The Benefits of Unofficial Visits

Visit a school to get a sense of the college experience and start the recruitment process.
Gutterson
Seeing a game at a place like Vermont's Gutterson Field House is a unique experience.

An unofficial visit to a college campus may not sound like much, but it’s often what gets the ball rolling in the college recruitment of a student-athlete.

For college coaches, unofficial visits offer a chance to talk to a prospective player in person – an opportunity that can be particularly valuable with younger players. Prior to Jan. 1 of a student’s Grade 10 year, college coaches cannot reach out to a prospective player, but those students can visit campus and contact coaches on their own.

The real value of an unofficial visit, however, lies on the student-athlete’s side. It’s a chance to sample the college atmosphere and get an up-close look at a campus and a college hockey program.

Even with all the research you can do online, nothing matches the opportunity to set foot on a campus. Many prospects use these unofficial visits to narrow down their list of potential schools – others get to a place and know right away that it’s right for them.

“Before I made a decision I wanted to go down and see the NCAA,” said Kyle Turris of the Ottawa Senators, a New Westminster, B.C., native. “We went and saw Minnesota and Wisconsin, and right away I fell in love with Wisconsin. It was unbelievable, everything about it: the rink, the facility, the coaching staff, the campus. I wanted to go there from the time that I visited.”

Official vs. Unofficial

What’s the difference between an official visit and an unofficial visit?

The two are differentiated by the NCAA, and essentially it comes down to this: an official visit is planned and paid for by the school, while an unofficial visit is planned and paid for by the prospective student-athlete and their family.

Official visits may only be taken once a student has started his senior year of high school, and they may only make a total of five official visits (no more than one per school).

Unofficial visits can be taken prior to a student’s senior year and there are no limits on the number of unofficial visits a student can take. While on campus for an unofficial visit a school can provide a prospective student-athlete with up to three tickets to see the team play.

Coaches Will Welcome You

When a top prospect is visiting, coaches are more than willing to spend some time with them and their family and provide those tickets. They know that seeing their program in person can be the best sales tool they have.

Given that, coaches can be the biggest proponents of taking unofficial visits.

“If you can make the investment to make a visit, it’s a great idea,” said Michigan associate head coach Billy Powers. “You really, really need to see the environment. It will be worth it and, as a parent, you want your kids to be able to see that.”

 “One step is to go see a game,” said John Micheletto, associate head coach at Vermont (update: now the head coach at UMass). “There’s nothing like the atmosphere in a college hockey building. You can come to any of our buildings and get three free tickets, for you and your parents. Take advantage of that. You’ll be amazed at the speed and style of play in an NCAA game.”

Reach out to college coaches in advance to let them know if you are planning an unofficial visit – they will want to know that you will be there and they can arrange for those tickets. Try to call by phone, especially if you haven’t finished 10th grade, since coaches are restricted from replying to emails at that age.

Unofficial visits can be difficult to schedule, given already full schedules, and can be expensive, especially for families that don’t live near campuses.

Given that, look at your own team’s schedule – see if you can fit an unofficial visit or two around your team’s travels. If your games aren’t near a campus, see if you can take a weekend to visit Boston, or Michigan, or Minnesota, or Colorado – all places where you could visit multiple schools in the course of two or three days.

Coaches and Division I players can tell you unanimously that unofficial visits are well worth your time and efforts. And they are confident that once you see college hockey, you’ll love it.

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