It may seem strange to recruiting freaks who follow the process from A to Z and coast to coast and website to website but some athletes, parents and even high school coaches aren't thoroughly educated on the subjects of official and unofficial visits.
What are they? How important are they? What do I need to know about them? Do I need to visit a college campus if they don't pay for my trip? Should all my trips be paid for? Should I take my parents along? What should I be on the look for when I visit a campus? Is all of this just window dressing? Do I need to make any trips at all?
An unofficial visit is any time you go to a campus without compensation from the college. As a sophomore or junior, you are encouraged to make unofficial visits, as many as you can afford, because the recruiting clock has been pushed up and midnight is earlier than ever before.
Most unofficial visits are taken during the summer when coaches and players and students are gone. Even so, it is a good idea to familiarize yourself with the campus and any coaches who may be there. Sometimes they don't know who you are. But sometimes you can get a tour. On these rare occasions, however, you won't see everything.
In other words, you won't get the royal treatment. But take your family along. See which campuses you feel comfortable with. Bring film along, let coaches see you, do your own recruiting. This is your time to impress them. You are selling yourself to the school. Get your name out there. You have nothing to lose and a scholarship to gain.
This is in sharp contrast to an official visit, the royal treatment, a fully paid trip to the campus. You are on a college's short list, someone who is good enough to earn a spot on their roster. They want to impress you. You are able to see everything academically and socially and athletically, how you fit into the program.
You have 48 hours on the campus. Use them wisely, not foolishly. Big Ten schools invite recruits to visit during the season because they especially want kids from southern states to see the campus before it gets too cold. Make sure you ask the right questions and talk to players, coaches, counselors and professors. If they don't want to answer your specific questions, you are in the wrong place.
Remember, an official visit means you have been offered a scholarship and they are wooing you and they are selling you. It's like courting. It means you are a key player, a difference-maker, a big-timer. An after-season visit is ideal because you have the coach's complete attention. During the season, they are concerned with their games and their season.
Be prepared. This is one of the most important decisions of your life. Does the school offer the courses you desire? Will you have an opportunity to play? Do they play the style of offense or defense that fits your skills? Have they stockpiled players at your position? Will you be able to socialize on the campus? Does the athletic department employ tutors to help needy students?
Don't rush. Be patient. If you are as good as they say you are, they won't pressure you into making a hasty decision. You are allowed five paid visits. Make at least three or four of them, if not all. Too many recruits make decisions after only one or two visits. Some decide without making a visit at all. Be smart. Don't make a bad decision. Don't be a statistic, another transfer. Don't have any regrets.