An Eventer Reflects as Graduation Approaches

Eventing was a fairly major factor in my decision to come to Albion.

The process of caring for and conditioning my horse had solidified my childhood dream of becoming a vet into wanting to pursue a career as an equine sports medicine specialist. Veterinary schools are notoriously difficult to get in to, however, so I knew I needed an undergraduate program that would set me up for success and Albion offered so many unique ways to help make my resume shine.

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Emma and Capote on cross-country.

The Institute for Healthcare Professions not only offered me classes in preparing for veterinary medicine but supplemented those classes with constant personalized advice on scheduling classes, filling out applications, preparing for vet school interviews, and finding internships. That level of commitment to individual student success is utterly unique to Albion. The Healthcare Institute, Albion’s Honors Program, and the study abroad center helped me to fit a semester at the University of Glasgow into my packed schedule of double majoring and fulfilling veterinary school prerequisites.

Then there’s FURSCA.

Albion’s one-of-a-kind Foundation for Undergraduate Research, Scholarship, and Creative Activity (FURSCA) allowed me to do two summers of research with a faculty member. A FURSCA stipend is comparable to wages from most summer jobs and the fact that I had designed and completed two projects as an undergraduate really made my application to vet schools stand out. At pretty much every other undergraduate school, students have to search and beg for research opportunities; Albion not only paid me to do projects of my own, they also funded trips to present my work at national conferences.

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Emma and Owen school outside at the Held Equestrian Center last fall.

The fact that Albion is a small school also made it easy to develop relationships with faculty who could offer lots of help with tricky classes, suggest research projects and – crucially – write letters of recommendation that were genuinely representative of me as a student and a person. I know a lot of students at bigger schools struggle to find one professor who will do more than fill in their name on a pre-written letter of recommendation; at Albion, I easily know five or six professors who can write me great letters of recommendation.

All of this definitely paid off. Over winter break I received my acceptance letter from Michigan State’s College of Veterinary Medicine and it was easily one of the best moments of my life. (It rivaled the day I got my first horse.) I cannot express how grateful I am for the extraordinary levels of support and the truly unique opportunities that Albion provided at every turn to help me achieve my goal. [Editor’s note: Emma also received an acceptance letter from Purdue University’s School of Veterinary Medicine in mid-February.]

Albion’s commitment to providing a top-notch liberal arts education was also a major selling point for me. When I was applying to colleges, I knew I wanted to double major in English and biology because I thought it would help me stand out in the veterinary admissions process. As an eventer, I do both dressage and cross country, so why shouldn’t I get to study very different fields in school as well?

When I told people at other schools what I wanted to do, I got raised eyebrows and suggestions that I pick one major and maybe a minor. At Albion, the response was, “Great! You’ll fit right in!”

As strange as my choice in majors may have sounded, it’s turned out to have been an excellent path for a pre-vet student. My mom graduated from Albion with a double major in economics and English; she always impressed on me that if you want to succeed in any field you can’t just know about your field, you have to be able to explain that information effectively to others. Veterinary medicine is no different. Schools put a heavy emphasis on candidate’s personal statements and the various supplemental essays that each school requires. My many English classes really prepared to have my writing stand out. What’s more, I was able to highlight the fact that studying English will help me to explain complex medical terms and issues to my clients. My experience in eventing taught me that diversifying your training is the only way to succeed and I’m so happy that I found a school that feels the same way.

One of my biggest factors for choosing Albion was, of course, the Held Equestrian Center. I knew I wanted to continue riding in college because it’s my passion but, as a pre-vet student, I also knew I needed to get meaningful experience both working with animals and taking on leadership positions. At pretty much any other school with a top-notch equestrian program, you have to be an equine science major to get the full benefit of it. Albion doesn’t offer an equine science degree so economics, biology, and psychology majors all get equal consideration for teams, lessons, and positions in the equestrian club. I’ve been on the dressage team all four years, served as club secretary for a year, and now share the role of dressage team captain with my fellow eventer, Paige Beliveau. Our coach, Danielle Menteer, ensures that all riders have plenty of time for homework at shows and always makes sure that we put academics first – even if horses are a very, very close second.

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Emma and Owen, out for a snowy afternoon hack.

Finally, eventing taught me the importance of community, from the coaches, friends, and family who help you every step of the way to the fellow competitors who wish you good luck on the way to cross-country. At Albion, I’ve found the same sort of close-knit, genuinely supportive community. It truly feels like everyone – from professors to fellow students to the campus safety guys who drive students to the barn – are always on your side:

I’m still friends with people I had a class with freshman year.

My organic chemistry professor invited my class over to his house to watch Frozen after a particularly stressful exam.

The professor for my medical micro-anatomy anatomy class brought a coffee maker and cups to every one of our 8 a.m. classes.

Most importantly, the big gold letters on the backs of the Albion College Equestrian jackets are an open invitation to sit down with whoever is wearing it and talk about horses.

I love eventing for the ever-present drive to improve, the constant and dynamic challenge, and the welcoming and supportive community that makes you feel like part of the family from day one. I love Albion for exactly the same reasons.

Emma Stapley is a senior English and biology major from Rockford, Michigan who will graduate in May and attend vet school, where she will make every attempt to follow in the career path of her hero, Dr. James Herriot. She is the proud owner of Thoroughbreds Capote and Owen, a passionate eventer, and also provided wonderful insight into what it’s like to study abroad during her time in Scotland with her blog at https://capoteskid.wordpress.com/.

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