"How to put yourself in the running for the"
Show Me The Money! How to put yourself in the running for the equestrian college education of your dreams. By Lori Teresa Yearwood istockphoto.com/Thomas Perkins 68 OCTOBER 2007 EQUESTRIAN Two young women stand in the practice arena. Few years separate them. Yet already, one of them is a professional trainer, rider and teacher. Thanks to a solid college education, she is living her dreams. The other, a USEF jumper on the A circuit, longs to be a profession- al equestrian. But self-confidence eludes her. “I know I can do better,” she tells her teacher with a frown. Seventeen, the young woman hopes to earn the kind of scholarship and college experience the other has earned. Day after day, the two come to this Illinois barn to practice. Laura Baldine tells her student the very truths that won her the scholarship that paved the way to the life she now has. “Remember, you are not just a number. There are always people who will turn you down. But if you don’t keep trying, you won’t get to where you want to go,” Baldine said to the younger woman. Every year, thousands of equestrian students across the country apply for admission to colleges so that they can put their passion, knowledge and skills to use in the profes- sional horse world. Along the way, thousands receive financial assistance. After over- coming rejection and battling her own self doubt, Baldine, who nailed down an annual $8,000 academic scholarship to Findlay University in Ohio, refers to herself as “one of the lucky ones.” “That money really helped my family with tuition,” she said. Indeed, countless college applicants would never be able to afford the costs of col- lege tuition—which now averages up to $30,000 per year for a private four-year college—without scholar- ships. So perhaps “luck” did somehow play a role in Baldine’s success. But that luck would have gotten her nowhere if she had not been prepared to be in the right place at the right time, which to some people, is the very definition of luck. Regardless, in today’s world of rising tuition costs, boarding and housing costs, the road to an equestrian scholarship is paved with planning and preparation. Leave No Money Stone Unturned “I always tell every kid I talk to to apply for any- Dreamstime.com/Gary Lewis thing that you possibly may even remotely qualify for, because the big thing with scholarships is that so many of them still go unclaimed,” said Angelia Almos, author of Horse Schools – The International Guide to Uni- versities, Colleges, Preparatory and Secondary Schools, and Specialty Equine Programs. Generally, college hopefuls tend to aim for the gold—that is the larger the scholarship, the more people apply for it, Almos said. So the “little” ones tend to get overlooked, even though acquiring lots of smaller scholarships is exactly how some students fund their entire college careers. “I met someone at an Expo where I was talking—a woman who basically financed her entire college education with $500 scholarships.” Almos said. “It takes time and effort to do that, but it can be done. You just have to plug away.” Lauren Dowler did exactly that—and graduated from Penn State University with a Bachelor’s degree in animal sciences and a minor in equine sciences by turn- ing over every proverbial money stone she could. First, she earned a scholarship for $1,000 a year from the college’s Department of Agriculture. Then she became a res- ident assistant, which allowed her to forgo paying for room and board, as well as qual- ified her to apply for other scholarships. As a member of Penn State’s equestrian team, “$500 here and $500 there” allowed her to show regularly in the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association. “I know it doesn’t sound like a lot, but here’s the thing—you have to take what you can get. Because it can get tough. You have to write essays and do a lot of the applica- tion process. But if you have the time, and you are dedicated to work through it, you can get yourself a good chunk of change.” By the end of each year, Dowler had put together between $1,500 and $2,000 a EQUESTRIAN OCTOBER 2007 69 year. Now a graduate student in equine nutrition at North Carolina University, Dowler feels she had the ultimate equine experience. She made and kept lots of friends, her alma mater (Penn State) came in second place in the nation in the 2006 Intercollegiate Horse Show Association and she got an education that will serve as an investment for the rest of her life. “And I didn’t have to blow through tons of money to do it,” she said with relief. Do It Now In addition to keeping your eyes open to opportunity, another big tip Almos passed along to prospective scholarship students is to apply as early as possible. “A lot of the scholarships come from associations, and for many of those you have to have the time to join the associations,” she continued. “Some of them require a year membership before you can apply for the scholarships. If you are applying for scholarships and hurrying, you have to discount those.” Even the beginning of your senior year can be too late because many organiza- tions require year-long memberships before applying for money. Some associations and groups (but not all) that offer scholarships include: • The American Morgan Horse Institute • The