College Athletics, Official Visits and the Early Decision Period
The official visit is a great way to narrow down your college choices by spending quality time with the coaching staff, current student-athletes and college administrators. These visits differ from the unofficial visit in cost, time limitations and the total number permitted by the prospect and the number of visits to each individual institution. That being said, making the effort to work with college coaches to arrange the official visit will provide the prospect and family with a “good look under the hood” as you potentially head down the homestretch in the college search.
As the summer comes to a close, rising senior prospects who have effectively cultivated strong relationships with college coaches through consistent communication and by provided coaches with tangible means of evaluating both their academic and athletic skill should be well positioned to narrow down their college list to a more manageable number. If a prospect is considering the early signing period for athletics scholarship, or wishes to apply early decision to the school of their choice, I highly recommended you arrange your official visits to campus before the start of the new school year. Remember, the official visit is permission based and you will need to provide the college coaches with a copy of your high school transcripts and standardized test scores before the visit can be offered. Work closely with the college coach… He will be your point person!
As prospects begin to “get their ducks in a row” during the final stages of the college search, communication skills should be sharpened and effectively exercised on a regular basis. I encourage prospects to fine tune their approach and prioritize the “A” list of potential college choices. College coaches are taking similar steps in preparing their recruiting strategies and will look strongly at those prospects that are focused, organized and committed, as compared to those prospects that seem to be lagging behind.
Remember, coaches are bound by strict NCAA rules regarding direct communication, but prospects and their families have tremendous flexibility when initiating contact with the coaches, especially by phone or face to face. Don’t hesitate to call coaches directly if an important question arises, or you require additional information or clarification about time-lines and expectations. The college coach will appreciate the effort.
Rising senior prospects who are interested in Division 1 or Division 2 programs are permitted to take a total of (5) official visits to college campuses, with no more than (1) visit to any particular institution. Prospects who are interested in Division 3 institutions, may take an unlimited number of official visits, with no more than one visit to any particular institution. Official visits to Division 3 schools are also permission based and the athlete will need to follow the same (Division 1 and 2) procedures in securing a written invitation to visit campus.
Prospects are permitted to begin taking official visits starting the first day of classes at the beginning of the senior year in high school and if a fall visit is a strong possibility, the family that takes a proactive effort in arranging the trip will have a better chance in organizing a manageable travel schedule. Please note: An official visit is one that is paid in part or in full by the university and it would serve the family well to determine what portion of the trip, if any, the family will be responsible for covering financially as part of the visit.
In preparation for your visit, provide the coach with information regarding your intended major. This will assist the coach in developing your itinerary, determining your host and selecting the classes you will be attending. Create a list of questions for the coach about his program and his expectations for his student-athletes. You can develop a similar list for current team members as well. The level that you communicate your knowledge of the program with coaches and student-athletes will directly reflect your level of interest you have in the school.
I strongly suggest that you arrive “armed” with information about the school, the athletics program and how it potentially matches with your abilities and aspirations. Don’t take a “cocky” approach about your knowledge of the institution, but rather come in as an educated consumer who shows confidence, self awareness and initiative in preparing for an important campus visit. Trust me… The coaches will take notice.
The official visit is typically the “clincher” when a prospect and family are narrowing down their final choices. These visits are typically taken while school is in session, and will provide the family with an opportunity to witness first-hand, how the entire process (social interaction with team, team practice, attending classes, living in the dormitories etc.) from a “production” standpoint operates. The prospect who proactively prepares for this visit will have the best chance in making a positive impression on the coach, the team and members of the administration. Remember, you only get one “whack” at taking an official visit to a particular college… Make it count!
Tom Kovic is a former Division I college coach and the current director of Victory Collegiate Consulting, where he provides individual advisement for families on college recruiting. Tom is the author of “Reaching for Excellence” An educational guide for college athletics recruiting. For further information visit: www.victoryrecruiting.com.
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