Researching a university is difficult; researching colleges for your child may prove to be even more difficult, but it doesn’t have to be. The key is to make sure you are guiding your child and being a supportive parent during this crucial step in your child’s life. As a parent, you should be encouraging yet unbiased and supportive toward your child throughout their recruitment process.
Think back to when you were at this point: having to decide what college was a best match for you and what your college needs were. For the most part, your child is going to have the same questions you did, so make sure to be there and assist your child in their big college decisions.
As a high school athlete, your child may begin to envision himself continuing his athletic career at the collegiate level. Being proactive in college recruiting will benefit your child and help in making the big decision of which university is the best fit. A great way to do this is to plan unofficial visits. You may have heard the terms “official” and “unofficial” visits before; note that these are two separate types of visits. Official visits are when a college coach formally invites an athlete and sometimes one parent to visit the college. The university is the one who will pay for the trip, whether it is money for a flight or a night stay in a hotel—each university is different, and therefore, expenses for an official visit will differ.
An unofficial visit is when the athlete and the family visit a college campus and schedule a time to meet with an athletic coach or someone from the athletic sports department that is specific to their sport. All of this takes place with your child and your own time and money. It is not a visit unless you meet with someone on the coaching staff that will be able to answer athletic questions that your child or you may have.
Unofficial visits are a great way for you and your child to see colleges, to get a feel for the surrounding areas, and to meet with athletic coaching staff. Keep in mind that a visit is just that—you and your child are there to learn as much as you can about the university and its athletic program to see if it will be a good fit for your child.
When your child has voiced interest in certain schools, plan to tour schools that they are interested in during the summer before their junior year, or whenever you can. That will be a great start. Keep in mind that unofficial visits are 100 percent paid for by your family, so make sure you have budgeted accordingly for the trip and that you will be able to get the most out of each campus visit.
Doing the Research
Make sure that you have researched the school and that it meets the criteria that your child is looking for in a college campus. See what the school has to offer in terms of visiting and tours. If available, it is good to schedule a tour with current students that will accompany you and your child on a campus tour. Guided tours can be extremely helpful because your child will be able ask questions to students that are already enrolled and touch base on why they picked that university.
If your child is going to continue athletics in college, it is imperative that they begin making contact with coaches early on in their high school athletic career. If your child has not contacted any schools before you begin making plans for unofficial visits, then you are missing some great opportunities. You should begin contact with college coaches well before you make your unofficial visit so you can establish a relationship with a member of the coaching staff. That way, you know that the coach has expressed interest in your athlete and would like to get to know them.
Shown on most university websites, the entire coaching staff is listed along with their phone numbers and e-mail addresses. If your child is serious about playing college sports, then he needs to be proactive in his recruiting process and has established himself as a serious college sports prospect. Have your child contact the coaching staff to inform them that he would like to meet during an unofficial visit to the campus to get his questions answered and to learn more about the sports program. If you are unable to meet directly with the coach (usually if it’s the middle of their season), they will most likely try sending a representative to take their place. But it’s better to try to meet with the coach directly, so ask ahead of time when they will be available.
Knowing What to Ask
Prepare a list of questions both for the campus tour and for the coach. This will allow you to sit down after the visits and compare the pros and cons of each visit.
You can learn a lot about a school on an unofficial visit, so make sure to take advantage of the opportunity! Know what to expect and make the most out of the trip!