For college-bound equestrians who hope to become a part of an NCEA (National Collegiate Equestrian Association) team (previously NCAA equestrian), the campus visit is governed by a set of rules that somewhat restrict the timeline during which you’re able to set foot on campus and meet with the riding coach. Sloane Milstein of College Riding 101 has a great breakdown of these rules in her book and on her web site and the NCEA has an outline of those same rules available for you to check out as well, but here’s a quick overview of what you need to know about varsity equestrian and the campus visit:
- You may visit a campus as many times as you want to – as long as the visit is “unofficial.” An unofficial visit, as determined by the NCAA, is a visit that you and your parents make to a campus that is entirely paid for by your family. Because coaches are only allowed to “officially” visit with high school seniors, they aren’t allowed to help subsidize your travel to and from their campus until you have officially entered the twelfth grade. So if you live in California and you’re very interested in Sacred Heart University (which is in Connecticut), you and your parents will be entirely responsible for your airfare, hotels, rental car, food, and all other expenses associated with your cross-country trip if you visit their campus during your junior year. As a senior, you will be allowed to accept up to five “official” visits from NCEA equestrian colleges, at which time they will be allowed to pay for some or all of those costs. (Only one official visit per school is allowed.)
- You may meet with the equestrian coach during an unofficial visit but your off-campus communication must be limited. When you make arrangements with the admission office to unofficially visit a campus with an NCEA equestrian team, feel free to ask them to arrange a meeting with the coach for you. As long as the meeting takes place oncampus, it’s completely within the NCEA rules. After the visit, you are also permitted to send a thank you note or email or make a follow-up phone call to the coach to thank him or her for their time, but be aware that he or she is not permitted to initiate phone calls to you until after July 1 prior to your senior year of high school. (Email and letter responses to your correspondence are allowed, however.) The coach is also not permitted to be in contact with you off-campus until after you have begun your senior year – which means that he or she can’t have a conversation with you if you happen to be at the same horse show over the summer between your junior and senior years.
- Official campus visits may not last longer than 48 hours. When you make your official visit to an NCEA equestrian school, you will be limited to 48 hours on campus and in contact with members of the equestrian program. Granted, this should be plenty of time for you to tour the campus, try the food in the dining hall, meet with the coaches, and even spend the night in a residence hall with members of the team – but it’s important to be aware of this rule because if you confuse your arrival or departure time by even so much as a half an hour, you could jeopardize your standing as a prospective NCEA athlete.
- You may not accept gifts at any point during a visit, whether unofficial or not. The news last year was filled with stories about football players at one of the Big Ten schools who illegally accepted gifts from boosters affiliated with their program. As an equestrian, it’s hard to compare yourself to a linebacker, but gifts come in many forms – some of which you may not even perceive to be gifts. That campus t-shirt that the tour guide offers you at the conclusion of the campus tour because the two of you had such a fun time? It’s a gift – and you can’t accept it if you want to be an NCEA equestrian. Even things like pens or key chains aren’t permitted – so if you want some campus swag to take home with you, be sure to ask your parents to swing by the bookstore so you can purchase your own.
There are a host of other considerations that go into deciding whether or not you’re interested in becoming a part of an NCEA equestrian program – enough for several more blog entries! – but when it comes to the campus visit, the main thing to remember is to very clearly define the difference between an unofficial visit and an official one.
(Want help making the distinction? Let me know!)