In 1994, I traveled with my father to the East Coast to visit four campuses. The Naval Academy, Navy Prep, The US Military Academy (West Point) and the US Military Academy Prep School were all part of our trip. It was October and on our rental car’s radio we heard “Juicy” by The Notorius B.I.G., “Flava In Ya Ear” by Craig Mack, and “Nappy Heads” by The Fugees on repeat. The leaves were changing and it was the last, quality one on one time I had with my father before graduating high school.
Our first visit was to West Point’s prep school. When I was left alone with the players, they all told me not to come there as they were not having a great experience. I took that to heart. Also, it was on a spartan Army base in New Jersey. If I liked the coach more, the players had different opinions, and I actually wanted to be in the Army then it might have been different. But Navy looked like a better fit for me. I had a player on the Navy Prep team, from my hometown in West Virginia, show me around. It is located in beautiful Newport, Rhode Island. Not a bad place to hang out for nine months. I liked the coach too. West Point and the Naval Academy’s campuses were stunning as well.
After going on these tours, it was clear that I wanted to go to Navy Prep and then the Naval Academy. I verbally committed to Navy, but after a falling out with the coaching staff, I reopened my recruitment. I knew I still didn’t want to go to West Point. My high school coach suggested looking at the Air Force Academy. I had never heard of this school before, but knowing that I had interest from other military academies, they invited me to visit. The prep school coach who showed me around was named Jon Jordan. He is still a friend and mentor to this day.
I committed to the Air Force Academy and its prep school. Everything worked out for the best. Air Force was ultimately the right fit for me. But if I didn’t go on a tour of these campuses I wouldn’t have felt the school’s energy, met with the coaches in person, or talked to the players. All of this due diligence helped with my decision.
During the pandemic, prep schools were very strict on who they let onto their campuses. They didn’t want anyone bringing the virus to the school’s population. Due to this, most prep schools amped up their online presence by improving their websites and offering virtual tours. This was not ideal, but prospective families had to adjust during this unprecedented time. All of my clients that eventually showed up to prep schools they committed to, but didn’t visit, were more impressed in person than the online images and videos that were shown.
Now that the pandemic has slowed down, visits have opened back up on these campuses. I feel if a family has the time and means to visit, that they absolutely should. Here are three reasons why.
1) Energy – Once you step foot on a campus, whether it is college or prep school, you can feel its energy, its smells, the temperature, the history, etc. I have heard time and time again that once a prospective student stepped on a campus, they just knew it was the right fit. This is hard to quantify, and falls under gut instinct, but something to seriously take into account.
2) Meet coach in person – When you meet a coach face to face, you can look them in the eyes and feel their energy too. Doing this can help a player determine if this is someone they want working them out at 6:00AM, determining their playing time, and ultimately calling college coaches on their behalf.
3) Admission interview – When applying to a prep school, part of the process is doing an interview with the school’s admission department. When on a visit you can do this in person. Interviews can help or hinder a prospective student’s position at a school. Doing it in person is better for both parties.
In conclusion, visiting prep schools has many advantages and I suggest it for those who can do so. For those doing a post-grad year, if you can’t visit it’s not as big of a deal, but for students going for more than one year I would highly suggest it.