I Fell For The 'Fantasy' Of Senior Year

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.

My name is Stephanie Orozco, and I attend Chicago's Phoenix Military Academy. I am currently the Staff-Position 5 Special-Events Planner for my school. This leadership role is significant in that I have been entrusted with organizing and coordinating non-JROTC events, such as Homecoming Week, senior prom and annual blood drives which serve as fundraisers. The stiff load of obligations has conflicted somewhat with my academics, as well as having limited the personal time available with my college mentors and counselors in preparing applications and essays -- which ultimately turned into nightmares by the second week of school.

So far, getting ready for college has been a big mess. The week before junior year came to a close, I received a confusing notification from Chicago Scholars, a program dedicated to assisting high school seniors with college applications. At first, I was accepted into the program, but then flatly rejected because I was going to miss some of their meetings due to my Minds Matter sponsored summer program; i.e. four weeks of my summer would be spent at an academic enrichment program at Phillips Exeter Academy. This ordeal left my guidance counselor fuming at the rejection notice, and she made a hardcore promise to get a spot reserved in the program for me. I felt guilty for putting her in that position because it seemed my fate was already decided by the program administrators. Yet, this good-willed mentor of mine was determined to fight for my acceptance.

As I am a humble person, I was flushed to see such energy from someone showing intense support for me. Thanks to her persistence, she did manage keep me in the program, albeit with limited benefits. Unlike other scholars, I would not be presented with two college mentors, as I was not present for the ceremony which took place during my summer absence. Fortunately, that wasn't a huge loss since I have two mentors through Minds Matter.

So what does all this mean to my future college career? Well, considering that I had to have at least five college applications completed within two weeks of my return to Chicago, to me it meant everything! I chose Northwestern, Amherst, Boston University, Harvard and Lakeforest College to apply to through this program. These are my dream schools. With Minds Matter not yet in session, I did not have the guidance of a mentor, and it was very challenging to prepare for these applications. Time slipped away quickly in the bustle of the new school year, and the pressure of these five applications left me melting to the ground like the Wicked Witch of the West after Dorothy was done with her. My cheeks were red and steaming as I tore through the common application, trying to decipher the many elements of admission to five different universities, skimming and skidding through essay questions and stressing over requesting recommendation letters.

Yes, it was very chaotic with the many responsibilities presented at the beginning of the year, such as my new classes and my new leadership position. It was rushed to the point where I barely had time to review the essay prompts with my mentors. I was shaking my head, wiping my face every few minutes at the terrible fear that these applications were not my best effort -- and in this game, only the best float to the top. However, I tried to accept it. I focused on the accomplishment that at least they were completed, mailed and are now pending approval. I know that while the approval is a long shot for those five schools, I'm using that stressful experience to make sure my other applications reflect my finest effort. There are a lot of schools out there, and I'm going to make one of them mine.

Honestly, as a freshman I had assumed that becoming a senior was going to be a smooth transition. However, I was not considering the constant stress of college applications looming over my final year, with homework and extracurricular activities being thrown into the same pile. As a freshman, I was fed the fantasy that senior year was the Candyland of high school -- all gumdrops and lollipops. Being as gullible as I am, I fell for the trick and spent my summer focused on succeeding at Exeter's program instead of drilling myself for the oncoming dump of work needed for my college applications. Now, as a two-month-old senior, I can clearly say that hard work never ends at the finale or height of success: it only builds upon what a person, such as myself, has accomplished and challenges oneself to achieve beyond this or her best effort.

For those younger than me thinking about college, I would advise you to stay focused in class and be aware that horseplay will cripple your chances of potential success. Things definitely do not get easier as you continue in school. Finishing high school is one worry on your plate, but it is no easy road to drive on considering that the college application process is its own separate workload. Learn to manage your time with your activities and social life, and put aside your social life temporarily if you need to in order to complete college applications! Success is only achievable if you allow yourself to concentrate and excel!