March 27, 2013
By Angela Kraus
As I write, spring break is drawing near, and many American high school juniors and their families are busy planning pilgrimages to colleges as they narrow down their lists of schools to which they’ll apply for 2012 admission.
Water polo players and other athletes go about this process a little differently from non-athletes—their college visits often include side trips to learn more about their sports’ programs, meetings with coaches, and observations of practices sandwiched between campus tours and admissions presentations. Some of the more highly-skilled student-athletes who have been identified by coaches as prospective recruits might receive invitations from college water polo coaches to visit schools for Junior Day events. Once school begins in the fall, some seniors may be invited to visit colleges on their “short list.”
This column explores types of college visits student-athletes may undertake.
Any prospective student, athlete or not, and his or her family may visit any college at any time and (through the admissions office) participate in campus tours as well as admissions information sessions, events, or programs. They can even participate in programs operated by the admissions office which allow them to attend classes, meet with department administrators, professors, or other college officials—even stay overnight. Once the scope of a visit expands to include a meeting with a coach, a tour of sport-specific athletic facilities, or both, the visit becomes athletically related and is regulated by the NCAA.
The following is the scope of how student-athletes are allowed to make unofficial or official college visits.
Water Polo Camps or Clinics
Some college water polo programs offer camps during summers or holiday breaks. Participating in a summer camp or clinic doesn’t count as a college visit for NCAA purposes. Advantages of attending include spending time on a college campus, meeting the coaching staff, developing water polo skills, and meeting other players from around the United States. Often these camps raise funds to help pay for the college’s water polo program. For information about such programs, visit the college’s Web site or the home page of www.usawaterpolo.org which has a link to camps and clinics.
Unofficial visits to a college campus (that the student covers financially) are unlimited and can occur any time during a student-athlete’s high school career. If visiting a campus during an official tour, open house, or other event operated by the admissions office, it’s also possible to arrange a meeting with the coach, check out the school’s athletic facilities, or observe a practice.
If you are planning to visit a school and would like to meet with the head or assistant water polo coach, write to the coach several weeks before your trip, explain which day and the approximate hours you expect to be on campus, and ask if the coach has time to meet with you and your parents. Include information about your academic and athletic credentials to help coaches determine if you are a viable candidate for admission. If so, and absent any schedule conflicts, most head and assistant coaches are willing to have at least a short meeting with prospective student athletes. Be flexible and work around the coaches’ schedules.
Sometimes, college coaches host “Junior Days” on campus. Highly-skilled student-athletes who have been identified by coaches as prospective recruits may be invited to visit schools for special admissions and athletic presentations designed to introduce them and their parents to the colleges, water polo programs, and athletic departments. Junior Day visits also are considered unofficial visits. Attendees are required to pay for their own transportation to campus, lodging, and meals. Be courteous about accepting or declining an invitation to Junior Day and be sure to send the coach a thank-you note after attending. Receiving an invitation to Junior Day events does not constitute an offer of admission—it’s simply an expression of interest in a student-athlete and an opportunity to learn more about the college and its water polo program.
During the summer preceding their senior year, or during their senior year, prospective recruits may be contacted by coaches and invited to visit colleges on official visits. Official visits are highly regulated by the NCAA and are deemed as such when a college pays any of the following expenses for you or your parents:
- Transportation to or from the college;
- Lodging and up to three meals per day; and/or
- Reasonable entertainment expenses (e.g., tickets to a home football game).
Official visits are generally reserved only for student-athletes whom coaches are serious about recruiting or have already been admitted t. The purpose of the official visit is to give a prospective student-athlete a sense of what it would be like to be a student and a member of the team at the school in order to help the student-athlete compare campuses they are considering and make a final decision. Prospective recruits often have an opportunity to attend one or more classes, eat meals, spend time with team members, attend on-campus athletic events, or participate in activities organized for recruits. Schools that require admissions interviews may also schedule them with admissions officers during official visits.
Many schools host prospective recruits during the fall of their senior years, but official visits can also and often do take place between January and April of the senior year. Before leaving for official visits, student-athletes will be asked to provide copies of updated transcripts, standardized test score reports, NCAA Eligibility Center ID numbers, and in some cases to sign a code of conduct or other NCAA-, school-, or trip-specific paperwork. Student-athletes are allowed to take a maximum of five official visits after the first day of school of their senior years, and athletes may not spend more than 48 hours on campus. No trips are allowed during quiet or dead periods. Again be courteous about accepting or declining an invitation for an official visit and be sure to send the coach a thank-you note after a visit. Remember: receiving an invitation for an official visit does not constitute an offer of admission—only the admissions committee is authorized to make and communicate admissions decisions.
Questions? Write to Angela Kraus at firstname.lastname@example.org. She is an experienced and certified college counselor providing comprehensive services to help students prepare for and ensure eligibility for graduation from high school and admission to colleges. A special focus of her practice is advising high school athletes as they pursue the athletic recruiting process, with emphasis on water polo players.
This article was orginially printed in the Spring 2012 issue of SkipShot Magazine.
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