If you’ve read our post on the NCAA rules that affect college visits, then you know that you can’t take an official visit until after your sophomore year. So why would you visit a school as a freshman? There are three main reasons…
Reason #1: To Learn What You Want (and Don’t Want) Out of Your College Experience
Step 1 on the College Recruiting Pathway is Decide What You Want Out of Your College Experience. It’s vital that you know what you are (and are not) looking for out of a school. If you go into the process blind, you’ll quickly become overwhelmed and potentially commit to the wrong college soccer program.
As we explain in our How to Begin post, there are A LOT of factors to consider when deciding on a college. Many more factors than you can think of off the top of your head right now. In fact, we included a list of 24 questions to get you started.
But what if you don’t know the answer to some of those questions? Don’t worry - it’s completely normal! Researching colleges and soccer programs online can help, but you won’t be able to answer some questions until you visit several different campuses.
Being on campus gives you a preview of what life there would be like. You learn and experience things you simply can’t get from behind a computer screen. And by visiting different colleges, you’ll be able to compare them to one another and determine which factors are most important to you.
The sooner you understand what you want (and don’t want), the better prepared you’ll be for the entire college recruiting process.
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Reason #2: To Develop Your List of Colleges
The second reason is also the second step along the Pathway. While visiting colleges will help you understand what you’re looking for in a general sense, it’ll also help you determine which specific schools to include on your initial list of colleges.
You might think you love (or hate) a specific college, but then you visit and realize it’s actually the opposite! Again, being on campus gives you additional insight that you can’t get otherwise.
If you’ve read our post on when you should start contacting college coaches, you know that girls should start their freshman year and boys their sophomore year. In both cases, you need to know which coaches to contact before you start sending emails. Visiting campuses will help you develop that list.
Reason #3: To Get the Attention of College Coaches
Getting recruited is extremely competitive. College coaches receive hundreds of emails from players asking the coaches to come watch them play. You should do everything you can to stand out from the crowd. One great way to do that is by meeting coaches in person.
Before visiting a campus, you should always contact the coaching staff beforehand to see if you can meet with one of them. Besides you learning about the program, meeting with a coach will allow him/her to learn about you. He/she will be able to put a face, personality, and experience to your name. That will pay off the next time you send an email about your upcoming showcase.
On top of giving you name recognition, visiting a college will tell that particular coaching staff that you’re truly interested in the school. When deciding which players to watch at a showcase (because they can’t watch them all), coaches generally choose players who have shown genuine interest in their program.
Summary & Next Steps
You should visit colleges as a freshman for three main reasons:
To learn what you want (and don’t want) out of your college experience
To develop your list of colleges
To get the attention of college coaches
Now that you know, sit down with your parents and look at your calendar. What open weekends do you have? When are you going to tournaments, on vacation, or to visit family out of town, and which colleges will be nearby?
Plan to visit at least five colleges your freshman year - set dates to make sure you actually do it. And don’t forget to email the coaching staff beforehand!