Everything you need to know about university visits
So, you’ve done your homework. You’ve researched schools, figured out what kind of program is best for you, and narrowed it down to a few that you think could be the perfect fit. Now what? How can you be sure?
Take a visit.
Nothing can teach you more about a school than seeing the campus, meeting with an academic advisor, talking with a potential teammate, or maybe even viewing a few of your housing options.
Click below to learn about Natasha Wodak's (Canada's 10,000m record holder) experience taking university visits.👇
(What’s that? You haven’t done your homework? Visit Streamline Athletes to get started.)
Can I just show up at the office and hope the coach is available?
Simply showing up and hoping the coach happens to be in his or her office is probably not the best call. Recruiting can be tricky business — visits require planning and rules that need to be followed (you’ll find out more about these below!).
There are two types of university visits: unofficial and official.
An unofficial visit can occur on or off campus as frequently as the athlete and coach would like. They are typically scheduled in advance, but it’s important to note that no financial assistance can be provided on these visits. No food, no gear, no transportation costs, nothing. Nada. Zip.
When can I take an unofficial visit?
You can go on your own or with family at any time during your high school years, but in order to connect with the coach while you are on campus, you’ll need to make arrangements with the athletic department. As of May 1, 2019, the NCAA DI only allows these arranged visits starting on August 1 of a recruit’s junior (or grade 11) year. There will be no recruiting conversations allowed prior to this date. If you’re looking at other divisions or associations, you won’t be affected by the new rule and can likely schedule an unofficial visit earlier if you’d like, just be aware that many institutions have their own policies to follow.
Unofficial visits are a great way to get a feel for the university. Here are some things you can do to make the most of your unofficial visit:
Schedule a campus tour or spend time investigating the campus grounds.
- Don’t overlook this! Can you see yourself rushing to class or eating lunch in front of the main plaza’s fountain?
- Check out the cafeteria and lunchtime spots.
- Visit the library and other common study spots.
Set up a meeting with a general academic advisor.
- If you have an idea of what academic programs you’re interested in, this is a great time to ask questions about those departments to learn more.
- If you’re totally undecided, they are an excellent resource and can provide great insight into the programs offered and what career options can stem from each.
Visit on and off-campus housing options.
Attend a home sporting event.
If you’ve connected with a coach:
- Tour the athletic facilities;
- Meet the training staff;
- Come prepared with questions about training, athletic therapy, and student-athlete support.
If you don’t receive an invitation for an official visit from a coach you’ve been talking to, fear not. A well-planned unofficial visit can get you all the information you need in order to make a confident decision.
Here are a couple of tips to save time and money when visiting schools unofficially:
- Schedule unofficial visits back-to-back at schools that are near one another.
- If you’re early in the process, align visits with pre-scheduled events (like family vacations or destination competitions) in the city of a school you’re looking at.
But wait, didn’t you say I can get financial assistance?
Here’s where official visits come in.
A visit becomes official when the institution offers financial assistance to the prospective student-athlete. A visit can be funded in part or in full. Yup, you read that right!
U SPORTS in Canada, all three NCAA divisions, the NAIA, and the NCJAA can all offer partially or fully-funded official visits. Just because they can, though, doesn’t mean they always do. It is more common for U SPORTS and NCAA DI and DII to invite prospective student-athletes on official visits than NAIA, NCJAA, and NCAA DIII.
Offers for official visits can begin as early as August 1 of your junior (or grade 11) year.
What can I expect on an official visit?
Great question! This is a chance for you to really get to know your prospective university. Because you will likely be spending a night or two, you have the advantage of a greater comfort level and understanding of how things run beyond just the university campus tour.
You’ll have more in-depth discussions with the coach.
You can talk about training methods, scheduling and timelines, injury support, and how the coach sees you fitting in with their team. This is a good time to ask about things like scholarship potential and off-season and holiday commitments.
You’ll also get to talk to an athletic-specific academic advisor.
This person would likely guide you through your entire academic journey. They can also tell you athlete-specific information about grade requirements, degree progress, and other forms of academic support like study hall.
You’ll get a chance to get to know teammates and learn about their experiences.
It’s important to be engaged and present yourself as a serious recruit, but it’s also okay to ask potential teammates some real questions. They will generally be very honest and do their best to show you what they can about their school for the duration of the visit. If you don’t vibe with members of the team, that can be a big red flag as to whether this school has the right culture for you.
You might get to attend a training session.
Watching practice is not only a cool experience but also a great way to see how teammates work with each other. The coach may ask you to participate in some sort of workout on your own, but this varies hugely and is pretty school specific — asking about this in advance is a good way to go.
