11/19/2012 09:16 am ET Updated Jan 19, 2013

A Decision That Will Impact the Rest of My Life

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.

School, cross-country, homework, bed: This has been my regular fall routine for the past four years. But now, I add college applications to this list. Looking for a good college to apply to has been a very difficult task. Narrowing down my list of 20 schools to eight is not easy -- they all seem important, and trying to figure out which ones to apply to is daunting.

For as long as I can remember, I have been an indecisive person -- even about little things, such as which shirt to buy or what candy to eat. The only difference now is that I am making a decision that will impact the rest of my life. I want to get my list down to eight schools because that seems like the realistic number of applications I can balance with my schoolwork without feeling too overwhelmed. I plan to major in a law-enforcement field, such as criminology or forensic science, and am looking for schools with good programs. So far, my list ranges from Harvard and Stanford to Marquette and Southern Illinois University.

The ability to balance things has never been one of my strengths. I'm not always very good at fitting things into my schedule, and I'm worse at organization. If you take a look inside my school locker or my room, you'll find a mess; even I sometimes have trouble locating my things. However, because of college applications, I have been trying to get more organized this year. I usually finish cross-country practice around 5:30 p.m. and get home by six; homework can take anywhere from 30 minutes to three hours, depending on the workload. I feel confident, though, that I can squeeze the applications in, and my parents have already helped me make up a schedule -- some days after homework, I will work on college and scholarship applications. This means I will probably be spending less time hanging out with family and friends and watching TV, but it will be worth it because I am going to be deciding on the next four years of my life.

The good news is that I get encouragement and motivation from a lot of people. At school, my friends give me support, telling me that I can get into any school I apply to. I know this is not necessarily true, but I still welcome their support. At home, I get encouragement from my parents and younger brother. They push me to apply to schools they think I might like and for scholarships that will help me get there. Some of the schools we talk about are in-state because my family wants me to stay close to home -- but they also want me to have a good education, no matter where the school is. At Minds Matter, a nonprofit mentoring program I attend every week, my mentors push me to apply to highly selective schools. They also help me by giving feedback on my essays. With all of these people in my corner, I am positive that I will be able to get through this and juggle everything.