A: Official visits are a school’s chance to show you what they have to offer you as far as academics, campus life, city life, facilities, team/coach personalities and a chance to bring you inside their program to feel what it might be like to be a player and student there.
Any visit to a college campus by a college-bound student-athlete or his or her parents paid for by the college is an Official Visit. Visits to the college campus that are paid for by college-bound student-athletes or their parents are Unofficial Visits. During an Official Visit the college can pay for transportation to and from the college for the prospect, lodging and three meals per day for both the prospect and (for Division I: the parent or guardian and spouse), as well as reasonable entertainment expenses including three tickets to a home sports event. The only expenses a college-bound student-athlete may receive from a college during an Unofficial Visit are three tickets to a home sports event.
As a prospect, you are limited to taking only five visits to Division I institutions, one visit per school. There is no NCAA limit on the number of Division II Official Visits that you may take. Schools are also limited (by sport) to a certain number of official visits.
Visits are limited to just 48 hours, normally beginning when the prospect arrives on campus. Rules vary depending on transportation and division, but that is the normal timeframe to plan for.
Coaches and players vary on when to take visits. Some players like to visit during their playing season while others prefer to wait until the offseason or summer, it varies depending on when you plan on making your decision and when Official Visits are allowed for your sport. Coaches may invite you to come around a big gameday so you can experience the environment and spirit (and hopefully, WIN) while others may want you to come on an off weekend so they can spend much more time with you, outside of game preparations and practice. Everyone varies.
If invited on an Official Visit, the most important takeaway is getting a feel for what it’ll feel like to eat, live, breath, study and play there. Does it feel like it “fits?” Are you too far away from home or in a city you don’t feel much connection to? Do you feel like you would mesh with the type of personalities on the team and with your coaches (they vary greatly school-to-school.)
Only a handful of prospects at each position are normally offered Official Visits once coaches have narrowed down their top choices, and have evaluated if the prospect has a legitimate, sincere interest in the program.
Initially, you will likely be invited to make an Unofficial Visit (expenses paid by prospect/family other than up to three complimentary home game tickets.)