You might be faced with some tough questions.
Both you and your prospective coach need to decide if you and the team are a mutual fit. Come prepared to showcase who you are and why you want to learn and compete with this school. In some cases, you may receive a scholarship offer or the coach might indicate that he or she wants you to sign a letter of intent of (often called an “LOI”) at the end of your visit. Don’t feel pressured. Take it as a compliment that they want you to commit but don’t be afraid to tell them you’re weighing your options and have other schools on your list. It’s important to take your time with this decision.
About that funding again…?
Financial assistance is typically offered to preferred recruits and a coach must invite you to take one during a phone call or other form of conversation. If you know you have scholarship potential at the schools you’re talking to, don’t be afraid to take the initiative and ask about the opportunity to schedule an official visit.
The amount of funding offered will vary amongst the different associations and divisions, from institution to institution, and from recruit to recruit but it can include the following:
My dad wants to visit, too. Now what?
Awesome! Depending on the association, the institution and the nature of the recruiting relationship, schools can pay for some or all of your parent(s) or guardian(s) cost to join you on your official visit.
Official visit protocol
Official visit protocol varies in each association. Keep reading for general guidelines on each association. Remember that your eligibility is ultimately your responsibility and you should always know what the rules are and how to follow them.
U SPORTS is the national governing body of university sports in Canada and was formerly called CIS (Canadian Interuniversity Sport).
- U SPORTS official visits cannot exceed 72 hours from the time of your arrival to and departure from campus.
- You are eligible for one official visit per institution in a 365 day period for a total of two visits per institution in your lifetime.
- With the exception of football, there is no limit to the number of institutions you can officially visit within the U SPORTS association.
- Schools are allowed to pay for transportation, lodging, meals, and entertainment, including:
- Round-trip transportation from your home or high school to the campus
- Lodging in a hotel or with current student-athletes
- Parental lodging and transportation costs can only be covered if your parent is sharing with you
- For the duration of the visit, up to nine meals each for you, your parent(s), or your legal guardian(s)
- Up to three complimentary entertainment tickets to campus-sponsored events (like interuniversity sporting or a music department performance) for you, your parent(s), or your legal guardian(s) (up to $100 CAD)
- Institutionally funded attendance at ID camps or individual evaluation sessions are considered official visits
NCAA DI, DII, & DIII
National Collegiate Athletic Association, Divisions I, II, & III
- NCAA official visits cannot exceed 48 hours from the time of your arrival to and departure from campus.
- You are eligible for one official visit per NCAA institution and up to a total of five DI or D2 (combined) official institution visits in your lifetime.
- There is no limit to the number of institutions you can officially visit within the NCAA DIII.
- Schools are allowed to pay for transportation, lodging, meals, and entertainment, including: round-trip transportation from your home or high school and the campus, lodging in a hotel or with current student-athletes, three meals per day for you and the parent or guardian you bring along, complimentary admissions to campus events (sports, concerts, etc.).
- No official visits can take place during dead periods (these are times when recruits and athletes can’t communicate face-to-face.
National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics
NAIA written rules are a little less specific than some of the other associations. For this reason, you’ll need to communicate clearly with the coach about what expectations are surrounding the costs and activities on your unofficial visit
- There is no limit to the number of NAIA institutions you can visit
- Costs covered or reimbursed are at the complete discretion of the institution; they may include transportation, lodging, and meals.
- Institutionally funded attendance at ID camps or individual evaluation sessions are considered official visits.
National Junior College Athletic Association
NJCAA rules also vary between regions and institutions but they will be at least as strict as this:
- You are eligible for one official visit per NJCAA institution.
- Official visits cannot exceed two days and two nights.
- Schools are allowed to pay for transportation, lodging, meals, and entertainment including round-trip transportation from your home or high school and the campus, meals, not to exceed the costs of a regular college employee travelling on college business, complimentary admission to campus events (sports, concerts, etc.).
- Schools are not allowed to pay for the costs incurred should your parent(s) or guardian(s) join you on your official visit.
- You must complete at least your junior (grade 11) year in order to be eligible for an official visit at an NJCAA institution.
Get started today
Taking a university visit, whether official or unofficial, can be the best way to get excited about your path to studying and competing at the post-secondary school level. If you’re not sure what schools might fit your needs, or even what your needs might be, you can research collegiate track and field/cross-country programs and start conversations with coaches on Streamline Athletes.
Note: Did I miss anything? If there’s something this article needs, don’t hesitate to get in touch with me.
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