When looking at the article Level of Recruiting Interest from College Coaches, the top three levels that a college coach can show a prospective recruit is a written offer, a verbal offer, and an official visit. With two of the three hopefully being able to pay for a large portion of your college education, it shows that these are very high on the interest scale.
But because of NCAA rules, you are limited to five official visits so it may be important which ones you pick and choose. If a school has not offered me a scholarship but wants me to official visit their school, are they going to end up offering me a scholarship? As always, the answer really depends on the situation.
A lot of Division I-AA (FCS) and Division II schools are the ones that say you must come on an official visit before you get a scholarship offer. The reason that they feel this way is because they are interested in you. If you show that interest by coming to their school (even if they are paying for it), they will likely extend at least a partial offer. This seems to happen a great deal to football recruits in December and January.
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I have also heard a Division I basketball school promise a recruit that if he official visited, he would leave the trip with an offer. The school didn’t realize that this recruit really wanted an offer so he decided to make an official visit shortly after they said that. With another player that school was hoping to get a commitment from, they didn’t end up offering the kid that took the official visit. If something like that happens, I would strongly recommend moving on from that situation.
Division I-A (BCS) football schools may also want to get recruits on campus to talk to them about their situation. Some schools inform the athlete beforehand and others don’t that they want to bring them on as a walk on. Most schools have enough official visits left that they bring these potential walk ons for official visits. If you know coming in that they want you to walk on, it is a lot easier than being blindsided on the trip.
In my opinion, the majority (80% or greater) of official visits do end up with athletes having scholarship offers from that school. The reason is because these schools are limited in the amount of official visitors that they can bring on campus. They would not be bringing in players who they feel cannot play so you really are among their top recruits.
Before going on an official visit, I would try to ask the coach as many questions about offers and that type of thing before going. If I was going on an official visit, I would assume a scholarship offer would be coming. So before you get in the car or the plane, make sure that you know where you stand with the coaches on a scholarship offer. It could be the difference between you being blinded while there.