01/29/2013 10:41 am ET Updated Mar 31, 2013

The Next Steps In Applying For College

I finally hit "submit" for the last time on the common application. I was excited, nervous, relieved and anxious all at the same time. The thought that I will never have to see another undergraduate application again is relieving, but the fact that I will have to wait for four months to hear from the schools is nerve-racking.

I spent the last two weeks of 2012 writing essays. It was great to dedicate that time to completing and finalizing my college applications without the demands of school, but fun definitely was not in my vocabulary for those two weeks. My laptop became my best friend, accompanying me everywhere I went: on the car ride to San Diego with my family, on trips to the grocery store. I didn't want to waste any opportunity to edit and improve my essays. Sometimes sacrifices have to be made to get the results you want.

I will now transfer my focus to researching and applying for scholarships. Luckily, my wonderful college counselor, Mrs. Golden, makes the search a lot easier. She prints out information for about 20 different scholarships that she thinks are fitting for the entire senior class. My fellow college peer counselors and I then create a "scholarship board," which has all the scholarship information neatly organized at the entrance to the college office, so it is easily accessible. Mrs. Golden gives so much time to students, as she should, but her passion for service prompts her to go beyond what she is expected to do. In fact, the phrase "Heart for service" is plastered on the board all year long. I've heard that counselors in other schools in my community don't dedicate nearly as much time and effort to their students as Mrs. Golden does to making sure students get all the information they need to get where they need to go.

Thankfully, applying for scholarships is a lot easier and makes me less anxious than applying for college. I acquired a list of scholarships I want to apply to by doing research on my own and asking my friends who graduated last year for advice on where to search for opportunities and which scholarships they applied for. Once I had my list, I organized it by due date and the amount of time I will need to spend on each application. Scholarships with long/multiple essay questions or questions I have not written about before are worked on first; scholarships that require an essay on a topic I have already written about are saved for later. Being able to reuse essays or write one essay that can be used for multiple scholarships is very helpful. For example, if one application's essay question is, "Why are you going to college?" and another asks, "Why is college so important to you, and how do you plan on using a college education to benefit others?" you can answer both questions in one essay.

My fall semester was probably one of the most challenging yet, between juggling a rigorous workload, standardized tests, and all those college essays. Taking on all these tasks is an accomplishment in itself, but successfully completing them while retaining my sanity is another. There needs to be some type of award for this! I look back and wonder why we allow this process to consume our lives, why we work tirelessly to be what we think our dream colleges want us to be. I realize that I did all of this work for the chance to have the college experience, whether I am studying abroad or just engaging intellectually with students, those who share my passions and those who have completely different interests. I'm excited for the opportunity to be around young visionaries who care deeply about something and to stretch myself socially and academically. I know my efforts over these past four months and throughout high school will be completely worth it because I will be experiencing something much bigger than myself at whatever university I decide to attend.