I spoke with the parent of a high school junior recently who was helping her daughter embark on the search for a college and who was confused by all of the different types of IHSA programs that are currently offered.
Some programs are run by college athletic departments, some are run by outside equestrian professionals working with college athletic departments, some are run by the same people who run a college or university’s equine science program, and some are entirely student coordinated. The ways in which these riding programs are funded are equally varied, with sources that include collegiate athletic budgets, student activity funding, fundraising, and self-help.
“Where do I start?” she wanted to know. “I don’t want to have to look at 400 schools to find the right one!”
When I told her I could help her narrow the field by asking her to answer two short questions, she was a little bit dubious.
Question #1: What does your daughter want to study in college?
Her answer? Psychology.
Question #2: Do you want your daughter to ride in a program that is run by staff members of the college or university and is fully (or nearly fully) funded by the institution?
Her answer? Yes.
Ta-da! In the space of two quick questions and their answers, we’ve successfully taken all student- and outside-run equestrian teams out of the running. Moreover, to narrow the field further, among those colleges and universities that are left, we’ve now taken a further cut to the list by taking away all schools that don’t have strong psychology programs.
I wasn’t near my IHSA database at the time of the conversation, but I suspect we had narrowed the search down to somewhere between 15 and 20 schools – which is just about the number that most high school juniors have on their lists when they begin their search.
Needless to say, the relief on that poor mother’s face was obvious. Now, while it’s second nature to me to approach the search process that way, many families who will embark on the college search for the first time find that the entire thing is a mystery. (And just like all good mysteries, it’s one that doesn’t reveal any answers until the very end – and by then you’ve already committed to a particular school.)
Do you know what questions to ask as you begin the search for your ideal college? A good place to start is to ask yourself the two questions I asked that mother – and if you need more assistance in your search, let me know.