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Lauren Martin

Senior, Lake Brantley High School (Longwood, FL)

Fun Fact about Lauren: She is a lime-aholic; she always has limes in her refrigerator for drinks plus a full stock of lime Tostitos chips

Coming to a close... and a beginning 

April 17, 2006 I think the most bittersweet day of my life will come when I am equipped with brown boxes and Sharpies and pack up my room to move out. I am so content with my life. It finally seems that most of my hard work is paying off, and yet it's time for me to move on.

On the bright side, a decent amount of my friends are actually attending the University of Florida with me. My best friend already lives there. Yet there are those select few who serve as my motivation to not go away to college at all. Technology is at such an astounding level today, though, that I am sure I will talk to those I care about whenever I need to. I will embark on two major trips this summer with my closest friends—one to Hawaii and one to Tennessee for a three-day concert—and just knowing that helps me. It gives me more good times to look forward to after graduation and before the newness of college sinks in. There's something about senior year, about leaving, that puts a particular urgency in every senior, I think. It's amazing what a little urgency will do to a friendship—tear it down for its triviality or make it unbreakable for its genuineness. That holding true, my senior year finally produced a group of friends with whom I hope I will remain close for the rest of my life, and college is only a small portion of that life. But even knowing that will not prevent my tears from raining down the day I graduate. I should go ahead and buy stock in the Kleenex company.

Every senior is now straddling a line between now and their future. One month from today will be my final day of high school. One month later, I will be at orientation. I am not so worried about meeting people, I am friendly enough that I think I will manage. I am worried about the decisions I will have to make about my future. I am worried that one missed opportunity or one wrong turn will lead me down a less than perfect path. For one of the first times in my young life, I can make my own decisions and actually see how they play out, get a glimpse of who I will be someday. I am so excited. Opportunities like writing this column exhilarate me because I can write exactly what I am going through in this whole process and hope that maybe, just maybe, one person will read it and say, "wow, me too," and realize that senior year is more than an ending, but an even more crucial beginning.

The Reality of It... College Is Just Around the Corner 

March 15, 2006 It is starting to sink in that, in a few brief months, I will be packing up my things. The closer July gets, the more real everything becomes. It's a blessing and a curse, really.

On the very bright side of things, I received my ACT scores. I got exactly a 28! I may have gotten it by the skin of my teeth, but that stupid little number is worth a lot of money to me in regards to college. Now, I am eligible for that 100% scholarship to the University of Florida (UF) and will apply for it in May. I am so happy that now I can relax a little with financial needs, and my parents can cease getting gray hair working out their budgets. I still have a ways to go with earning scholarships. I'm working on two more big ones—summer semesters aren't covered in the Bright Futures scholarships and neither are things like housing.

Speaking of which, I am still waiting to hear back from UF about my housing assignments. I know they have to wait until the final decision to tell every student where they are assigned to live, but that doesn't ease my anxiety one bit. At UF, you are allowed to pick your dorm, your roommate, and what type of layout you want your room to be in; there are just no guarantees that you'll actually get what you request. I picked an Honors dorm for the summer semester with one of my close friends. I know, I know, everybody says never room with a friend, but the truth is, it's only for a month or so and it's comforting to know that I will (hopefully) have a support system when I start off. In the fall, I am rooming with another girl I know from my high school but we chose an apartment style dorm. The rooms are complete with a kitchen and a bathroom for every four people, with two girls in each room. It's a nice set-up; I just hope that I will get along with the other two girls sharing it! Not knowing where I'll live is really nerve-racking but I am hoping for the best.

In addition, I just signed up for my college orientation—UF Preview. Basically, new incoming students are required to attend a two-day orientation complete with tours, dorm assignments, and class registrations. I do not know a lot about it, but supposedly each student meets with an advisor where they are subsequently told what work loads / classes would be ideal for them. I am currently taking five AP classes, so a lot of my future classes will depend on how well I do on my tests this May. No pressure or
anything... it's just my future.

Successfully accomplishing a main goal—to help, if not completely, pay for college—is one of the best feelings about my college process so far. Now I can concentrate my energy on actually finishing out my senior year with a bang and not a flop.

Scholarships: The Saga Continues 

February 17, 2006 The thing about scholarships is that one can apply, apply, and apply, and yet there seems to be no receiving. It is the very epitome of frustration. So my little scheme is that, keeping in mind the fundamentals of statistics, if I apply enough times, the odds cannot deny me at least some money.

The other thing about scholarships is that it seems to me that unless I am downright penniless, I do not qualify. My goal of paying for college seems to be crumbling. But I have never been one to give up easily.

