Unofficial visits occur anytime a PSA visits a college campus at his or her own expense. Some visits might include a meeting with a coach or current team member, an overnight stay, and/or attending a class and/or practice. A prospect can make as many unofficial visits as he or she desires.
Official visits can only occur after the start of a PSA’s senior year and can be paid for by the college. They usually include an overnight stay, attending a class and practice, and meeting with the coach. Official visits are limited to 48 hours and a prospect cannot take more than five official visits, with a maximum of one visit per institution.
Spending time on campus, whether in a formal or informal setting, is the best way to get a sense of a school. Even if you visit schools are you aren’t seriously interested in, you will likely learn a lot about what general qualities you do or don’t like.
Most PSAs begin visiting campuses during their sophomore or junior year. You should let a coach know when you plan to visit a school and, if appropriate, ask to meet and attend a class or meet with a team member. It never hurts to ask, just be sure to ask politely (see previous post!).
Some NCAA rules might make it difficult to arrange for a meeting. For example, coaches are not allowed to communicate via email (beyond explaining the rules) with PSAs prior to the start of their junior year. However, the PSA can call coaches and coaches are allowed to talk on the phone provided the call was initiated by the PSA.
The official visit is really the best opportunity to spend time on campus. As a senior in high school, you will have a much better sense of what you are looking for in a school and you will be able to connect with your peers on campus in a different way than you would on an unofficial visit as a sophomore or junior. A lot of PSAs make commitments before their senior year, which doesn’t allow them to use the official visit as part of the decision-making process. If possible, try to wait until after your official visit to make your final decision.