Tuesday, May 14, 2019

My College Application Essay

I was digging through old files, and found the essay I wrote when I was applying for admission to UC Santa Cruz. I was a student at Cabrillo College, a community college in the area. I had been studying for around 3 years after dropping out of high school at the age of 15.

I didn't look to anybody for advice about writing college essays. Nobody proofread it. I cringe at some of the writing, but overall I think it's pretty good. Or, at least it's me.

Presented with only minor typographical corrections and without many regrets:

An unending flow of questions and concerns punctuated my breathing as I made my way to school on my first day in the tenth grade. I found myself traveling not by a conventional youth method (bicycling, skateboarding, etc) but as a small part in a gigantic rolling ball of confusion.

My biggest concerns were based on peer approval, and at the time it would seem that even succeeding in wearing the right color socks would be enough to make my day a good one. I started the tenth grade as I had started every other year of my public education career, but in short time I made many changes to the physical and mental realities in my life. Through an ongoing exercise of introspection, I came to know myself more honestly than I ever had before, and, using this is a catalyst for change, altered my priorities and left high school for higher education at Cabrillo College.

Before that major turning point, I had spent most of my free time worrying what other people thought of me. I daydreamed about befriending the right person, and having my dull, meaningless life magically transformed into one of meaning, excitement, and most importantly, popularity. I considered myself cursed; every time I even began to become friends with someone, he would inevitably abandon me at the request of his more important friends. Evidently, they saw me as some kind of social leper, with a disease so potent, that if contracted, could reduce each of their lives to the same ruined shambles mine lay in. Indeed, my social standing seemed irreparable, and after countless iterations of this same scenario, I had all but resigned to being content with a life of melancholy.

In my loneliness, I looked to my hobby of computers as an escape, as I had done throughout my childhood. Even at the onset of my computer days, when playing video games was the extent to which I used them, the computer was always responsive to to my loving [key]strokes. As the years passed, and the methods with which I communicated to the computer became less exciting, I would supplement my arsenal of computer skills with something new to hold my interest. By the tenth grade, I had learned to write my own computer programs, was somewhat familiar with the hardware (machinery) side of the hobby, and had even started making use of the computer facilities at UCSC. The multi-user social computer environment at UCSC was especially fascinating for me, because I could practice social skills with which I had remained deficient in the real world.

In the first month of the tenth grade, I had become friends with someone who had just returned from a year of studying in Finland. He had been an acquaintance before he left, but we'd never had anything much in common. While staying in Finland, he had become involved in the punk-rock music scene, and when he returned to the United States, he introduced me to some of the music he had started listening to. He gave me a tape on which he'd compiled several songs by four classic punk-rock bands: NoMeansNo, DOA, The Misfits, and the Dead Kennedys. I listened to the tape once and was not impressed; the songs were loud, obnoxious, and seemed void of any musical value.

I listened again though, and yet again, and each time I listened I heard something new from the music that appealed to my ears and mind. The noise had actually started to sound like music and as my mind caught up with the tempo, I was able to make out some of the words. The messages that came through the words were like aural candy for my ears! Finally I had found a breed of music that was expressing what I had always felt in my heart. As if they had used my life as a model, the lyrics confirmed to me the hardships of growing up and living in an often emotionally callous society. Inspired by this small collection of songs, I began to feverishly search for more of the same. To say that punk-rock music played a vital part in the transformation of my insecure, self loathing mind into a thinking, optimistic one would be an understatement. Using the spirit of punk-rock music as a road atlas to my own mind, I began the life-long journey toward fulfillment and happiness, stopping only for sightseeing along the way.

With a new self respect and dedication to self improvement, I made the decision that acceptance by my high school peers was insignificant, and accepting myself was what mattered in the long run. Pessimistic about the chances of making good friends in high school, I looked to expand on the small group of older friends I'd made through the University's computer system. In this endeavor I was quite successful and started spending most of my spare time with friends at least four years my senior. Noticing that my friends were mostly college aged, and being very advanced in my studies, I decided it would be in my best interest to leave Santa Cruz High School and enroll at Cabrillo Community College.

At the present time, two and a half years later, I think that my decision to move on to college was perhaps the wisest decision I've ever made. At Cabrillo College, I've been able to study subjects unavailable in high school and have made many new friends while becoming more and more involved with the computer community at UCSC. For the last few years I've been involved with an organization at UCSC called COAC (Council for Open Access Computing, which works to make computer facilities on campus available to the general student populace), of which I was recently elected to the executive committee. While my computer interests have continued to grow, I've also found new interest in many fields, including art, politics, and philosophy. When I consider where I might be today had I not been inspired to pursue happiness in the ways I've narrated in this essay, I grimace at the frustration I would likely be experiencing. I am relieved but not surprised that the choices I made turned out for the best, and would certainly offer them as options for others in situations similar to the one I was in.

The essay worked. Or they let me in anyway. I graduated from UC Santa Cruz in 1995 at the age of 20.

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