Sunday, March 4, 2012

Choosing a college

I've always been a really dedicated--some might say obsessive or neurotic-- student. In high school, I  got straight As nearly every semester and I spent my nights carefully gluing things onto posterboard and working myself practically to tears when I couldn't understand things like how to switch units of measurement in Chemistry. So college was never an "if," it was always a "which."

For my entire life, I dreamed of being a vet, so I only applied to schools that had good resources for that field--and of course, a riding team or club:
  • UPenn: This was definitely a "reach" school--as in, "out of reach" financially, but I figured I'd apply just for the heck of it.  UPenn's New Bolton Center was in the news a lot when I visited, since in 2006 all of the business with Barbaro was going on. I actually don't think I finished the application properly when I because I didn't see any point in taking the subject ACT tests when I knew I couldn't afford UPenn. Rejected.
  • Delaware Valley College: Delaware Valley's equestrian team has a big presence on campus, or so it seemed when I visited it on a rainy, cold spring day my junior year.  They also seem to have a very strong program that is based on getting real-life experience supported by a lot of faculty attention. I just didn't see myself meshing there, though. Maybe it was the dreary, small campus, or the fact that nearly every student I saw was practically wearing a uniform--either a sweatshirt from another college (??? Still don't get it.) or an Equestrian Club windbreaker with jeans and sneakers.  The sameness really creeped me out, and the school is in the middle of nowhere so I knew I would have no escape. Even though I was accepted to Del Val and UMD, my choice was a no-brainer.
  • University of Maryland: Maybe in-state tuition should have been on my radar, but what really drew me to Maryland was an on-campus equestrian club (which turned out to suck), as well as ties to the MD-VA Regional College of Veterinary Medicine the time I was accepted, I was already several months into a veterinary internship that I HATED.  Just to give you a little taste of it, watching the routine exams and hundreds of spays and neuters (not to mention my research paper on transdermal FeLV vaccines) was so boring that I actually looked forward to when I got to watch more "exciting" surgeries like removing fish hooks from a Papillon's face. Or removing tumors from a Beagle's butt. Gross stuff doesn't bother me, but I was a little disturbed that I was actually looking forward to these animals' misfortune just to break up the monotony.

When the vet supervising me assigned me to dissect a recently-aborted (and still warm) sausage-link string of kittens for the educational value, I decided that I really couldn't handle this (on top of reading boring science reports) for the next eight years. So shortly after my acceptance letter arrived with a pre-veterinary scholarship, I switched my major from Pre-Vet/ Biology to English, the other subject I really enjoyed (and was much better at than science). The switch was very easy to do at such a big state school.

Sometimes I really regret my decision to give up that scholarship--like right now, as I'm looking for jobs and my loan payments loom over my head. But I know that eventually I'll find a job. And I'm glad that I was able to keep what I love as a hobby, a reward, rather than turning it into work.

Keep posted over the next few months to see if I still feel that way when I'm jobless and still living with my parents in August or October. Oh God. I can't even think about it. I'm going to end this post now.

Here's a list of resources for college riders, courtesy of Equisearch:
  • How to Find Equestrian Scholarships for College--high school students, get on this NOW. Scholarship applications of any kind always take way longer than you'll think, and you often need to give teachers or trainers time to write recommendations.
Don't forget to tell me about your college riding experiences and advice in the comments! How did you choose your school?


  1. Will you post about the off-campus riding club, or is that better shared in person?!

  2. I mentioned it briefly in one of my very first posts, but that is a very good idea because I could definitely write more about it. It was just a very weird way of organizing a barn that didn't make a lot of sense to me and resulted in a lot of lame horses.

  3. I wanted to be an equine vet, but I got scared off by the extra schooling. I'm glad I ended up in English. Definitely related to this post.

  4. I picked my school because I was staying local in order to keep my horse and I didn't want to go to a big university so the small liberal arts school won the battle. And I got some pretty decent scholarship money.

  5. I was the same as equestrianathart. I chose a small local college that I could commute to and went the Biology route. My horses were about a half hour away so I could keep my pony in shape. I also went to my college because it had a riding program. Did not get to experience IHSA, but did get some great ride time and earned credits toward phyical education. I did have to pay extra money to the barn hosting the riding, so the last year I had to cut back.

  6. I really like how you broke down your college options based on a specific interest. I think it's a great way to make a big decision seem less scary and it is definitley college app time, so I'll be sure to pass this advice along

  7. This is just from my own experience of course, but I think that people put too much emphasis on the "dream school." I think just about anyone can be happy at a big school. Smaller schools are where you might run into a problem because escape is more difficult.