Planning Your College Visits
Many of our lacrosse players and their parents have been asking us about campus visits. How do we plan a trip? What colleges should we visit? What do we do when we are there?
Going on campus visits is one of the most important steps of your recruiting process. It gives you a glimpse into what your college experience will be like, helps prioritize the schools on your college list and crystallizes your lacrosse recruiting goals. Campus visits come in many forms: unofficial visits, official visits, junior day, attending a game, etc.
Talk to your Athletic Advisor about your specific campus visits, but here are some general items that can help you get the most out of visiting colleges:
Plan In Advance:
For unofficial visits, call the head coach and the admissions office at least two weeks in advance to let them know you are coming to campus. An admissions counselor can tell you the dates and times for campus tours, information sessions with Q&A, and open house events that are aimed at prospective students that occur a few times each semester. The counselor can also recommend classes to observe, help schedule individual meetings with faculty, provide a campus map, a parking permit and even nearby lodging.
When to go:
The best time to visit is on a weekday in the fall or spring semester – not too close to the beginning of the semester and definitely not during finals week. That way, you’ll see students and teachers going about their regular routines. For some families, however, a weekend, summer, or winter break visit may be easier to schedule. While you obviously won’t see an average day during those off times, you can still get a sense of the campus and the area. On a blitz tour of schools in a particular region, don’t try to cram in more than two schools a day. It takes at least a half day to get an accurate feel for a campus.
Before Your Visit:
Before your arrival, learn everything you can about the school. Read the school catalog and browse its website. Think of questions to ask that are not answered in published materials. In other words, don’t ask, “How many students go to school here?” Instead, ask questions such as “What percentage of incoming freshman graduate in four years?” and “What resources are available for students who may need extra help in a particular class?”
Decide beforehand what’s important to you – anything from a strong business program to on-campus housing to a main quad for students to gather. Make a list of priorities with your Athletic Advisor and parents and investigate them during your visit. Keep notes and try to ask the same questions at each school so that you have a means to compare them against each other.
What to Do on Campus:
Here is a list of a things you should definitely do while on campus:
Begin your visit with an information session and a campus tour. This way, you will be able to have a better feel for the school and be able to ask the coaches more thoughtful questions when you meet with them afterwards.
Sit in on a class.
Check out the dorms.
Eat in the cafeteria.
Read the bulletin boards.
Meet a faculty member and the coach.
See the athletic facilities.
Read the student newspaper.
Visit the library. You will be spending a lot of time here.
Remember to check out the surrounding campus, too. What restaurants, stores, and recreation attractions are nearby? How close is the bus or train station? Think about what you’d need to live around there. A bike? A car? Warmer clothes?
If you visit with your parents, split up at some point so that you can roam the campus alone for a taste of what it would be like on your own in this new place. Parents can use this time to meet with the financial aid officer or grab a coffee at the student union.
Learning about the Lacrosse Program:
Make sure to check out the athletic facilities. This includes the game field, the practice field, the locker room and, depending on the school, the athletes-only cafeteria, weight room, and academic support resources. Do they excite you? If you can, watch the team practice or play a game, and see if you can visualize yourself as a member of this team. How does the coach interact with his players? For more information about evaluating a specific lacrosse program, speak with your Athletic Advisor.
For high school seniors, some schools offer an interview with an admissions counselor as part of the campus visit. When you call the admissions office, ask if a personal interview is an option. If possible, schedule the interview on a different day than your initial visit to campus. At the very least, try to schedule the interview at the end of the day. This allows you to collect more information about the school, why you want to go there, why the school should want you there, and ask more intelligent questions.
If you have an interview, don’t be nervous. The interview is mostly just a chance for you to ask questions of a school official and show you are interested. It’s also an opportunity to make a positive impression on someone who may decide to go to bat for you in the application process, so make sure you are prepared, respectful, and ask lots of questions. You may want to practice for the interview with your parents, friend, or Athletic Advisor.
Keep a Notebook Just for College Visits:
Take notes while you’re on campus, jotting down the name of the dorm you walked through, the class you visited, the names of professors and students you met. This allows you to follow up with them if you have any specific questions as you continue your due diligence in the months to come.
After each visit, write down your impressions – what you did and did not like about the school. If you complete an extensive college search, the campuses, academic programs and athletics programs may blur together if you don’t document your impressions and information you collect. You can even take pictures to help you remember each campus months later when you’re deciding where to apply. The pictures can inspire you when writing your application. Make sure to write thank-you notes to any school official or coach you met with individually.
A Few Warning Signs:
Most college coaches have your best interest at heart. However, you should be aware of improper recruiting tactics. Think twice if a coach does any of the following:
Tells you that your scholarship commitment is four or five years. Even though most coaches will renew your scholarship each year, they can only promise it one year at a time.
Promises playing time or a starting position.
Guarantees you an easy academic schedule and shows little interest in you as a student.
Puts you in a contact with a booster from the athletic department.
Speaks negatively about other colleges you’re considering
Offers you a monetary inducement, including college shirts or souvenirs. Be sure to speak with your high school coach if you are concerned about any awkward situation. Do not jeopardize your eligibility by ignoring an incident or sweeping it under the rug.