The Difference between Official and Unofficial Visits
Visiting colleges before deciding to attend them is an important step for anyone who is looking to further his or her education. It can be even more important for student-athletes who wish to play sports while earning their degree. Visiting colleges allows a prospect student-athlete to gain a glimpse of what their college athletic experience could be like, and also allows them to find a school that will be a good fit for them both academically and athletically. There are two different types of college visits student-athletes may take while going through the recruiting process: unofficial and official.
What is an Unofficial Visit?
An unofficial visit is when a visit to a college is completely planned and funded by the student-athlete and their family. There is no limit on the number of visits or the number of colleges visited. There is also no limit on the amount of time spent visiting any college.
Student-athletes may speak to the coaching staff while on an unofficial visit. However, they may not speak with the coaching staff during dead periods, even if they are on an unofficial visit. The only free item that a student-athlete may receive from a coach on an unofficial visit is three tickets to a home athletic event. They may not receive transportation, meals or paid accommodations.
Student-athletes may begin unofficial visits as a sophomore in high school. Unofficial visits provide a good opportunity for student-athletes to learn about colleges before diving into the recruiting process with them.
What is an Official Visit?
An official visit is when a visit to a college is either fully or partially funded by the institution. The college must invite the prospective student-athlete on campus. Official visits are limited to one per school for up to five schools maximum for NCAA Division I institutions, and one per school for NCAA Division II and III institutions. The time limit on official visits is 48 hours, starting from the moment the student-athlete arrives on campus.
Before a prospect student-athlete may take an official visit, his or her test scores, high school transcript and NCAA Eligibility Center verification is required. While on campus, the student-athlete and family may speak to the coaching staff. Sometimes, this is when official scholarship offers are made, but they can be made at other times as well. Transportation, accommodations and up to three meals per day may be paid for by the institution. The institution may also pay for entertainment expenses. The student-athlete may also receive three tickets to a home athletic event during the visit.
What is the difference between an official visit and an unofficial visit?
While official and unofficial visits are similar in some ways, they have very important differences.
Unofficial visits can be made at any time after the student-athlete's sophomore year in high school, are planned and paid for by the student-athlete and their family and the only thing they may receive from the institution are three tickets to a home athletic event during their visit.
Official visits can be made any time after the student-athlete's first day of their senior year in high school, are planned and paid for by the institution and the institution may also pay for transportation, accommodations, entertainment and up to three meals a day.
It is important for student-athletes and their families to know the difference between official and unofficial visits as to ensure the student-athlete does not violate any eligibility rules.