Unofficial visits are visits that prospects finance themselves. An unofficial visit might be very official in that it might have a set itinerary, be for multiple days, or be a very important part of a prospect’s recruitment.
Prospects make take an unofficial visit at any age or grade level. There is no requirement that prospects even be in high school, much less have started a certain grade before visiting a school on their own dime. As a result, unofficial visits are one of the big factors behind early recruitment and early commitments by prospects.
The one time prospects may not make an unofficial visit is during a dead period. During dead periods, all in-person recruiting between coaches and prospects is prohibited including evaluations, off-campus contact, official visits, and unofficial visit. The one exception is that prospects who have signed a National Letter of Intent, an athletic scholarship agreement, or been admitted to the school and paid a deposit may make an unofficial visit during a dead period. In basketball, prospects are also not permitted to make any unofficial visits during July, even those a portion of July are evaluation periods when unofficial visits are normally permitted.
What the School Can Provide
The school can provide up to three complimentary admissions to prospects on an unofficial visit, one for the prospect and two for guests. Prospects from nontraditional families (e.g. parents have divorced or are separated) may receive two additional complimentary admission so both sets of parents may attend.
If the venue is off-campus, the school can provide transportation between campus and the venue, provided it is within 30 miles of the campus. If a school’s home venue is unusable because of damage from some sort of natural or man-made disaster, then the 30-mile limitation does not apply.
The school can also provide housing during an unofficial visit, but only if the athlete pays the normal rate for it. Some schools charge guests who stay overnight in dorms, although the rate is typically much lower than a hotel room. Other schools do not charge overnight guests unless they are in the dorm room for longer than a couple of nights, so an unofficial visit to those schools could include an overnight stay free of charge.
What The School Cannot Provide
The list of things a school cannot provide is pretty long, essentially anything except for the free admission for a prospect and two guests. Most importantly the school cannot provide the normal expenses for travel like transportation, housing (except as stated above) and meals.