Equestrian College Scholarships
At every level, equestrian sports are costly in both time and money. Those investments can provide nice dividends, however, when it's time for families to tackle the high costs of college. Riding-related scholarships range wildly: from $500 offered by a local organization to "full rides" from schools with National Collegiate Athletic Association equestrian teams. The full rides (full tuition paid scholarships) are generally offered to only a handful of "blue-chip" recruits each year, but the determined college-bound equestrian, usually with his or her parents' help, can find cash for college from a variety of sources.
Good grades are even more important than good riding for admission and scholarship prospects at any school. "No school is going to turn down a good student," Peter notes. "Don't just rely on your riding. Keep your grades up so you can be an asset to that school." Compared to many sports, often the more mainstream sports, equestrian has an advantage in that its young athletes are typically also top students. Coaches and admissions and financial aid personnel often consider an applicant who juggles high academics with a demanding sport like riding to be a cut above the competition because that indicates she can handle the challenges of collegiate success.
High-school riders looking to parlay equestrian accomplishments into help with college costs first need to sort scholarship sources into three broad categories. The first two are the universities themselves: either a school with an NCAA team or those with teams that compete in the IHSA system. Equestrian associations, from the US Equestrian Federation to a local riding club, comprise the third category.
Getting recruited for an NCAA equestrian team is the best chance for a substantial scholarship. Per NCAA rules, these teams can offer 15 full rides. These cover tuition, student fees, room, board and books. At present, there are 23 universities with NCAA equestrian teams. A few of them, including Ivy Leaguers Cornell and Brown, do not offer any athletic scholarships, as is the tradition with NCAA Division III schools that generally emphasize academics over athletics. Some of these schools comply with NCAA rules, but their teams compete on the IHSA circuit.
Universities with teams that compete outside of the NCAA league comprise a much larger pool of possibilities for riding in college. IHSA currently has more than 370 schools. Per the format of the competition, these teams welcome riders of all experience levels. Unlike NCAA in which equestrian is strictly a women's sport, many IHSA squads welcome men.
Described by Newsweek magazine as one of the 25 "New Ivies," 2018 IHSA national hunt seat champion Skidmore College has a team of 30 riders. Head coach Cindy Ford estimates that between 40 and 50 percent of them receive some form of financial aid from the school.
Equestrian is one of several sports taken very seriously by the Saratoga Springs, New York, school. As such, the team typically has access to two or three substantial scholarships every year. These are earmarked for Skidmore athletic coaches who have their eyes on an impact player and want to make it more feasible and/or attractive for the student to attend. "This would be an exceptional individual who has a very strong possibility of making the riding team," Cindy explains.
"If there's a good rider who I want on my team, I will work with financial aid and admissions and the family to see what help he or she is eligible for."
Call the office to make an appointment to discuss scholarship opportunities for yourself or your child.
Our very own Emily attended Skidmore and rode for them. She is an incredible person to talk to about the school.