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The Beginning of Many Beginnings

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

I have been typing so many different introductions to this post that I've decided to start it off by explaining how much trouble I'm having closing out my chapter of Mission: Accepted. My thoughts about the college application process are frantically jumbling around in my brain like they're in a pinball machine! I guess that's mostly because this entire experience is not quite over -- and yet, I must come to some kind of conclusion.

At my Minds Matter graduation, I had to give a PowerPoint presentation with a few other seniors to a group of sophomore and junior mentees about the college application process. My main thought was: These kids are going to forget 90 percent of what we tell them... and I am so glad they will. Who am I to tell them how to go about this process? Or what to do first, second, and third? I am merely one senior, and my personal experiences may not be someone else's. But I do have one important piece of advice that I think applies to everyone: You have to understand yourself and really know what you want in a college. For example, I knew that I wanted to go to school in a city, so I applied to colleges in Boston, New York, Chicago, and Washington, D.C. Some people aren't too sure of what they're looking for, though. Take my friend Leroy, the French-braider: He was still deciding between Tufts University and the University of San Francisco only weeks before the May 1 deposit deadline! He flew out to San Fran to see how he liked the school, but had trouble deciding even after that visit -- he liked Tufts better academically, but loved USF for its location. In the end, education won out; he decided location could wait until later.

I think understanding what I wanted from the beginning -- or close to it, at least -- made my applications so much stronger. I also understood where I was coming from when I started working on them. I go to a high school with a graduating class of only 49 students. Even though I love the close-knit, sometimes dysfunctional-family vibe at my school, I've always known that I want to go to a big college. My high school tries, but it still doesn't offer as many extracurriculars or electives as larger high schools do. Because of this, I knew size and range of offerings would be my starting points when I was deciding where to apply. I had to make sure that the school I attend offers a wide range of courses, electives, clubs, and sports. I'm confident that NYU will quench my thirsts.

I don't doubt that NYU will live up to my expectations or that I'll feel completely at ease there, but I'll still be homesick. That's how it's always been with me -- whether I'm 40 minutes or four hours away! I've been in such a comfort zone for the past 18 years that it's hard to believe I'll soon break out of it entirely. For the past two years, I've attended summer programs outside of Boston for a few weeks at a time, but going to college is different. NYU will be my new second home inside of the pulsating island of Manhattan in New York City. There will be new places to eat, new coffee joints to study or do homework at, new experiences and new memories. I'll be making new friends while still attempting to stay in touch with some of my very best friends in Boston. For the past few months, this college application process has made the thought of graduation more important than anything; it was as if I would only feel content with graduating if I successfully completed the process. But in reality, everything senior year has to offer (i.e., applications, finals, prom, etc.) is like finishing one small percentage of a very long journey

In a few months, I'll be saying goodbye to family, friends, and my dog, Kiwi. I'm nervous about living with a new person and am hoping that I don't create a shell of shyness around myself once I leave Boston. But I keep replaying the following lyrics in my head, and Alicia Keys's voice immediately puts me at ease:

"Now you're in New York,
These streets will make you feel brand new,
Big lights will inspire you,
Let's hear it for New York, New York, New Yorrrrrrrk!"

NYU and NYC, here I -- Jada Alexander from a lil' ol' high school in Boston -- come.