Unofficial visits to college campuses are one of the most important, helpful tasks prospects can do during high school.
These key outings give prospects something they cannot glean from online virtual tours, admissions tour guides or chest-pounding alumni – an authentic, personal feel for a college campus.
Unofficial visits are baseline discovery missions, gut-check expeditions. Unlike official visits whereby a prospect must be invited by a school’s coach, these short trips can either be pre-arranged through a coach or admissions office, or they can be anonymous, spontaneous and unplanned. Regardless of the type, prospects should have a pointed reason for making unofficial visits – to find out if a campus passes that aforementioned “feel” test.
Of course, it’s not entirely about how a prospect feels about a school, but it is an integral part of it, to be sure. College student-athletes often say that the first time they stepped on the campus they chose that something special, something indescribable happened internally as if the campus spoke to them and made them feel at home. Almost instantaneously, they knew the school was right for them. Still, for many high school student-athletes, finding that state of nirvana could take dozens of campus visits.
Personal interaction and experience with a variety of campuses are at the heart of unofficial visits. At NSR, we want prospects to know what small, big and medium-sized campuses feel like. Athletic prospects should see for themselves if they want to walk a couple hundred yards to class or if they are comfortable taking a ten-minute shuttle three miles from their dorm. We want them to walk into the dining halls and see not just the quality of the food, but the dynamics among the students. And we want them to stand inside a small biology lab or classroom as well as large ones and ask which setting the best learning environment for them?
Time and unofficial visits
When student-athletes, whose time is attached to so many demands, could be spending the four years on those grounds and in those hallways, it’s extremely important to do everything possible to find the model campus. Here’s the thing: it really doesn’t matter if prospects are going to consider attending the specific campuses they visit. What counts is that they discover, through firsthand familiarity, which setting best suits them. Once that is uncovered, an athlete can search out schools that offer similar surroundings.
At NSR, we encourage our families to get on as many college campuses as possible. We believe that the more information they can gather prior to signing date the better decision they are capable of making. That has proven a reliable strategy over our 37-year history as the world’s top recruiting authority while working with high school student-athletes who are legitimate college prospects.
Making time for visits is not as hard as it may seem. Most high school athletes play club sports. During tournaments, there can be a lot of downtime between contests. Those pauses offer perfect opportunities to cruise over to a local college campus and just walk around. Then, too, there are free weekends when families can see several, targeted colleges.
Insider tip: As of April 25, 2018, prospective D-I student-athletes first opportunity to take unofficial visits isn’t until September 1 of their junior year for all sports other than basketball and football.
Prep then go and go!
Our best advice? On pre-arranged visits, prepare well. Listen intently. Take notes. Ask questions. On unannounced drop-bys, forget about preliminary online research. In both, let a campus speak for itself. Walk around. Step into the buildings. Speak to the students and professors, even if only to say hello or to ask a quick question or two. Stop, stand still and ask: Can I see myself here?
Expect the more formal, guided variety to take about 90 minutes. An impromptu visit? A half hour or so should do it. Not much more is needed. Whether in the ninth or twelfth grade, prospects benefit from these brief excursions far more than, well, not doing them.
Want more info on how to make these unofficial visits more impactful? Call the NSR scout near you.