12/09/2011 08:45 am ET Updated Feb 08, 2012

That Feeling You Get

You know that feeling you get when you think you failed an exam but then find out that you actually aced it? That's the feeling I got when I finished my college list a few weeks ago -- the feeling of success, joy, and "yes!" But you know that other feeling you get, when you raise your hand to give the right answer, and then discover that you're actually wrong? Well, that's the feeling I got when I found out I need to work on my college list a little bit more -- the feeling of disappointment, sadness, and "no!"

It all started with a meeting with my college adviser, who is also my assistant principal, who is also my acting teacher (these things happen when you go to a small school). With years of experience in the college application process, he helped me reorganize my list and told me that I might need to add more safeties and should research other schools. Sure, researching is excruciating, but I find it fun when it comes to college. Mr. Spiffy Man, as I call him, also told me some jaw-dropping, shocking news (for me at least): NYU might actually be a target for me instead of a reach! This means I am closer than I thought to my one of my favorite schools! The thought of having a strong chance at attending one of my dream schools makes me all jittery inside! It also makes me feel more assured about applying to the other, more selective schools on my list. At the same time, I need to remember that I cannot get my hopes too high because nothing is ever absolute in the college world.

Later that day, my brother-in-law gave me his opinion on my college list (not that I always listen to him; he likes to talk, and I often ignore him). He suggested that I apply to a few Ivies, like Princeton or Yale. My response? Well, the conversation went something like this:

Me: "Heck no! I am not good enough for an Ivy."

Him: "Why not?"

Me: "Because my grades are just below their standards."

Him: "Do they have requirements?"

Me: "No, but their statistics--"

Him: "Statistics don't mean anything. Just try out. You never know."

I usually don't agree with him, but in this case, he was right. The application process is a lot like Pretty Little Liars: You never know what will happen. Hunter (my safety) could reject me. Yale (my new reach) could accept me and offer me a full ride (that's college-speak for a four-year full-tuition scholarship). The point is: I'll never know unless I try.

Wait, reader! Before you "try" applying to 34,957,430 schools, make sure you look at their programs first! I researched Princeton and decided that it's not for me because it does not offer a theater major. Though I am unsure of what I want to do in the future, I'd like the option of pursuing an acting/directing/producing/playwriting career. It's important that my college offer all the majors I'm interested in. Another reason I decided against Princeton is that it requires subject tests, and I don't want to take them. They're an extra hassle on top of everything else.
I used another one of my favorite online resources, College Week Live, to check out some additional schools and figure out which ones I can really see myself attending. The site lets you speak directly to students and admissions officers from different schools, either by webcam or chat, to ask questions and get advice. It has helped me tremendously. I chatted with students from Stony Brook and Rutgers, and one of the girls from Stony Brook shared her own experiences with me and sent me helpful links that answered my questions. When I asked her about school spirit, she sent a picture of a guy in a red morph suit at one of their football games. Other high school students are also in on the chats, and they often ask questions I'd never thought about, so we feed off of each other. Plus, whenever you log in, you are automatically entered for various scholarships and prizes. I once won a $100 gift card to Amazon!

College Week Live has been so helpful to me that my "Über-Cool College List" is no longer in order of preference. Now it is completely random. I'd be happy going to any one of these schools. They all have what I want (theatre and pre-med options, plus strong school spirit). I don't have a preference anymore because I don't see the point in it. What if Hunter gives me a full ride but NYU requires me to pay full tuition? There are other factors besides academics and campus life for me to keep in mind when I'm making my decision. Cost is an important one.

I think I now have a good, balanced list:

REACHES: Yale, Binghamton (SUNY), Boston College

TARGETS: Stony Brook (SUNY), Rutgers, NYU

SAFETIES: Hunter (CUNY), Queens (CUNY), Adelphi

If I really want to get accepted by my reach schools, I need to retake the SAT and take the ACT plus writing in December. But you know that feeling you get when you're in the last class of the day and you can hardly concentrate and the teacher speaks in a monotone and there's two minutes until the bell rings but those two minutes feel like an eternity? That's the feeling I've got right now -- the feeling of anxiety, boredom, tiredness, and "when will this be over?"