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Ashley Castillo Headshot

A Perfectionist

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This is part of our monthly series 'Mission: Accepted,' in partnership with Minds Matter, which chronicles the lives of four students as they apply for college in their senior year.

I remember shopping for my senior year school supplies at the beginning of September. I color-coded and labeled all my supplies, anxiously waiting for the first day of school. I neatly laid out my outfit and packed my bag, but no amount of preparation could have prepared me for what was to come.

I'm the type of person who likes to plan and be in control of everything. I plan my afternoons down to the last minute: from estimating how long each homework assignment will take, to how long it will take me to eat dinner. Yet, with the college application process, there's a lot that's out of my control. I can decide who to ask for recommendations, but I have no control over what they write about me. I can study my butt off for the ACT and spend hours doing practice problems, but it all comes down to how I perform during those three hours on one random Saturday afternoon. The whole application and process is that way: You can put all of your hard work into it and try to present yourself in the best way possible, but after you submit that application, your future is in the hands of the admissions counselors -- or at least that's how it feels to a first-semester senior. Now, that all might sound terribly pessimistic and a little scary, but let me clarify: It's not that I'm completely hopeless and expect the worst, it's just that the college process involves so many external factors and, as the control freak that I am, that's not something I handle very well.

When I received my class schedule in September, I thought, not bad. I'm taking three AP classes, which are challenging and consist of a tough workload, but, other than that, my schedule is filled with electives. What I wish is that my guidance counselor would have added another slot in my schedule called "college" -- the application process is like an extra class that nobody reminds you about -- and the final grade is way more important than just getting an A.

As you can tell, I'm the overachiever, the perfectionist nerd that hands in her homework early, but there's no such thing as being "ahead" in the college process. As soon as I finish my schoolwork, I start working on applications. When I'm not editing an essay, I'm filling out endless questionnaires about my family background and extracurricular activities or sending my recommenders emails to remind them of deadlines. It never ends. No one warns you about this, but even if they did, no matter how much you prepare for it, you won't be ready. Despite all this, the application process has taught me I can't control everything. Sometimes you just have to do your best and trust that everything will be alright and you'll end up where you're meant to be -- and maybe that's not so bad after all.

I'm applying to 12 schools, including early decision to the University of Pennsylvania which means my application has a November 1 deadline. Despite all of my struggles and fears, I'm extremely hopeful, and I know I've done everything I possibly could to ensure that these tough few months will be worth it when I get that "Congratulations!" email.