This week I made two major strides in the scholarship department. The first was that I finally sent in a scholarship application I have been working on for a prolonged period of time. A local women's club sponsors this particular scholarship of at least $1,000, for a female graduate attending an in-state institution. I figured, hey, why not? Well, three teacher recommendations, one transcript, one essay, and a typed resume later, I was able to tape up the manila envelope and send it on it's merry little way. However, I never realized how hard it is to acquire a certified transcript, which simply means that a guidance counselor / school official has to stamp your transcript and seal it. Even though I had to wait almost a week for the school to print it out, and even after there was a mix up in my records, a little ray of light shone through the clouds. I got the opportunity to look over my transcript and discovered that I had moved up a spot in our class ranking! I climbed from 12th to 11th place: probably the most frustrating, ironic, whatever-a-neurotic-person-would-label it, ranking in the entire world. I have always secretly wanted to be among the top ten of my class, just to prove that a person, who is not necessarily exceptionally smart, could make it on pure work ethic. We'll see.

The other stride I took towards winning scholarship money was taking the ACT for the first time yesterday. If I can get a 28 or better, I will be eligible for a Bright Futures scholarship from the state of Florida covering 100% of tuition and fees, so I am definitely keeping my fingers crossed. I wish I had been more prepared, but life got in the way, what can I say? In my opinion, the ACT is so much less stressful than the SAT... I honestly wish I had the opportunity to do this whole standardized test thing over again. I would take the ACT over the SAT any day of the week and twice on Saturday.

Maybe these two acts will allow me to grace the world with some good news sometime soon. Maybe not. But I can always hope; at least know that I am doing my part.

The Loose Ends 

January 23, 2006 After I received my acceptance notice, it feels like all I have been engaged in is 'tying up the loose ends.'

What seems like an endless cycle of paying out cash for college has begun. A couple hundred on this date, a couple more the next week. Thrills. But the one thing I have gotten to do that I liked was to pick housing. Since I am going with a few of my closest friends, it wasn't impossible to find somebody I could stand to live with for prolonged periods of time, and I requested a roommate for summer and a roommate for fall. The debates for dorms were fun as usual: which got first priority? Individual bedrooms, suite style rooms with their own kitchen, a suite bathroom you share with 4 people instead of the notorious floor bathrooms. The possibilities seemed endless. However, I made my selections, sent them in along with more money, and am now greeted with the following words whenever I sign onto the website:

"Congratulations on your admission to the University of Florida's 2006 Summer B freshman class! At this time, your admission to UF is complete. You are officially a part of the Florida Gator family, and we await your arrival on campus."

It is the best feeling to know where I am going to college, to practically know where I am staying. I sign up for classes later this spring but I am anxiously pondering my options in that category too.

With the formalities taken care of, there was only one other loose end to tie up: I have no University of Florida Gators things. In Florida, there is a rivalry at the very core of people, between the University of Florida and Florida State University. Ironically, of course, I was raised an FSU Seminole fan and have a room overwhelmed with garnet & gold. That was definitely something I had to address. After Christmas, I went on a bit of a spree (I figured it was a college kid's prerogative... oh, how I love saying "college kid" in reference to myself) and came out with Gator blankets & pillows, sweatshirts, belts, ribbons, folders, binders, shirts, and dorm accessories. It was probably the most fun loose end I have ever tied. I love knowing that I will soon be a part of something so amazing and new.

The only things that remain are classes and scholarships... oh, and of course, graduation!

The Moment 

December 15, 2005 As December approached, rumors ran through the air. On the University of Florida's website, one small phrase was clear: "All Early Admissions decisions will be announced by December 3, 2005." So many people applied to UF from my high school that the college actually called my high school to make an announcement. (They also wanted to inform students to stop calling the admissions office every hour. We were anxious, what can I say?) The final rumor finally made its round—the University of Florida would be posting all decisions online at five p.m. on Friday. Well, Friday was, without a doubt, the longest day of my life. And of course, they refrained from posting it at exactly five. That would just be too easy.

Yes, I sat at my computer from the second I got home until the second they finally posted the results. I was on the phone with what seemed like half of my friends and online talking to the other half when my mom stopped in my room and asked me to show her how I could check. Completely irritated, I began to explain to her how to type in my password, and my eyes met with the following statement:

"Congratulations! The Office of Admission has approved your application to the University of Florida for the 2006 term. On behalf of the Office of Admission, welcome to the Florida Gator family!"

That was one of the best moments of my life. It's the one moment that every high school senior waits, hopes, and prays for. After about three constant hours of phone calls, congratulations, and excited screeches of pure joy, my Dad could not believe my phone hadn't melted. I was satisfied with everything. And maybe I didn't get the full thrill of ripping open an envelope and rushing through a page full of formalities, but that doesn't matter to me. I got into college. I got into my first choice college. All the worrying, all the stress, and all of the horrid waiting, has finally come to a conclusion. Sigh.

