The Difference Between Official and Unofficial College Visits And How To Set Them Up

Visiting campus (Step 6 along the College Recruiting Pathway) is the single most important part of your college recruiting decision making process. You have the opportunity to preview what life would be like at the school you're visiting. These guidelines are meant to prepare you for your first college visit and act as a reference for future college visits.

Types Of College Visits

In general, there are three different types of college visits: unofficial visits initiated by you, unofficial visits initiated by a coaching staff, and official visits. Keep track of all your college visits using our Recruiting Dashboard.

Unofficial Visits Initiated by You

If you're interested in a school, go visit! Visiting campus and speaking with the coaching staff is a great way to gain exposure and stand out from the crowd.

To set up a visit, contact the coaching staff at least one week in advance, ideally two weeks. Tell them you plan on visiting campus on a certain date, or give them a few dates you're considering. Ask them if they're available to meet with you. The coaches will take it from there.

To save you time, we’ve included the email address of every NCAA soccer coach in our Recruiting Dashboard.

We recommend taking a campus tour while you’re on campus to get a feel for the school. Most admissions departments offer student-led tours. Check the website before you go.

Also, check the campus events calendar. Attend something that looks fun, like a game, concert, or show. You’ll get a better feel for the culture of the school that way.

Unofficial Visits Initiated by a Coaching Staff

Some coaches will ask you to make an unofficial visit, which must be paid for entirely by you (other than 3 tickets to a home sporting event).

These college visits involve spending up to 48 hours on campus, which will really allow you to get a good feel for the school and program. Much of the time will be spent with the team, allowing you to get to know your potential future teammates.

The coaching staff will guide you through the process of setting up such a visit, but you should ask to experience the following: a game, a training session, a class, and exposure to academic support, athletic training, and strength & conditioning.

Official Visits

An official visit is a visit that is paid for by the school, either in part or entirely.

In order to take an official visit to a NCAA Division I or Division II school, you must be registered with the NCAA Eligibility Center.

The structure of official visits is just like the unofficial visits initiated by a coaching staff that we outlined above. You can only take one official visit to each school, and Division I only allows you to take a maximum of five total official visits.

When You Can Take Official And Unofficial Visits

The following chart outlines the first date you can take a college visit based on the type of visit and NCAA Division.

How To Get The Most Out Of Your Official Or Unofficial Visit

When you leave your college visit, you should have as clear a picture as possible of what it would be like to be a soccer player at that school.

In general, your college experience will be made up of three aspects: school, soccer, and social. Your visit should include those aspects as well.

It's obviously impossible to learn everything there is to know in 48 hours, so you should come prepared to ask a lot of questions. Don't be afraid to ask too many questions; it will show the coaches and players that you're truly interested and mature enough to understand the importance of your eventual decision.

The below questions are meant to get you thinking about what you should ask during your visit. Don't feel like you have to ask every question on the list or that you can't ask other questions. You know what's important to you, so make sure you get the information you need.

There are fewer questions for the players because the time spent with them should be more about just hanging out and getting to know the vibe and personality of the team.

Questions To Ask The Coaching Staff On Official And Unofficial Visits

  • Where do you see me fitting into the program?

  • What position(s) do you see me playing?

  • What do you like about my game? What should I improve on?

  • What formation do you play and what's your style of play?

  • What is a typical day/week like, both in-season and in the off-season?

  • What are training sessions like?

  • What kind of financial package could I receive?

  • What are you looking for out of my recruiting class?

  • How well does the school and student body support the soccer program?

  • Does the athletic department offer academic support?

  • Are there ever any conflicts with class due to training, travel, games, etc.? If so, how are those handled?

  • What is your outlook for the program? Do you plan on being here long-term?

  • Where do players live? Do they have meal plans?

  • How much film and scouting do you do?

  • What is your conference like? What's your philosophy for non-conference games?

  • What are common majors among the players?

  • What is your strength & conditioning program like?

  • What is pre-season like?

Questions To Ask The Players On Official And Unofficial Visits

  • How do you like the coaching staff and program?

  • How do you like the academics?

  • How do you like the social scene? What do you do for fun?

  • How does the team get along? Do you hang out outside of soccer?

  • How easy/difficult is it to manage soccer and school?

  • What was your recruiting process like? What other schools recruited you?

  • What is different about the school/program than what you expected when you committed?

  • What are you majoring in?

  • What is a typical day/week like, both in-season and in the off-season?

  • What are training sessions like?

  • How well does the school and student body support the soccer program?

Final Thoughts On Official And Unofficial Visits

In closing, HAVE FUN! Don't get too concerned with asking all the questions and getting as much information as possible. A lot of the college visit process is about the experience. Once you're on campus for a while, you'll know how good a fit it is for you. Enjoy it!

And don’t forget to track all your visits in your Recruiting Dashboard!

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