For high-achieving students as accomplished as Montgomery High School's Madison Bradshaw, picking the right college means weighing a number of priorities, including campus prestige and academic rigor.
But for Bradshaw, a 4.85 GPA student who is first in her class of 434, finding a campus near a horse stable was one of the most important requirements.
"I'm going to take my horses to college with me," the 18-year-old equestrian rider said. "All the schools I'm looking at, there's a stable within 20 minutes of campus."
They include Princeton University, Dartmouth College, the University of Virginia, Emory University and a couple of University of California campuses. Bradshaw is a top show jumping competitor and said horse riding and competing have become an important part of her life. In fact, the young rider credits much of her success and focus to riding.
"It has forced me to be balanced," she said. "I have to manage my time, because I miss so much school to compete. I've had to be able to balance academics and riding. It has really shaped how I've grown as a person and as a student."
Bradshaw spent her early years in Marin County before moving with her family to Glen Ellen when she was 3. Her father works for Autodesk, a multinational software corporation, and her mother is a stay-at-home mom in charge of the family farm.
Bradshaw attended Sonoma County Day School and chose Montgomery High School after looking at options like Sonoma Academy, Maria Carrillo High School and the former all-girls Ursuline High School. She was attracted by Montgomery's International Baccalaureate program.
"Montgomery had the best academics, the most rigorous program," she said. "I couldn't speak more highly of it."
Through riding, Bradshaw got involved with JustWorld International, a nonprofit humanitarian group founded in 2003 by former professional show jumper Jessica Newman. The group funds basic education, nutrition, health and vocational programs for impoverished kids in Honduras, Cambodia, Guatemala and Brazil.
Bradshaw is currently the Northern California Ambassador coordinator for the group, pledging some of her horse show winnings to the group.
She has been involved in the group's Los Patojos Project in Guatemala, where she has visited three times.
"Riding has given me an international perspective on almost everything I do," she said.
Bradshaw said she's considering a career in social entrepreneurship, "basically bringing positive change to areas that need development."