American Quarter Horse Association • The American Saddlebred Horse Association • The Arabian Horse Association • The National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association Pay Attention to the Details As development officer of the American Morgan Horse Institute, the charity organization for the American Morgan Horse Association, Sally Wadhams said her primary tip for the applicants is to pay attention to details. The Institute offers five $3,000 educational scholarships to young people active- ly involved with registered Morgan horses, and six additional scholarships that are won at the Grand National and World Championship Morgan Horse Show. Last year there were 35 applicants for the five educational scholarships. “Kids get highly motivated and they start rolling through the process without always making sure the application fits them,” Wadhams said. For example, young women apply for scholarships targeted to young men and vice versa. Or young people with all kinds of breeds of horses apply for the Morgan horse-specific scholarships. And some applicants forget to make sure their applica- tion is complete—including references and transcripts. It’s up to the applicant to make sure their references have sent in their recommendation letters and that the schools have supplied their transcripts, Wadhams said. “The application is either complete or not complete, and all things being equal, we don’t chase after the incom- pletes. This is a competitive process with lots of exception- al, wonderful young people applying,” she said. Forget the “Rich Kid” Stereotype Christina Kalinski grew up in Connecticut with the very clear understanding that if she wanted to ride, she needed to make that happen, because her parents could not afford to do Dreamstimes.com/Yemeky it for her. “When I was 11, they sat me down and told me it was getting too excessive for them and that it was not something they could afford at that level,” she said. There wasn’t enough money for a personal horse or expensive New England board- ing fees. Determined to ride anyway, Kalinski helped her trainer with tacking up and cleaning horses, mucking stalls and anything else Kalinski could do in exchange for a ride. It wasn’t long before the child became the “catch rider” around the barn, riding other people’s horses when they couldn’t, riding the trainer’s horses when she was too busy—riding for any reason at all. By the time Kalinski applied to and was accepted at St. Andrews University Pres- byterian College in North Carolina, she had developed a philosophy that kept her in horses. “Riding takes a lot of time and effort. If you don’t have the money, then you have to put in the time. I just went into St. Andrews and rode my butt off. I kept asking the 70 OCTOBER 2007 EQUESTRIAN trainers, ‘Is there any more I can do? Is there something else I can ride?’” Kalinski cleaned cobwebs, stalls and tack. And Kalinksi earned more than $8,500 in academic and riding scholarships to a private college. She is now a professional rider for hunter/jumper trainer Ralph Caristo in New York. The 24- year-old spends six months in New York and six months in Florida. “It’s pretty perfect for me right out of college. It’s awe- some to wake up in the morning and get to do what I love doing.” And Above All Else…Keep Trying! Al Cook Four years ago, Baldine talked herself out of the running for a scholarship before she even applied. In her own mind at least, her reasoning made perfect sense. She had good grades—a strong B average from a difficult private high school. “But Christina Kalinski competed during I knew there were kids out there who would have higher GPAs,” she explained. college in the Intercollegiate Horse Show She knew she was a good rider. “But coming from my own barn and being one of Association shows and the 2006 the best is different than seeing really good riders from all over the country. I kept think- American National Riding Commission ing, ‘Wow, I may not be that good.’” Nationals (shown here). She now rides Unconvinced by their daughter’s logic, Baldine’s parents told the teenager to dream professionally for Ralph Caristo. big anyway. You have to at least try, they told their daughter. Encouraged, Baldine wrote a long essay for a local equestrian scholarship that required prospective students to describe their past as well as hoped-for achievements. Both times Baldine was rejected. “They didn’t even notify me with a form letter,” remembers Baldine. “I found out when someone else got it instead of me. That really shot down my confidence.” Undaunted, Baldine’s parents rallied around their daughter. Keep trying, they told her. So Baldine applied to the University of Findlay, a private liberal arts college in Ohio where tuition, room and board can run upward of $30,000 a year. Randall Langston, Director of Undergraduate Admission at Findlay, said, “Stu- dents and families should not sell themselves short by making the assumption that they aren’t eligible for scholarships.” Findlay gave away $22 million in scholarship money last year. Back to the Barn Trainer and teacher step once again into the practice ring. The young blonde on the horse is grimacing and her thin shoulders stiffen with concen- tration as she prepares for another jump on her Thoroughbred. “It’s about the motivation to keep