Hold the Line

I’ve never ridden as many lines into a canter pirouette as I did in my clinic days with Olympian Michael Barisone. And please make note of the fact that I didn’t say “rode as many canter pirouettes,” but rather lines into the pirouette. It is, after all, a cardinal rule of dressage – and riding in general – that when the preparation for the movement is correct, the movement itself is therefore positioned to be correct. (Come to think of it, that’s good advice for life too.)

Thus, in the minutes (and, let’s be honest, hours) spent coming out of the corner in a straight line (“a straight line, Randi – go back and do it over!”) in order to achieve the correct position and setup for the pirouette that have accrued over time, now whether Michael or any trainer is standing ringside when I aim for a pirouette, the mantra in my mind is this:

Hold the line. Hold the line. Wait for it and hold the line.

You know what happens, readers? When I refuse to panic in the moment and ignore the voice that tells me to hastily change my game plan (never a good idea when the half pirouette in the Prix St. Georges comes between the corner and X!), but instead focus on holding the line and setting everything up – in short, when I trust myself and my preparation – I’m successful in the execution. Sudden changes lead to sudden problems and then mistakes or – worst of all – failed pirouettes altogether.

High school seniors, as you submit those early fall applications, are you holding the line or panicking?

It’s an important question to ask right now, as this is a very stressful time of year and last-minute doubts, suspicions, and rumors flying around the halls of your high school can all incite panic right at the very moment when you need to have the strongest convictions about which colleges you’ve selected as a possible home for next fall. After all, you’ve spent the last several months (maybe even a year or more) looking at colleges, programs, and yourself to determine what will fit with your career and personal goals the best and you’ve assembled your school list based on the colleges and universities that match those priorities. You’ve written essays and gathered transcripts and recommendations to bolster your applications; you’ve toured campuses and met with students, faculty and coaches; and you’ve followed each campus on social media to get the “inside scoop” on college life.

In short, you’ve drawn the line you plan to follow.

So after all that work and research and planning, the very last thing you should do is give in to the voice of doubt or negativity (or even the voices of your classmates) and panic. Don’t throw out your school list because your best friend really wants to go to a school in another state. Don’t shy away from the Early Decision school you’ve had your heart set on for six months just because the voice in your head fears you won’t make the cut. In other words, don’t ruin the pirouette you’ve set up so carefully.

Hold the line. Trust the preparation.

It’s human nature to want things to work out perfectly, especially when we’ve put so much time, energy and emotional commitment into something as life-altering as the college search. (Heck, I’m not emotional about canter pirouettes but I still want them to be a perfect every single time!)

But as niggling as those doubts may be and as credible as the rumor mill may sound, I can promise you one thing: the surest way to fail in the college application process is to panic and change your plans at the last minute. It’s like pulling out of a distance two strides from a fence or trying to fix a canter pirouette in the first stride. (Spoiler alert: Both of those are a recipe for equestrian disaster.) But if you hold the line – if you trust yourself and the work you’ve put in – you have a much better chance of succeeding. It’s not a guarantee – just as with horses, nothing in the world of college admissions is ever guaranteed – but it is a surer path to achieving your goals than the last-minute plan you’ll cobble together in a bout of hasty, panic-fueled adrenaline.

Hang in there, seniors (and parents of seniors)! Hold the line. You’ve set everything up; now trust in how it will play out.

(Need help holding the line or starting a school list? Contact me or pick up a copy of my book to guide you.)

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