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Jennifer Islam Headshot

A Different Cinderella Story

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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.

When I was a little girl and watched A Cinderella Story, I wanted to attend Princeton because, according to the movie, both princesses and Hilary Duff went there. Things changed.

I think that applying to college will actually be harder than college itself. There's so much to it, especially when my number one enemy is involved: the unknown. I loathe the unknown. Because of the unknown, my "Über-Cool College List" was still unfinished into September. I don't know what career path I want to follow, so I've been torn between choosing colleges that have good programs in various subjects (such as NYU, my dream school) and colleges that are known for being strong in a particular area (such as St. John's and its medical program). I feel like I won't be able to figure this out quickly, either. And I feel like if I can't decide on my major soon, then I won't be able to figure it out at all. I don't know what to do. And I don't know what to do about the fact that I don't know what to do. Is it better to be undecided now and change my major later on? (I know this is a relatively minor problem, but I tend to stress over the little things.)

Over the summer, I researched and came up with a reasonable list of four schools. Then Minds Matter came along (more about them later) and informed me that my list was shorter than my five-foot self. So for the past few weeks, I have been intensely researching various schools. College Prowler has been my top resource, and I highly recommend it to everybody: College students rate the best and the worst of colleges and provide insightful comments about significant matters such as dining, housing, and location. This has definitely been helpful to me in finishing up my list. It used to be full of "maybes" and "definites," and I felt so behind and wished the tortoise and the hare story was true. But now, the "definites" have conquered the "maybes." My list of schools is perfectly balanced and I don't want to change a thing. I have a reach (NYU), a lot of targets (Syracuse, Stony Brook, Binghamton, Rutgers, and Pace), and my safeties (Hunter, Brooklyn, and Queens).

Figuring out my "Über-Cool College List" often interfered with my "Essays to Write" list. When I didn't know exactly where I was applying, I couldn't write my essays! Past senior classes warned me about this and advised me to write them in the summer. I listened -- partially. I wrote about two essays and a bunch of outlines. But now I need to press the gas pedal. It's stressful with school, clubs, and everything else in the mix, but I'm beginning to put my free periods to good use. Point one for Jenn!

The best part of all this is that I have more people helping me than Henry Ford had in his assembly line. I have friends who are excellent in English and can edit for me (whether it's adding a line that sounds like me or deleting an unnecessary comma). One of them is my "life coach" and helps me through all of my daily dilemmas. I have my drama department people who always lend a hand, or an ear. Most important, there's Minds Matter, where I have two mentors who guide me through the day-to-day struggles of schedule changes and classes, as well as the development of the aforementioned "Über-Cool College List" (Occasionally, they pamper me. I like it when they pamper me.) I have a writing advisor who reminds me of Elle Woods -- the smarter, wiser version who also happens to like turquoise eyeliner (perky, blonde, and smart is a very rare breed). And I have a team leader who makes (emphasis on "makes") me stay on top of everything and is the best baker I know (sorry, Mom). I must be pretty lucky. Well, me and the other 150 kids in Minds Matter's New York chapter.

Sometimes I wish my life was a movie and that the stressful aspects only lasted for as long as a two-minute scene, instead of for four months. It's okay, though; in a few months, unlike in the movies, my happiness won't be an act.