The first thing you should know is that the earlier you begin the process the better.
The ideal timeline involves an athlete beginning the process as early as 8th grade by thinking about the concept of college; understanding what makes a good college in your own opinion and identifying what your major sports will be in high school. Freshman year, you should start compiling a list of your top schools, and maybe even reaching out to a few coaches through email to let them know you are interested.
Then, Sophomore to Junior year is the most important time. In these two years, it’s gotta be pedal to the medal in terms of promoting yourself to schools and establishing relationships with coaches. Start by registering with the NCAA and NAIA in order to declare your interest and eligibility. You need to be a self-publisher, blasting your profile to as many coaches as possible, so that by the time your senior year of high school comes around, you can have coaches come to your games. You want to set yourself up so that you will already have enough of a connection with a coach once you make the move to join their program.
As far as school visits, you are allowed an unlimited number of unofficial visits to a school, but only 5 total official visits. An unofficial visit can be anything from going to check out the weight room, to coming to watch a practice. The only restriction here is that an unofficial visit cannot be arranged by a school’s athletic program until the start of an athlete’s Junior year of high school. This was a rule established by the NCAA in 2018 to prevent early recruiting at the D1 level.
However, official visits are more restricted, and you are only permitted one official visit per school. These are sent by the coach, which means you can’t just show up on an official visit like you can with an unofficial visit. Typically, official visits imply that the school will be providing food, lodging, transportation and maybe even entertainment. These visits can last up to 48 hours, and the typical scenario involves a recruit arriving to campus on a Friday night and leaving on a Sunday morning or afternoon.
Understanding this timeline and applying it to your own recruiting journey is a great way to take the next step!