Updated: Jan 31, 2021
There it is, looming ominously in the distance. It is a question, that if you are reading this, you have likely heard a ridiculous number of times in the past few months. Much to your dismay, it is fast approaching. The fog clears as it zooms straight up to you and smacks you right in the face, leaving an imprint on your forehead that reads:
“?egelloc ot og ot gniog uoy erA”
Wait. S***. Flip that…
“Are you going to go to college?”
Now the seat of your pants is dirty, your face fricking hurts, and you still don’t know if college is right for you. Equestrians lay claim to a rather niche group of colleges with various focuses and located in multiple states. With the options available, it is time to weigh out the pros and cons of going to college for an equine related degree (or really, whatever degree makes your heart happy).
There is never quite enough of it is there? Depending on your situation, as everyone’s is different, it may be more time efficient to continue your equine career on a path other than college. An upside to (most of) the horse industry is that it does not require you to have degree. Already have a great job that has you set up for a successful future? Cool beans, keep doing what makes you happy. Have limited funds (see below) and can’t afford a four-year college with all that liberal studies whatnot? No problem, check out some schools that focus solely on studying horses. Don’t get me wrong, college is far from a waste of time, but it certainly isn’t for everyone (also see below).
Not Financially Feasible
To be frank, and well… entirely obvious, college is d*** expensive (and for a horse person to say something is expensive it means it’s expensive). Tuition, books, living costs; the list is a bit formidable. Let’s be clear though: there is nothing wrong with not being able to afford college. Spoiler alert, most people can’t! Luckily, a bunch of options are available to help combat costs, including scholarships and financial aid. Another way to save is to start at a community college and get some liberal studies classes completed before getting to the fun, major-specific credits.
Debt sucks (wheezes a 24-year-old who is petrified of their own college debt). It’s a big, heavy word. Debt. Kind of has a sticky and gross feeling to it. Regardless of any associated phlegm, there are a few options to combat the weight of college costs, but it is understandable to not want to have to owe a significant chunk of money right out of school.
College is Just Not for Everyone
Hollywood has this fun way of making college look like a blast where you find yourself and your friends, wee! And yes, college has a lot of ups; you meet some awesome people and do fun things, whatever you consider those to be. But a lot of people go into college not realizing it can also be incredibly tough, and not just academically. Adjusting to life away from home can be a tough transition for some (myself very much included) and roommate or friend drama is almost always an exhausting ordeal. College isn’t for the faint of heart; no, you have to be looking for an adventure and I mean a Lord of the Rings journey to Mordor kind of adventure, not Dora the Explorer where’s my map kind of crap. So buckle up, Buttercup, we’re going to learn some s*** about horses! Woo!
Gain More Knowledge and Experience
You go to college to learn and experience all of the things! Primarily the things that you would like to form into a hopefully successful career, but other things are good too! (Lots of exclamation points; apparently, I’m feeling peppy about knowledge and experience. Yay!) In all seriousness though, college is a great way to help round out skills that you have or would like to gain. What better place to advance yourself and your career than somewhere that is run by people who spent thousands of dollars just to learn how to teach other people about a particular subject? The resources are immense and are just waiting for you to utilize them! (Okay, less coffee and less exclamation points…)
Another big part of college is meeting a lot of new people. Obviously depending on the size of your college and your level of social comfortability (both were rather small in my case), who and how many people you socialize with will vary. Don’t just limit yourself to professors to make connections either. While a fantastic resource, talking to peers, guest speakers, and even others in the community can open up even more doors for you.
Try New Things
Ever wanted to try vaulting? Or ever considered learning equine biomechanics? Have you ever wondered how to collect a stallion- erm, wait probably not (what a college experience… and an amusing story for another time…)? But college is all about getting to test different paths. It’s meant to be a safe place where you can dabble in different subjects until you find what truly interests you. Don’t just try new equestrian things either! Join that writing club, go to that party at another college (be smart and safe people), or eat at that different lunch table. As a famous little green Jedi once said, “Do or do not. There is no try.” (My dork is showing and I have zero shame for that. Do with it what you will.)
More Job Options and Higher Pay
Remember those doors I spoke about a few points ago? Here are the doors. College creates a wider range of job options, often with higher starting pay. A degree shows potential employers that you are dedicated enough to a topic that you would dish out time, money, and tears simply to learn more than you already know. While not every equine career requires a degree from a tertiary school, if you are seeking a career in vet medicine or even farrier work you will likely have to have completed some form of post secondary education, including trade schools.
So in a nutshell, college is a really cool experience for some, but choosing the right path for you is the most important thing to consider. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with changing schools/majors, leaving part way through, or going back as an adult. Life is crazy and sometimes college doesn’t always fit into the equation. Yet, have no fear! Horsey shenanigans shall not cease.
I hope you get out there and have a good ride with your favorite four legged kiddo!