After 4 long painful years of high school, I'm now heading off into the great unknown that is college. I applied to 3 Universities of California and one California State college, so my view is going to be just about that. So here is an errata for all those cool people out there thinking about getting into college:
Throughout high school my organization system for papers at home was an accordion folder. I had one slot for each category of memorabilia (read: girlfriends) and then one for everything else. This was great when "everything else" consisted of my DMV test and a few blood donation test results. It didn't work once I started getting stuff from colleges all the time. I started losing stuff.
So go out and find one of those mini two drawer filing cabinets and get all the hanging folders, etc for it. Make a folder for each school you're applying to, then put everything in those folders right away. EVERYTHING! You won't imagine what I threw away, never needing again, and ended up needing it again two months later. Once you file your intent to register you can take every other folder and have a burning party.
That's right juniors. It's July, and it's time to start working on your essays for the UCs. The prompts should be posted by now so get crackin. There is a lot more work during senior year than we lead on to and November gets here really fast.
Think About It
Print out the prompts, post them on your wall, and start thinking about them. Spend a week writing the most random shit that comes to mind on a piece of paper. This might be helpful in the next step.
Now Really Get Started
Yes, that prompt is weird and awkward to answer. Here's a secret; they have no idea what you're going to write about until you submit it. This leaves you with 4 months to do anything you want until those applications are due.
This means open a word processor and start typing. Just keep going and get the 600 words out in one sitting, it won't kill you. And congrats, you have what is probably the worst and most embarrassing essay you have ever written. Now file that under "version 1" and pretty much never look at it again. Now come back tomorrow, and do the same thing, but this time it really won't seem to suck as much. It can be on the same subject, or something totally different. Either way it'll probably be an improvement.
Now you have your version 2.0 essay you wrote on the second day. Now edit the footer and type "version 2.0 mm/dd/yy" and print a copy. (Paste the prompt on the top too!) Now whip out the red pen and read through your essay and fix stuff. Read it backwards word for word and fix stuff. Turn the paper upside down and read it again, keep fixing stuff.
Now you have a sad-looking sheet of paper with 601 words printed on it and enough red ink to make you want to cry. Now fire up the ol' word processor and fix all the mistakes you found. Now edit the footer and change it to "version 2.1" Guess what; you're going to have literally 20-some-odd copies of this stupid essay floating around your house by the end of this and you're going to have no clue which one came before which one.
How much would it suck to lose all of this work, just like that? We get complacent with computers, but never forget that at any moment it can all just disappear with no warning. Put it on your flash drive. Email it to yourself. Email it to your parents. Do all three. Really, do it.
Filling out the Application
So the time to fill out the application comes and you start checkin check boxes and clickin radio buttons like the egotistical fiend that you really need to have become by this point. You get to the essay section: bam, easy. Copy paste your three essays into it after doing a final word count check. Then comes the tricky part.
They've jumped a surprise section on you: What you've done in high school. They give you some 5 sections under 100 words to really tell them more about you. DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT EVER edit anything in these boxes. You're going to spend 45 minutes trying to write a compelling 99 words as to why you being in the Rock Music Club actually matters at all for college. Guess what, your session times out after 10 minutes. You click the submit button, and because it's all in one of those awkward pop-up windows, it gives you a "you need to be logged in to do that" error and all of your work disappears! Edit it in Word and copy it over.
Submitting the Application
Be ready to submit your application two weeks before the deadline. Once you're ready to submit all of it and give them your first born and credit card number, print the entire application. Read through all of it. Have your parents read through it. Have a friend read through it. Arm every reader with a red pen. If there is any mark on that application, fix it, and print out another copy. Let this take as long as it needs to. (As long as that length of time is less than a week.)
Now you're a week away from the deadline. SUBMIT YOUR APPLICATION RIGHT NOW! Don't wait until the last day, don't wait until the last three days. Just don't do it. Everyone waits until the last night and they all try to submit their applications at the same time. The UC servers go down, and you are SOL, without a submitted application by the deadline, and yes, those servers will go down.
You're Done! (not)
Congrats, you have now given the UC system a well-written and compelling reason to pick you to grace them with your presence. Bask in your glory, have a good thanksgiving dinner, annnd now get back to work. If you really want to get on the scholarship band wagon you need to get started the beginning of December. I was so done writing at this point that I didn't want to think about scholarships, and promptly didn't!
I only got one scholarship for $1000, while I could have gotten so much more, and the only reason I got that one was because it literally fell into my lap. Mrs. Hamilton came into my Gov AP class and handed me a Fremont High School folder with the scholarship application half filed out. It's FREE money people, don't pass that up. You won't be getting paid $500 an hour doing anything again for a very VERY long time, if ever.
Now You're Done!
Sit back and watch the acceptance letters and scholarship checks start rolling in in the mail. You earned it.