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This is the first of what NeXt hopes will be several columns about senior year.

Senior year is the countdown to a new beginning -- COLLEGE. Everyone from family to friends is giving advice. Just when you think you have everything figured out, you're mailed a brochure of a college that looks pristine and think, "Maybe I should go there."

Balancing schoolwork and planning for college is no easy task. You have to worry about deadlines and essays on top of homework and extracurricular activities. I admit I expected senior year to be a lot more laid-back.

Fortunately, there is the guidance counselor. Through this first two months as a senior, I've made a couple of visits to my guidance counselor. Being able to talk about college plans without hearing input on what I should do or other possible alternatives is a relief.

So I sat down and talked about my college plans. It was like a senior "psychology session." I talked about what college I'm planning to attend, enrolling early decision, deadlines, financial aid, and the admissions process in general. I had explained to me my transcript and college essays. I even was asked how I was doing in school. For once I felt relaxed when talking about college. All the pieces fit back into the puzzle.

Even if you're not a senior, talk to your guidance counselor. Whether it's once a month or once a year, it's a good way to get acquainted with the person you will be most closely associated with during the college admissions process.

We all need someone to help decipher what our family and friends tell us about college.

Aimee Lang is a senior at Hutch-Tech.