Tips for Applying to College: The things your guidance counselor is not going to tell you

Emily Alvarez started on the College of Charleston Equestrian Team in August 2014. Photo © Briar Field Farm

By Brooke Mallin

Freshman and sophomores

It’s time to start thinking about where you want to go to college. Start visiting colleges….often driving to horse shows, my mom would pull our trailer through different campuses along the way. (Yes, there was a pit stop at Villanova on our way to Devon.) While most schools were not on my interest list, just visiting them gave me a good feeling for what I might want in a school. How was the campus laid out? What was the size of the campus? What did I like or dislike about the location?  But most importantly, as you are looking at different schools, try to picture yourself there without a horse. Being a student-athlete you always have the risk or injury. Make sure that a school satisfies your learning needs and career aspirations.


I am not going to deny that this is the beginning of what could be the most stressful time in your life. Yes, grades are important and yes, it is time filled with standardized tests and yes, it is time to meet with your counselor and try to figure out the rest of your life. WHEW!

When I was jumping in my very first large jumper classic, my trainer told me if I tried to make it all flow together like a hunter course I would be lost. I should break down the course into parts and attack each of them separately. This strategy works for school as well.  Focus on one aspect of the college process at a time. The best place is to start by creating a resume. Dig deep into the box of awards and miscellaneous stuff your mom has collected over the years and start to put it together. Don’t forget to add your major accomplishments as a rider. This is a large part of your life and should be highlighted. Often schools ask for a resume as a supplement to the Common Application. Having your resume ready to go will help save time. Working on  your resume will also remind you how awesome you really are and that you can attack this college process.  


GET IT DONE EARLY! Yes, you will be nagged to get your essays and applications done early by almost everyone. Take it from me, it is worth it! It is your senior year and often your last junior year. Some of you will be heading to indoors and finals for the first or last time. You should enjoy those experiences, instead of being locked up in the hotel room with your college applications hanging over your head.

With that said, Mom and Dad, you too!! It is important that you get your taxes done early as well. Schools will ask for a copy of your tax return to help award merit scholarships and in-state tuition. If you have your taxes done early and they are accessible you won’t delay your child’s acceptance or financial awards. Hey, every penny counts towards more hay!

Most importantly, enjoy the college process. This time is an important period in your life and a beginning to many new adventures. There is a college program for everyone and the perfect place just for you! 

Brooke Mallin, Leesburg, Virginia, is an amateur rider, high school teacher and private tutor. She specializes in helping the “student athlete” obtain success both in the classroom and in the ring. Combining her experience as an NCAA Division One (field hockey) athlete and her passion for horses, she can easily relate to kids and she bridges the gap of the classroom to the ring.

This article originally ran in the September 2014 print edition of The Plaid Horse Magazine.