Sometimes fans, parents, and most importantly prospects, get confused on the differences between “official” recruiting visits and “unofficial” recruiting visits. In very simple terms, Official Visits” mean that the university pays for expenses. “Unofficial Visits” mean the prospect pays.
Official visits can’t occur until the prospect starts his senior year of high school. Schools are allowed to pay for the prospect’s transportation to and from campus, pay for his housing (usually a hotel room), and all his meals. In addition, a school may provide his student host with a limited amount of cash to entertain the prospect while on campus. Parents can be housed, fed, and entertained also, but the only way the parent’s transportation is paid for is if the prospect drives the family vehicle and the parents ride along. Sorry mom and dad—if your child is planning on visiting many distant campuses, you better start looking for airfare deals this summer!
Each school is limited to paying for 56 such trips per calendar year and each prospect is limited to five, regardless of sport.
Unofficial visits are made at the prospect’s expense and are unlimited. Many prospects have already attended college football games last fall and received complimentary tickets (3). Many have attended “junior days” this spring. Summer camps form “kind of an unofficial visit”, because although the prospect pays to attend camp, the prospect and/or family does or should have an opportunity to meet with the coaches and check out the campus.
With early offers and verbal commitments a big part of the recruiting landscape now, “unofficial visits” are more important than ever. Many players are extended scholarship offers long before they have ever visited a campus and in some cases, gentle pressure is exerted for the prospect to make a verbal commitment. In my opinion, it is really tough to make a serious verbal commitment to a school the prospect has never set foot on. How do you know it is right for you?
If you have a scholarship offer right now, it is vitally important to visit that campus this summer—whether it is for camp or just a one-day visit. That is what the rest of the non-athletic juniors in high school, who are planning on attending college, are doing, so why shouldn’t you. Now time and expense limit how many you can visit, so you should have a rank-order in your mind and visit as many of your top schools as possible. You can still take official visits in the fall or winter.