Pretend, for a moment, that you’re a college coach. Each and every day, you’re bombarded with countless standardized emails from potential recruits, all of whom insist they’d “love to come and play for your school.” After years playing the recruiting game, though, you’re too savvy for this tactic, and you realize that many of these prospects have sent an identical email of “sincere interest” to dozens of other schools. Now let’s imagine that one of these emailer-recruits shows up on your campus, having funded the visit on his own dime, and tells you in person that he’d “love to come and play for your school.”This expression of interest is a little harder to doubt, huh?
Unofficial visits are an incredibly important way for an athlete to prove to a college coach that he or she is genuinely interested in a particular school. While they lack the glamour and cachet of “official” visits - remember He Got Game? - unofficial visits can serve many of the same purposes, and can potentially be more effective than official visits for purposes of showing true interest. While the number of unofficial visits a recruit can take is unlimited, as contrasted with the restrictions on official visits, presumably no athlete can personally fund visits to every school he is merely considering, so a coach can’t help but take your interest seriously. By following these few basic guidelines, you can both maximize the impact of your visits and save yourself a bit of money along the way.
First, and most importantly, come up with a list of schools you can realistically see yourself attending. Next, plan to visit schools on a date when you’re certain the coach will be on campus, perhaps on a weekend when other recruits are being entertained. Contact the coach and let him know you’re planning to visit, and request a meeting to discuss the university, the program, and your interest. It’s also helpful to contact the admissions office before the meeting, both to learn a bit about the school academically and to schedule a guided tour of the campus.
Just because the visit is “unofficial” doesn’t mean you should come unprepared think of it as a preliminary job interview. Marc Thibeault, of John Carroll University, can attest to the impression given by an unprepared recruit on an unofficial visit: “ I can’t tell you how many times a recruit shows up with holes in his jeans, hat backwards, earring in and really has no questions when they visit.” If you’re hoping for a scholarship offer from a school, why not take the time to prepare some thoughtful questions about the direction of the program, or about the school’s academic reputation, so that a coach understands you’re responsible and concerned about your future?
Don’t be fooled into thinking of unofficial visits as the “ugly cousin” of official visits. In some sense, unofficial visits are a tool to “officially” establish your interest in a school, at least as far as the coach is concerned, and so they’ll help you immediately be taken more seriously as a potential recruit. Plan ahead and come prepared, so you won’t waste your and family’s valuable time and money.
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