Several of my close friends got in, and several did not. It is never an easy to look your friends in the eyes and be speechless. The University has now come forward and stated that some of their applicants were decided by a lottery due to an overwhelming response in applications. It's never easy to be denied, and it certainly doesn't make it easier on any of my friends to think that a lottery decided a big part of their lives. I am enjoying my happiness, my fellow gators' happiness, and yet I am learning to be there for those who have a different path cut out for them. It's ok. If there is one thing I am still learning, it is that what is supposed to happen, just will. When preparation meets opportunity, that is the best feeling in the world.

As they say at the University of Florida: "It's great to be a Florida Gator!"

When Things Don't Go Your Way... Find a New Way 

November 15, 2005 Lately, my college process has been disheartening. Every plateau has a valley close by; that is what I am learning to accept anyway. As I move from October to November, I am discovering that my future plans for college may not be as easy as I anticipated.

Independently paying for college (undergraduate anyway) is one of my most important personal goals. When I go to college, I will be taking up a new chapter of my life, and along with this new chapter, a new bag of responsibilities. I am preparing for my future life by attending college and, call it stupid pride if you want, but I would like to push through college fully equipped for my future by my own merit instead of supported by the crutch of my parent's bank accounts. This is simply something I want to do for myself. Plus, with a long-term goal of law school, I find it unfair to stick my parents with thousands of dollars of tuition fees for the next eight years of my life. However, paying for college (if I even get into the school of my choice) is transforming into an even more prodigious hurdle than I could have imagined.

In order to persuade top-notch Florida students into attending Florida schools, the state has devised a scholarship program commonly referred to as Bright Futures. Basically, a Florida student has to meet specific academic / community service requirements, have a 3.5 GPA and have a 1270 on the SAT and they are eligible for a 100% scholarship to a public Florida school. The scholarship is a major reason why I decided upon a Florida school: it was a way for me to meet my goal. I met all the requirements except for the SAT minimum without too much difficulty. I had taken the standardized 4 hour-long tests twice by the time October blew in, but to my distress, still had not achieved the 1270. This time I mustered up some discipline and studied. A lot. Two weeks later, in the midst of Hurricane Wilma (thankfully, my family did not lose power so I was able to check my scores!) I checked my scores. And on that screen at that moment, I realized that the college process is not all about bragging about your achievements in application essays, or relief after sending in a last minute application; it is also about reality, and yes, sometimes, disappointment. Right now, I am almost at my goal. But in reality, almost does not really count. So, all I can do now is move forward.

I am still eligible for a 75% Bright Futures award. That is a start. Today, I ventured into my high school's "scholarship room" and grabbed a few scholarship applications to move myself along. Even though that test score was one of my major set backs in this process, I am realizing that just because I think I deserve something, does not mean I will get it. More importantly, I am learning that if I want something bad enough, I will be willing to make a few extra side steps to gain it. It will take more than the SAT's to keep me from achieving my goals, I can certainly tell you that much.

Visiting a College... After the Application Process 

October 17, 2005 Since summer started and even since school has started, I've often heard the phrase, "Sorry I'll be gone this weekend, I'm looking at colleges," from my friends. My school even gives seniors two or three excused days for visiting a college and taking a tour of the campus. I diverted from the norm, however, because I never went on such a trip. In fact, I've spent more time at the University of Florida (UF) after applying than I ever did before applying.

I'm sure many people reading this probably think that's a stupid idea. How could I apply to a school without ever truly staying there? How could I not "shop" around at different schools first? It was easy. The Internet is such a great thing, really. On every college website that I have looked at, there is a section for a virtual tour accompanied by a campus map. Going through the virtual tour closely parallels the real thing in my opinion. In addition, a majority of colleges have pictures and virtual tours of the dorms, so there won't be any surprises when you arrive with your things. True, you can't experience the whole package—kids walking around campus, stopping in a dining hall, seeing a real dorm with people in it—but you also don't have to drive 1,000 miles or stand in the blistering heat going from building to building (Yes, it's still over 90 degrees in Florida even when it's October).

My first true visiting experience came a few weeks ago, when a friend and I drove up for a UF football game. Having already applied early, I knew the weekend could be a disaster—what if I hated it when I got there? But that fear turned out to be unwarranted for I loved it all: the people, the campus, the food, and the school spirit. I had never been in a place where every single student, or so it seemed, was decked out in school colors and attended the game together. I knew a few girls there already so they showed me their dorm rooms (at which point, I started making a mental list of all the things I wanted to buy for my dorm room) and then I walked down to the student union (not even a five-minute walk) which consequently, is very crucial to a girl who is constantly eating.

Caught up in a sea of blue and orange when I arrived, I immediately knew that I was going to love Gainesville. And, even though my visiting strategy may have been a bit unorthodox, that's ok with me, because everything is working out accordingly. If I've learned anything throughout this process, it's that everybody has their own ways of dealing with the stress of decisions. However, I am now experiencing something that almost every college-bound senior faces... the Waiting Game.

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