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Sorry, But I'm Not Just 'One Of Those Kids'

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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.

Thinking about the future is a very, very intimidating process. I mean, everything we do now basically constitutes what we may be able to do tomorrow and even later. For many seniors such as me, the future, right now, means one thing -- college. As you can imagine, there are long nights where I pull my hair and where my only companion is coffee, as I contemplate what I want to do with my life. That's what this blog is about -- my process, my ups, my downs, my happiness and my dread. I don't mean to sound redundant, but it may happen anyway. I just want to offer my own perspective from my personal experiences with the application process. So here goes nothing, and I hope you don't think I stink.

Actually, before I begin, allow me to share a bit of my background. I'm a 17-year-old boy from a Latino and African-American descent, raised by a single-parent and it just so happens that I don't live within the best community in Los Angeles. The community of South Central has a common norm: most students will not graduate from high school nor attend college. The dropout rate of high school students is ever increasing within my community and many students do not make it to their senior year. The majority of kids are not influenced by positive role models or exemplary figures, but rather gangs, violence and drugs. School, evidently, is not a primary focus and students feel more inclined to join gangs than to open a new textbook about the history of the United States.

If someone was to take a glimpse of me and knew the community from which I come, society says that I would have to be labeled as another "one of those kids." I mean, come on. Obviously, based off these facts, I would be just another "one of those kids," right?

Wrong. I'm here to tell you that I'm glad it's not what it looks like.

School has always been a part of my daily life since I was about 4 years-old. My mom has been the influence that has encouraged me (I guess you can say, pressured me) to continue my education and excel. Maybe it's because of the fact that she only attended high school; or maybe the fact that my brother dropped out of college; or maybe it's the fact that my father didn't graduate with a degree. What does all of this mean? It's likely that I may be the first of my generation to graduate from college in my immediate family... for now my first hurdle is the application process. But I'm not just going through the motion; I plan to stick with my goals and will do anything that it takes because I am going to college.

August 1st was the beginning of the college application season. I remember when I was just a freshman and my father told me that four years of high school would be over before I knew it. I simply laughed it off and because four years is a very long time. Now, three years later, August 1st has passed and I have one more year to get through. I look back at my father's words and realize how true they really were. My own application process started just a few days later when I created my very own Common Application login. I remember clicking the "Create an Account" button and thinking to myself that this is it: "I'm applying to college." I was nervous, yet, excited to start the process because college was the next step in my journey for the future.

Don't even get me started on my college list. Well, I guess I just did. I had a few schools in mind for my list by talking to counselors and mentors of mine. I researched them as much as I could via College Board and their websites. My college list was a bit extensive but I wanted schools that had a focus in political science, a major that I am strongly considering. My list is still not complete, but I am eliminating colleges almost weekly, and adding new ones along; the list generally fluctuates between 10 to 19 schools. Yeah.

So far, the most rewarding part of the application process has been submitting my first application to California State University Dominguez Hills. Though my goals are higher, a completed application is an application nonetheless, and I was ecstatic. The first choice on my list is Harvard University. I attended a program there this past summer and met many extraordinary people while taking rigorous courses. I've placed myself in a position where I'm even able to consider such a prestigious school. I've always had a mentality of either go big or go home. Harvard reached out to me to consider applying and I have successfully submitted my application under the Restrictive Early Action process. I await my decision on December 15th (it's really nerve-wrecking).

Now the list is one thing but the essays seem to never stop, yet in writing them, I learn a little bit more about myself as an individual and I hope to convey this to college admission officers who read my personal statements. Writing has been a genuine interest of mine and I enjoy finding new, creative ways to express my voice and story to those who read my missives. No essay is "perfect" and it's a long process of editing, but I have gotten into the habit of re-writing essays and filling out applications, so I hope that by the end of this process I will have become an expert in college applications.

Several years ago, I would not have considered college as an option, but thanks to the support of my school and educational programs such as Minds Matter of Los Angeles, I became college-driven and will be college-bound. I most definitely will experience challenges and stereotypes at any college that I attend because I supposedly won't belong there. That is what society expects at least. Coming from two major minority groups (oxymoron anyone); and living within such an unsuccessful community, I am supposed to follow the norm and not think about going to college, let alone a prestigious one.

I'm glad it's not what it looks like and I will not let these stereotypes bring me down.

I'm college bound, so society is just going to have to deal with it.