Some Team NC Baylog athletes went on unofficial college visits this month — to begin their pursuit of playing softball post-high school. Believe or not, these are high school freshman and sophomore students making these trips. The college recruitment process begins very early for student athletes. In fact, some college coaches begin identifying recruits as early as middle school.
“Unofficial” is the key word here. Colleges invite prospective student athletes to take an “official” visit — and oftentimes pick up the tab and pay for the student’s expenses to make the trip. Of course, there are other critical differences between official and unofficial visits — official visits can only happen once the student reaches their senior year.
Unofficial Visits: Pros and Cons
The biggest pro of unofficial college visits, in my book, is that students don’t have to wait till their senior year to connect with a college and make an impression. Unofficial visits also offer a more flexible schedule and you can take as many of these types of visits to any college as you’d like. Conversely, you can only take one official visit per school — for a total of five different Division I and II official college visits in total. These official visits can only last up to 48 hours.
During an unofficial visit, students can do almost everything that they would do during an official visit: meet with coaches, get to know team members, explore the academics and watch a game. You also have the freedom to really connect with the campus and programs before coaches start to hard-sell you on choosing their school.
The biggest con of an unofficial visit is the expense. During an official visit, a college often pays for the student’s lodging, transportation, meals and entertainment — while during an unofficial visit, the family covers all the expenses.
Best Time for an Unofficial Athletic Visit
Unofficial visits can happen most anytime — except during “dead periods” when coaches are prohibited from in-person contact with prospective students. You also want to steer clear of summer and winter breaks, when the campus is empty. Lastly, make sure the coach isn’t away for a game!
Before you schedule an unofficial visit, it’s important that you do your homework first. Talk to the coach by phone or email and ask them to review your academic and athletic records to make sure your qualified for that school. Thoroughly review the college’s roster and program to make sure it seems like a good fit for you.
How Do You Schedule an Unofficial Visit?
Once you’ve done your homework and selected a potential date, contact the coach to let them know you plan an unofficial visit and set up a meeting to speak more about their program and tour the athletic facilities. Take full advantage of your time on campus and have fun.