It turns out I’m going to have to go shopping for a new pair of everyday riding boots this winter. My beloved (but 13 year old) Dehners have been repaired no less than four times over the course of their lifetime but have reached a point where they’re about to give up the ghost on me. It’s a shame, really – the Dehners are a full custom model that took a long time to break in properly but are now so perfectly formed to my legs that they’re like a second skin. (They’re also so aged that they haven’t been truly black in several years, there are permanent tears in the inner lining, and the heels have become rough from all the times I have taken my spurs on and off. In summary, they look like they’ve been to war – which, in some ways, they have.)
I have several priorities when it comes to my riding boots, priorities that will be in the forefront of my mind when I embark on this winter’s shopping excursion. I’m a dressage rider, so a stiff boot (but not too stiff!) is important, as is a Spanish-cut top so that my legs look longer when I sit correctly. I am also notoriously hard on boots (to which the Dehners can attest), so durability is crucial – as is comfort, because I often end up standing around in them at clinics or between riding multiple horses. I don’t like zippers because I believe that it’s not a question of if they’ll break, but when they’ll break – and always at a truly inconvenient time! Finally, I don’t like a boot that’s too heavy or clunky.
Many of my friends know that I’m on the hunt for a new pair of boots and, though I’ve told them that I have a pretty clear idea of what brand I’ll go with and what features I need, that hasn’t stopped everyone from weighing in on the topic. In the past week alone, friends have given me commercial-like speeches for their favorite boot brands, questioned my list of priorities (“Are you sure you don’t want zippers?” is the most common), and tried to convince me to incorporate their favorite attributes into my purchase.
Chances are likely that, if you’re a high school student who will embark on your college search this fall (or if you’ve already started), you’re no doubt experiencing the same thing with the people in your life – friends, family, teachers – who want to put their two cents into your choice of a college. They all have their favorite schools and their own hopes for you and I suspect they aren’t afraid to share them.
Perhaps your band director thinks that you need to find a school with a strong marching band so you can continue to play your trumpet…
…while your grandmother wants you to make sure to select a school with a chapter of her old sorority so that you can join…
…meanwhile, your dad wants you to stay within a two hour radius of your home and your mom won’t hear of you attending a college with more than 2,500 students.
But what do you want?
The first (and most important!) thing you need to realize is that, no matter what college or university you select in the end, you’re never going to make all of the important people in your life happy. There are too many of them and only one of you – which is why your number one priority has to be to make sure that you select the school that fits your priority list, not theirs. Trust me – once your grandmother sees how much fun you’re having with the girls on your college riding team and hears about all of your campus adventures, she’ll care far less that your school doesn’t have a chapter of her sorority.
So how do you separate your priorities from the ones that have been thrust upon you by others?
- Make a list of items that you need in a school – whether it be a particular major program, a riding team, or anything that you absolutely cannot live without during your four year college experience.
- Follow the list of things you need with a list of things you want. These should be things that you think would be nice to have in your college (maybe it’s within that two hour radius of home or has a Quidditch club) but that you can manage without if the right school doesn’t happen to have them.
- Be very open about the items on your list when you speak with your would-be advisors. When your band director makes his push for you to continue playing the trumpet in the marching band, don’t be afraid to tell him that you might not have much time to play if you’re part of a varsity riding team in college, which is a your main priority after high school. He might be disappointed in the short-term but, just like your grandmother, he’ll understand.
- Thank all of those supportive people in your life for their help – whether you plan to take their suggestions to heart or not. They only want what’s best for you and that kind of support in your life is invaluable.
And don’t worry – I’m taking my own advice when it comes to my boot search. Whenever friends offer me helpful tips and advice, I don’t hesitate to tell them what I need and want in my new boots – though I’m also quick to thank them for their input. And by next spring, I’m sure I’ll be very happy with my new boots – just like you’ll be happy with your new school if you stick to the list of your priorities!
(Want help to get those priorities together? Contact me.)