Editor's note: In an ongoing series, the EthnoBlog will be following three students in their senior year of high school as they confront the challenges of applying to, selecting, and paying for college in a recession year.  Emmi Grooney is the first of these students.

My dream is to be the first person in my family to go to college, and my goal right now is to make that dream a reality for next year. I plan to major in Psychology and minor maybe in Sociology or social work because I have a passion for working with youth, and I want to be a teen counselor when I'm done with school.

I’m currently a senior in high school, and by the end of January I'm supposed to be all done with all my college applications. At the moment I've finished all my Cal State University applications to San Jose, Hayward, San Diego and Sacramento. After learning about the 30 percent fee increase for the University of California system, it reestablished that I don't really want to go to a UC school. As it is I'm probably going to have to take out loans for school, unless I get a really good financial aid package, which is what I'm praying for.

Luckily, I have good grades, and I've been able to keep my GPA at 3.5 throughout high school. So I might be able to get some academic scholarships for that. There may also be scholarships out there for being a first generation, biracial student going to college: though looks are deceiving, I am half Japanese, half white so I'm looking for anything to help me out, and my friends have told me that they're are scholarships like that available.

I'm the youngest in my family, but I'm the first to be on her way to a university. My older sister has been an entrepreneur like my dad from the time she graduated high school, owning her own restaurants and such, but she’s never had a school career. My oldest brother never really had the chance to go to school—though he's made attempts, he's busy working for the family. The same goes for my other brother, though he did take a EMT class last year and graduated. As for my parents, they where too busy raising a family to go to school, so it's up to me to be the first.

I’m also heavily involved in community service. Even though I live in the Excelsior, I don't do too much around my own neighborhood, I know I should, but at the moment I've got enough on my plate. During my sophomore and junior years in high school I participated in a program through my local YMCA called Youth and Government where we simulated our country’s government. Right now I'm a group leader for a Girls Group at the Buchanan YMCA Beacon where we do community service, and serve as mentors to young girls. I've also participated in other community service, such as sending goods to homeless children for the holiday season, and I'm in a program right now called The Glow Foundation where they teach financial literacy.

Even without the added pressure of increased fees at UC schools, the college application process has been stressful. I just finished a couple applications to UC schools, including UC Santa Cruz, San Diego and LA. The application fees for UCs are so expensive that I’ve already had to pay $180 – and it’s all coming out of my own pocket.

I've had to take my SATs three times, and each time it cost $45. Right there that’s $135, and then I just paid $180 in application fees for my UCs, so that’s $315 total already, and I'm not even done with all my applications. I've got about eight more schools to apply to and each application fee is like $65 so that’s $520. Lord knows how I'm going to come up with that. Hopefully I'll be able to qualify for some fee waivers, but if not, I don't know what I’m going to do.

I’m also planning to apply to more private schools, mainly because they’re usually smaller and have more of a community feel to them, and coming from a small community-based school, that's what I'm comfortable with. The private schools I'm applying to include NYU, Dominican University, Santa Clara University, Mills College, Columbia University, Rutgers University, and a few others.

Now I understand the stress that my older friends who graduated last year talked about. It's physically and mentally draining to be writing all of these personal statements and paying expensive application fees, on top of being stressed about whether or not I'm going to even get in.

I applied mostly to schools in the Bay Area because part of me wants to be close to home. Ideally, I’d like to live on campus, but still be close enough to my family so I can go home on the weekends. On the other hand, I want to get out, go somewhere and if I go away to school, I’d want to go to New York because that’s where my niece and her mom live, and I'm really close to them.

I'm pretty much on my own with all this college stuff. Any help I get comes from teachers at school, because my mom is more lost than I am. I guess because none of my other siblings ever went through this process, it's brand new to her. Plus she works five days a week, so she doesn't really have the time to sit down and go through everything with me. Not only that but, money's real tight, so in her opinion, I might as well go to community college next year and save some money, but to me that is NOT an option.

Eventually I'll be done with the strain of this process, but for now, I'm just going to cross my fingers, and pray the stress doesn't kill me first.