Recruiting visits are an important part of the process. If you get invited to make a visit to a college or university, you should be very excited. The mere fact that a coach has invited you to make a visit is a very big deal, right?
Usually yes, sometimes not.
Official Visit: Happens during your senior year in high school. You are allowed to have five official visits, but the days of players using official visits to determine if they are choosing a school are long gone. the official visit is now much more of a victory lap to celebrate that you are attending the school next year.
When you are on an official visit, the school can and will usually pay for your trip, including meals, motel and transportation. You can count on being shown a good time that will include time with players and coaches. Probably a football game and the “Red Carpet” will be rolled out.
Unofficial Visit: Can happen at any time. Players as young as middle schoolers are sometimes invited to unofficial visits. When you make an unofficial visit, the school is not allowed to pay for anything. No meals, no souvenirs, no bottles of water, nothing except tickets to a game, if a game is happening on campus at the time.
Depending on how talented of a player you are and your age, both will play a role in what type of experience you have when you make an unofficial visit. If you are a high-level prospect that has been invited to visit a program, by the college coach through your travel ball coach, you are going to have an amazing experience. You can count on spending time with the coaching staff, with the players and quite often, academic support staff which will give you a chance to learn a great deal about all aspects of the school and softball program.
If you are a blue-chip player that has been invited for an unofficial visit you can expect that the coaching staff has already determined that you are a high priority prospect. They are going to show you everything about their program they feel will influence you to accept the scholarship offer they are almost guaranteed to make to you while you and your family are on their campus. You can also expect that they will be giving you some sort of deadline to make a decision about their offer.
If you are a not the true blue-chip player that is making an unofficial visit ,your experience will undoubtedly be different. You may have been encouraged to make the unofficial visit, sometimes as part of attending a camp, but it might be as much a courtesy as it is an indicator that you are a true prospect for that program.
You will still have the opportunity to learn a great deal about the school, but it may not have the same “red carpet” feel that the blue-chipper experienced. You may spend time with an assistant rather than the head coach. You may get to attend a practice but not allowed in the dugout.
You will get a tour, but it may be through admissions rather than by the coaching staff. You might get to meet with someone in academic support, but it may be part of a group meeting rather than a one-on-one session. Still very beneficial, but just not with the same panache that the five-star player experiences.
Making a visit is a very important part of the process of choosing the right school for you. No matter how you get on campus ,it is a great opportunity for you to learn a great deal. A lot of what you learn is clear and direct. You will also learn a great deal by reading between the lines. As with everything with the recruiting process, it is a buyer beware situation.
Be prepared to ask questions and, really, listen to the answers. Take notes so you can check back later. Every person you meet on your visit can be a crucial part of your decision-making process. Take advantage of these opportunities and you greatly increase the likelihood that you will find the right school for you!
About the Author: Tory Acheson brings a wealth of knowledge to the Fastpitch Prep staff. He has coached at all levels of the game, including the last 25 years at the college level at the University of Wisconsin – Parkside, Tennessee Tech and Kennesaw State. He began his coaching career at the high school level spending 9 years Whitnall High School in Greenfield, Wis. and is now working as a professional softball instructor.