When Second is Better Than First

Last August, I compared my search for new riding boots to the search that my students go through when they begin to make their list of potential colleges.  I went into the boot search with my list of needs and wants and I instructed you readers to do the same in the preliminary portion of your college list-making process.  I also wrote about those people who would want to sway you along the way – the helpful family members, friends, and teachers who had their own lists of needs and wants for your future educational experience.  Finally, I cautioned you to keep yourself at the forefront of the process so that you would be most happy in the long run.

My beloved Dehners have at last found retirement.
My beloved Dehners have at last found retirement.

Nearly a year later, I’m happy to report that my beloved (but much-abused!) custom Dehner boots (at left) have taken a well-deserved semi-retirement (they’re still my favorites for gallop sets and cavaletti work) and I have replaced them with a new pair of semi-custom Konig dressage boots to take over their daily work.  The reason that the boot discussion has come up once more in the blog, however, is because the Konig boots I’m wearing today are not exactly the boots I expected to purchase when I set out on my shopping trip last fall – just as your dream school might turn out to look completely different in reality than it does on paper.

What do I mean, exactly?

You may recall that I needed a highly durable, comfortable, and not overly-clunky boot to replace the Dehners.  Those were the needs that made up the list of qualifications, followed closely by my wants of no zippers and a boot with a bit of fashion sense.  (I’m a girl; I can’t help it.)

Yet when I was fitted for the semi-custom boots – spurred on by a fantastic sale and wonderful customer service by the folks at The Horse of Course when they traveled to the USDF Region 2 Championships in Lexington, Kentucky – parts of my list went out the window.  Most notably, I was only able to get all of my other desired characteristics (and the special sale pricing!) if I consented to boots with zippers in them.  To avoid zippers, I would have had to make the financial commitment to full custom boots and go through a far more rigorous fitting process.  When faced with everything else I liked about the boots – which was, by that point, everything except the zippers – and (perhaps more pressingly) the realities of my boot-buying budget, I nodded, smiled, and bought the boots with the zippers.

The new boots at seven months old - zippers and all!
The new boots at seven months old – zippers and all!

Fast forward to the present, where my Konigs are seven months broken in (as were my ankles after the first week!) and I’m in a different place than I was going into my boot hunt.  In fact, I confess that I am now a zipper enthusiast when it comes to my boots.  No kidding!  I can get in and out of these boots with an ease I never experienced with my Dehners, they look sharp (the lines aren’t at all compromised by the zipper placement), and the function of the zippers is still pristine and flawless after a lot of use already.  (Careful maintenance on my part will hopefully help them to stay that way too!)

Back to your college hunt, then:

It’s important to realize now that every college is going to have some feature that is either undesirable to you when you begin your research.  There will be at least one thing that makes you nervous or simply seems to detract from the other things that make a particular school sound perfect for you and your academic goals.  After all, just like horses and people, colleges aren’t perfect.  But if you’re able to maintain an open mind and an accepting attitude – and focus primarily on those features, programs, and characteristics that you do like (and that make it a great fit for you!) – pretty soon, you’ll find that the elements that you initially thought would be problematic might even turn out to be your favorite parts.

For example:  If you are vehemently opposed to attending an all-women’s college because you can’t fathom the idea of having no boys in class or as part of your campus social life but every other facet of the all-women’s school is a perfect fit for your list of needs and wants, then perhaps you need to investigate the women’s college a little more.  Spend a full day on campus and spend the night in a residence hall to truly experience what the women who attend that school go through on a daily basis.  Find out how they incorporate interactions with boys at the local co-ed college or university across town into their lives and what their classes are like without a male point of view (bearing in mind, of course, that many of the classes will be taught by male professors and a host of consortium agreements mean that many classes at women’s colleges have males in them).  You might find out through the exercise of immersing yourself in that environment that you really love it even though it initially makes you nervous!

Want one more scenario?

Perhaps the number one school on your list (on paper, anyway) has everything you’ve ever desired in a college or university environment but they don’t have a campus equestrian club or team.  Sure there are barns in the surrounding area, but there aren’t really any organizational structures in place on campus for a team.  Such a situation leaves you with two potential choices – you can gather up all of the riders on campus and form your own club team at one of those local barns or you can find ways to advance your own riding in your free time outside of classes.  In fact, if you choose not to develop a team but instead take a job at a local barn or board your horse and take lessons from a local trainer, you might find that you enjoy having a non-school-related outlet off campus that can take you completely out of the university scene for a few hours every day!  It could be just the fit you didn’t know you were looking for during your college search…

…much like the pair of Konig boots that I now cherish.

So be sure to keep a wide open mind during your search process – and if you need help, contact me!

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