Our family's college search was a lot easier than some. Early on, we knew that we would have a significantly smaller universe of universities to consider.
First of all, the prospective schools had to offer an Equine Studies program. And not just Equine Studies: Pre-Veterinary. (My daughter decided she didn't want to be a vet the first time a beloved pony was put down at her stable.) We were looking for Equine Studies: Business.
Yes, that's an actual major and an actual, quite viable, career. Believe you me, there's a lot of money to be made (or, in our case, spent) in the business of horses.
Next, the schools had to focus on English riding, not Western. Good-bye University of Montana and University of Colorado, for example.
Then, the schools had to have equestrian teams. And not just "Hunter Jumper." Three-phase Eventing, the triathlon of the equine world (dressage, stadium and cross-country) was our — make that, her — focus.
And finally, there were some non-horse criteria to take into consideration, believe it or not. The schools had to be co-ed; and they had to be near enough to a city to allow my daughter to see her favorite bands. (For better or worse, when she isn't a rider, she's a groupie.)
According to The Washington Post, there were some 5,300 colleges in the United States. According to my daughter, there were four.
And, now there's only one.
Having completed the Common App and some very easy supplemental essay, résumé and riding requirements (two of the schools asked for 5-minute videos), my daughter did what every college-bound senior does. She waited. Luckily, she didn't have to wait long. In fact, she knew by early November about two of the schools (the two front runners, as it happened), another by Thanksgiving, and the fourth by January.
She had until May 1st to make up her mind, and for a while there it seemed like she was going to take all that time. Once again, I had to remind myself that I'm not her and she's not me. Back in the fall of 1979, I received an acceptance from my first choice (early-decision) school and I never looked back. One and done. As time went by, my daughter knocked one, then two, then three of the four schools out of the running. But, she still didn't pull the trigger.
"Why hasn't she committed?" I moaned to my husband when she wasn't in earshot. "Oh no. Is she going to make a case for a gap year?" Other, less stressed, parents assured me that she would make the decision official when she was ready.
A few nights ago, we were out for dinner with another couple when my phone rang. It was my daughter's mobile, so I excused myself and left the table.
"I just wanted you to know that I'm going to post tonight," she told me.
"What does that mean?" I asked.
"Oh." Silence. "What made you decide? Are you happy? Are you excited?"
"Hmm. I dunno."
And that was it. No big deal, no fireworks, no jumping for joy. She hung up and I went back to dinner. Her post simply read the name of the chosen institution and "Class of 2020!" Like so many other huge events in our eighteen years together, this one happened with a lot less fanfare that I expected. Of course, that's more her business than mine. As it should be. And now, the countdown begins in earnest.
From 5,300 to four to one. One and done.
If you've enjoyed this post, I invite you to order the book Lovin' the Alien here.