The Academic Equestrian: Choosing the Right School

Haley reflects on why she chose her college.


It’s a common misconception that academics are really the only important thing to consider in choosing a college. While that’s ultimately why I’m here, I can’t attribute all of Alfred University’s charm to its academic programs.

When I made my decision to come to school here, several people seemed shocked or even affronted that I had chosen this school. One of my teachers in high school even went so far as to say, “You’re going to Alfred? That’s a party school! You won’t learn anything there, it will be a terrible influence!” Others have looked at me suspiciously and told me that I was only going there because of the riding team. I would like to frown on those people for presuming that they could do my thinking for me, and also for judging a college by its supposed lack of any other merits besides booze and horses.

I would like to share a surprising and little-known fact: every college is a party school if that’s what you’re focused on. And while the riding team was a draw for me, there were several other schools with riding teams that I might have considered.

In my opinion, you get out of college what you put into it. If I had wanted to skate by at Alfred with straight Cs and extensive knowledge in the best places to party, that would be possible. If I had wanted to spend every second of spare time at the barn and neglect other opportunities, I could have done it. However, I’m not here to put in minimal effort and “do my four years” just to rush out with a degree and find a mediocre job. The difference is that I have the freedom to do as I please and to decide what I value in an education. I know that there are ample opportunities for me here, I know that the English literature and writing program is as strong as any, and I know that I can improve myself through an education here.

I chose Alfred University partially because of academics, location, the equestrian team, size, cost, and various clubs and sports offered here. I also chose it for less-concrete reasons: I feel at home here, I love the diversity of ideas and kindness I’ve found on campus, and the riding trails around the barn offer the perfect getaway for a girl and her horse when things get crazy.

Go riding!

Haley Ruffner is attending Alfred University, majoring in English and minoring in Business and Equestrian Studies. She has a green Quarter Horse, At Last an Invitation “Cricket,” and he is also “enrolled” at Alfred. She rides western and hunt seat and also loves to rein and trail ride.

haley bio

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