With the arrival of March and the impending arrival of spring comes a new wave of college fairs on the schedule nationwide. If you’re a junior in high school (or even a sophomore!), this presents a great opportunity to begin narrowing down the list of colleges that you plan to visit over the summer and fall as you prepare to submit your applications. Many of the schools present may already have you on their mailing lists and you may also have begun to visit their web sites to see if they have programs and a campus that appeal to you.
If you’re a rider who will attend your first college fair this spring (or even if you’ll attend your second or third!), you’ll no doubt be on the lookout for all of the schools whose names are familiar to you through their advertisements in equine magazines so that you can ask their representatives all about their teams , facilities, and coaching staff. While this is unquestionably information that will be relevant to your college search and ultimately your final enrollment decision, when it comes to college fairs, you’ll be doing yourself a major disservice if you approach the fair with such a narrow focus. Instead, by doing a little pre-fair homework and approaching the event with an open mind, you’ll get a lot more out of the experience – and you might just discover a fantastic school that wasn’t previously on your radar while you’re at it!
To that end, here are my three pieces of advice when you’re a prospective college equestrian who is preparing to attend a college fair:
- Attend the biggest college fair you can find. The bigger the fair, the more schools that will be present and the more likely that you’ll encounter a host of schools who have equestrian teams affiliated with them. National college fairs that are put on by the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) are my favorite because they attract well over 100 colleges and universities to one location (usually in a large, metropolitan area with a conference center or arena big enough to hold them). The NACAC web site not only lists the sites and dates of all of their upcoming fairs (for spring and fall), but it lists all of the schools who will be in attendance so you can plan ahead – which brings me to Step 2…
- Research, research, research before you get there! Once you’ve looked at the list of colleges who will attend the college fair, cross-reference it with the list of colleges and universities on both the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association (IHSA) web site and the Intercollegiate Dressage Association (IDA) web site. In addition to the schools whom you’ve probably already heard of because of an equine major program or because of its “name” in intercollegiate equestrian sports, I’ve no doubt you will discover a lot more schools that also participate in intercollegiate equestrian. Be sure to visit all of the tables for the schools who have teams and who have academic programs that fit your interest. (You’ll narrow your search later – in the beginning, get all the information you can!)
- Get names and contact information. It’s never a guarantee that the admission or alumni representative who will be representing the school at the college fair will have specific information about the equestrian team or be able to “speak horse” when it comes to answering all of your questions – but he or she should be able to connect you with someone on campus (a student member, team captain, coach, or faculty/staff advisor) who can help. If the contact information for that person isn’t readily available at the fair, make sure that you get the business card of the representative and follow up with him or her after the fair to obtain it. Sure it might be an extra step in the research process, but if you discover a school that you didn’t know had a riding team and it turns out to be a perfect fit, it will be well worth it in the end!
I personally plan to attend to 2012 Metro Detroit National College Fair at the end of the month (a personal favorite of mine). In addition to getting updates on many of my favorite schools – as well as learning about some I’ve never encountered before – I’m also taking one of my students with me. It will be her very first college fair experience and we’ve already begun our research so that she gets the absolute most out of her time there.
Want me to help guide your college search or tip you off to some great college fairs in your neck of the woods? Contact me – I’m happy to help!