try- ing,” Baldine said from the sidelines. On her third scholarship essay Baldine wrote about how being a trainer would allow her to pass on her motivation to other young people. The acceptance and scholar- ship letter for an $8,000 annual academic schol- arship from Findlay’s equestrian program arrived shortly thereafter. Today, on a late summer day in Morris, IL, Bal- dine said she doesn’t go to work every day. She feels like she goes to vacation every day. Baldine’s student and horse jump one more time. “That is what I love about teaching you,” Bal- dine tells the teenager, whose face has broken into a huge smile. “You always come here and give me your best. And that is what it is always about.” ■ Lori Teresa Yearwood is a Pulitzer-nominated journalist based in Oregon. Among her passions is her website devoted to “an all-natural horse journey and the lessons that horses teach us.” Her writings on the topic can be found at www.NaturalHorseJourney.typepad.com. EQUESTRIAN OCTOBER 2007 71 The Nuts and Bolts of Applying for a College Scholarship Applying for a college scholarship can sound a lot more intimidating than it actually is. The process requires organization, work and deter- mination—but that’s something you can handle! Here are some tips that can help you reach your goals: Find Your Focus Figure out what kind of scholarships for which you qualify. You can do this by getting on the Internet and reading about the scholarship, or by calling the organization, association or school offering the scholar- ship. If the scholarship says it is for owners of registered Morgan horses and you have a Warmblood, don’t waste your time applying. Doing your research before beginning the application process can save you—and the administrators who receive the applications—a lot of time. Do not try to squeeze yourself into a scholarship that doesn’t fit you. Instead, spend your time applying for the ones that do. You’ll be a lot more successful. Give Yourself Enough Time The more time you give yourself, the more options you have. Some scholarships require association memberships of a year or more. A lot of advisors recommend starting your search no later than your junior year in high school. If you are a senior and you’re just starting the application process, don’t take yourself out of the running. Just know that your scholar- ship search may not have as many options as others. Dreamstime.com/Dave Herriman Follow the Directions If the application asks for a page, don’t write 10 pages. There is a rea- son applications ask for what they ask for, and sometimes those rea- sons include finding out who can and can’t follow directions! Follow the Rules There are now more equestrian scholarships available than ever before. Some of those include athletic scholarships such as the NCAA equestrian scholarships provided to certain universities Writing the Essay (check with specific universities for more information and/or go to This is your chance to communicate how you are different than (www.varsityequestrian.com). These scholarships require that everyone else. Don’t be tempted to try and impress people with fancy prospective students and their parents contact the riding coaches in words or stories that come across as one-dimensional advertise- only very specific ways. If these rules are violated, the student can ments. Instead, take a deep breath and write about what makes you, render himself or herself ineligible. So follow the rules. you. Tell the truth—that’s always a lot more interesting and memo- rable than trying to sound like what you think someone wants to hear. Ask For Help If you feel confused or overwhelmed, don’t be afraid to ask for help. When you answer the question in the essay, give specific examples of There are a lot of people who have applied for scholarships who want your experiences, strengths, challenges and hopes. People like to to help you succeed and who would be delighted to help. Guidance read stories that paint pictures with words. It gives the essay a sense counselors are obvious choices, but so are riding instructors, grooms, of life. Just remember to stay on topic. mentors, judges and other riders. Put the word out that you want help and need money for college. You may be surprised at the sup- Make a Good First Impression port you receive. When you send in an application, it’s a lot like stepping into the show ring. Your application represents you in much the same way your Get the Basics Together horse represents you. So make sure it looks good. It should be type- Get some filing folders and a calendar to keep track of application written or very clearly printed. It should be free of grammar and deadlines. Most every scholarship or source of funding is going to spelling errors. It should be complete. ask for the following: The great thing about the scholarship application process is that you • Transcripts can give yourself time to get it right. Give yourself the opportunity to • Standardized test scores write rough drafts. Then come back to it with a fresh eye. You’ll see a • Financial information about your parents or legal guardians lot of things you wouldn’t ordinarily see that way. • Requested essay(s) • Letters of Recommendation (Double check with your references to make absolutely sure they sent your letters.) 72 OCTOBER 2007 EQUESTRIAN