12/09/2013 10:46 am ET Updated Feb 08, 2014

Senior Year Never Could Have Prepared Me For This

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.

Senior year. The year I have been waiting for all my life. Okay, that was a bit of an exaggeration -- probably not all my life, but a good chunk of it. I have been waiting for the year that all my rigorous academic work would come to a culmination and be recognized by great institutions of higher education. I have been waiting to finally walk across that stage, taking my first steps towards adulthood.

The beginning of my senior year started quite smoothly. My involvement in the nonprofit community organization, Minds Matter, propelled me ahead of many in the college process. During the summer, I completed my personal statement, scholarship applications (e.g. the Posse Scholarship) and multiple fly in program applications, such as Williams College's Windows on Williams, Amherst College's Diversity Open House, Discover Swarthmore College and Discover Wellesley College. Additionally, my training as a College Peer Counselor -- one who advises about 20 other students throughout the college process -- allowed me to get a head start on college information so that I could, therein, guide my fellow classmates.

However, all this preparation could not even prepare me for the stress to come; given a course load of five AP classes, the presidency of a club, extracurricular activities, SAT/ACT preparation, scholarship applications, essays and supplements, how was I to balance it all? I thought my teachers would more understanding of the fact that this is the year I have so much to do, but my workload consistently piles on. As a result, I had to break out the big guns and get my life together. I headed straight for Staples to get myself a daily planner. On this planner, I detailed every single task I needed to complete each day, noting the scholarships, and college applications deadlines. By making a daily agenda, I became more productive and less forgetful of minute details like cleaning my room, which has taken on the appearance of Hurricane Sandy since all my stress began.

My list of colleges seems to be as long as my daily agenda. Many adolescents, used to applying to only 5­6 schools, seem to have a meltdown whenever I show them my list. It is currently set at 18. I'll wait a little bit... I hope you didn't freak out. There are about 12 schools that I am genuinely excited about and the rest, I make known to others, are just schools that would be cool to apply to if I have extra time. My zodiac sign is Capricorn, and Capricorns are known to be a bit indecisive, so I find it difficult to cut a school off my list for I feel that I may be changing my whole life by cutting off a path of education. Yes, it is that serious.

My indecision was further exacerbated through my attendance of four college fly-in programs that I previously mentioned. I found out from the website, College Greenlight, that many colleges have programs where talented, diverse students are flown in for the weekend to experience life on campus and meet students and faculty. I have been blessed to be able to fly to the east coast and see more to a college than what is on paper! All four of my programs are highly ranked for being some of the best liberal arts colleges in the country. At a liberal arts college, one can get a comprehensive, holistic education without getting restricted to a myopic path of education Yet, whenever, I tell my family that I want to go to a liberal arts college, especially since I want to study neuroscience and be pre­med, I get the oddest looks. "Ope, you want to study arts," my aunt inquires. I quickly reply with the aforementioned definition and say I just want to broaden my education and my horizons.

Lately, I have been telling others that Williams College, ranked as the No. 1 liberal arts college in the country by U.S. News & World Report, is at the top of my list, albeit many of my peers do not even know of the school, I am in love with it. I always wondered how people could be in love with a certain school. I mean it's just school, right? Well, little did I know that on October 10, 2013, I was going to fall in love with Williams.

The second I disembarked from the plane and exited from the terminal, I felt welcomed. I was greeted by two people from the admissions office who actually knew my face, name, and even story! First impressions are the most important and Williams made me feel so special. The weekend consisted of me going to college classes (e.g. Hip Hop & Political Theory, Arguing about God, African Dance & Percussion), speaking with financial aid and admissions officers, hearing about why students love Williams, watching a cappella, dance and spoken word performances, etc. I loved it all! The fact that I was able to experience the environment helped to determine if Williams would be good for me in terms of fit, one of the most important things to look for in a school. I was not only able to see if I could fit in with the student body, but I was also able to visualize myself enjoying the school for four years! I am so grateful for the opportunity because otherwise all I would have ever known about Williams would have been one dimensional. Therefore, I encourage all seniors to visit schools that they are really interested in because it can truly make a difference in the way you perceive a school.

I know the confusion on which college to choose will become even worse come April, when colleges begin releasing acceptance, or even worse, rejection letters. This is a decision that will affect the rest of my life, and I cannot believe it will be entrusted to me, a mere 17-year-old in high school. But luckily, I have been able to differentiate which schools I really like and I have the support of Minds Matter, teachers, friends and family that can help me with my decision. I think I'll be just alright.