by Catharine Aradi

I am frequently asked about the difference between an official and unofficial visit, how many schools a player should visit, what they can expect on a visit, and so on.  Much of this is covered in my book,
Preparing to Play Softball at the Collegiate Level, but I wanted to go over the basics for anyone who visits my web site.

There is no limit to the number of times you may visit a college at your own expense. This is called an unofficial visit.  While you are there, you may tour the campus, meet with the coach, watch the team practice, and so on.  However, the coach cannot pay any of your travel or accommodation expenses.

Once you start your senior year, you can begin taking official visits to Div. I colleges, but you are only allowed a total of five official visits to NCAA Div. I schools. (This applies even if you’re being recruited in more than one sport.)  You can take official visits to Div. II schools any time after June 15 following your sophomore year, and you may take an official visit to a Div. III college starting January 1 of your junior year. There is no limit on the number of official visits you may take to NCAA Div. II or Div. III colleges, but you may take only one official visit to any college, regardless of its affiliation. 

On an official visit, the college may pay all or some of the following expenses:
• Your transportation to and from the college
• Room and meals (three per day) while you are visiting the college
• Reasonable entertainment expenses, including three complimentary admissions to a home athletics contest.

Before taking any official visit to a Div. I school, you must present a copy of your transcript and proof that you have taken the SAT/ACT or PSAT/PACT. Before taking an official visit to a Div. II school, you must be registered with the NCAA Eligibility Center and have been placed on that school's Institutional Request List. (IRL)

One key thing for parents to remember is that most Div. II, Div. III and NAIA coaches will
not be able to pay your transportation costs to their schools.  Even if they offer you an official visit, it probably won’t cover plane fare. This isn’t personal; it’s simply that these types of programs rarely have recruiting budgets deep enough to cover a recruit's travel expenses.

Since you obviously can’t commit to a college you haven’t visited, it’s a good idea for parents to set money aside for college trips. Families should not assume that all of their player’s visits will be official and that all the costs will be covered. This will happen for only a few high profile athletes.

When you visit a college-whether officially or unofficially-make the most of your time there. Use the checklist in my book to track your experience, and try to see as much of the campus as you can. Try to get a feel for campus life, and if possible, spend some time with the softball team so you can decide whether or not this is the school for you!

(See my book,
Preparing to Play Softball at the Collegiate Level, for a checklist to take with you on a college visit.)

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