep adding to the list throughout your visit. Here are some examples of questions you might want to ask:
What are the athletic and academic requirements? You’re probably well-versed in eligibility requirements—if not, read more about NCAA eligibility requirements. But each coach will have slightly different criteria that they look for in their athletes.
What kind of academic support does the athletic program offer? Being a successful student is the most important part of your college career. Make sure that you’ll be set up with the tools you need.
What commitments do you expect from athletes in the off-season or during holidays? If going home over the holidays and for summer break is important to you, then you need to know what commitment level is expected during these times.
What is your coaching and training style? By this point, you’ve probably played for a few different coaches with various coaching styles. And you probably know what kind of approach works best for you. Remember: The coach has to want you on their team, but you also can choose a team that best fits what you’re looking for.
Will I be able to meet any current athletes? It’s important to see the team dynamics, if possible. Do they joke around or are they more serious? Do they hang out on the weekend or do they have separate friend groups?
What are the training facilities like? To stay healthy and in shape throughout your tenure as a college athlete, you’ll need access to the right facilities and people.
What are you looking for in a recruit? This is your opportunity to find out what spots the coach is trying to fill and ultimately who they want on their team to fill these positions.
What to wear on an unofficial visit
Our best piece of advice is to err on the side of overdressing, rather than underdressing. Look neat and clean throughout your entire trip. Bring a collared shirt with nice jeans or khakis. Avoid wearing sweatshirts, sweatpants, hats, flip flops and ripped jeans.
Bring athletic clothes and shoes in case you get invited to work out with the team.
After your unofficial visit: The coach follow-up
When you get home, write the coach a “thank you” note. Tell the coach what you liked about the school and thank them for their time. You can also include a brief list of where you’ll be playing next so they can watch you in person. Not only does this show the coach that you are a thoughtful, courteous athlete, but it will keep you top-of-mind as the coach works on creating their roster.