11/15/2011 08:36 am ET Updated Jan 15, 2012

Let's Do It With a Smile, Class of 2012!

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.

"You have reached the maximum amount of schools to add on the common app." This is what appeared on my common application as I clicked to add my 21st school to The List. I looked at it; so this is what these next few months will be all about, huh? I couldn't grasp any of it... not at that moment, anyway. Fast-forward a week or two, and I finally began to feel the pressure of the application process once I checked out the supplements required for each of my schools. I almost cried. I ranted to my mom about the supplements -- you know, the ones that require a bunch of essays, with questions that seem to incorporate reverse psychology (the University of Chicago goes so far as to issue the warning, "Do not write about reverse psychology"). My mom brushed me off with a "You'll be fine, honey," but the woman had to see what I was talking about for herself. When she did, she started laughing, and then I bursted out laughing right along with her. But you see, we weren't laughing because it was funny. We were laughing because otherwise we'd be crying. Laughter eases the college application process, I kid you not.

The majority of seniors at my school don't seem to need laughter to ease anything. Apparently they're just fine. My best friend and I were chit-chatting one day in his personal salon (aka his advisory class); he was French-braiding my hair (as always), and I was excitedly talking about colleges and my essays as he yanked my head back and forth to get the braid just the way he wanted. I asked, "Why does everyone seem so calm about all of this? Are we the crazy ones?" To which he replied, "I know! It's like they're not worried at all..." My other classmates just go about their days and rarely even bring up the subject of college. So some days I feel like the weird, nerdy girl who cares way too much about her grades. Other days, I just realize that's the nature of my school: for students to gradually give up on their education as the years go by. I'm a part of the minority that refuses to be infected by contagious school-related diseases like senioritis.

Though the students don't seem too excited about college, teachers and guidance counselors fill up those dull spaces -- as well as the huge bulletin boards listing all of the schools that alumni of the Josiah Quincy Upper School are currently attending. Teachers ask me about my plans for the future, and they get a big smile on their faces when I tell them I'm thinking of doing exactly what they do. Guidance counselors email me and pull me out of class for a few minutes to talk about college info sessions and open houses. It's all very exciting -- and very scary. I can't wait to find out what these next few months bring, but I must admit, I am completely and utterly terrified of getting decision letters back from colleges in April: the moment of truth.

The past month has been the beginning of an emotional roller coaster, and I am ready to hop on -- I love roller coasters. But mostly, the past month has been an emotional preparation, an understanding of who I am in my high school. As I walk the halls and pass by ninth-graders, I can hardly remember myself in their shoes. All I know is that I used to look up at the seniors and think to myself, I have such a long way to go. Little did I know back then that two very intelligent human beings, also known as my parents, were absolutely right when they told me on the first day of ninth grade, "Time is going to go by so fast. Before you know it, you're going to be graduating."

My first month as a senior was both the beginning of the end of my high school career and the beginning of a long college application process (don't worry: The List has been shortened to 16 schools now!). Let's do it, and let's do it with a smile, class of 2012.