This essay was written for a scholarship at UCLA, but will work for a variety of topics, including several of the UC prompts:
“Okay everyone, we have 9 more hours before deadline, let’s make this happen!”
The room erupts. The Student Life editor is in agony because his Siblings page needs two reshoots, and he has one shot at getting good pictures.
“Make it work!” someone from Arts shouts, as she helps pull out umbrella strobes and reflectors for the Play Production shoot. Further down the line of computers, a Tech Arts guy is working with a girl from Academics on proofing the cover graphics, while a mixed group heads out to interview students for the people pages.
This is what it takes to win Best High School Yearbook at both the state and national levels.
I remember in ninth grade thinking how cool it’d be to be on yearbook. Yearbook kids knew which classes everyone was in, they knew which kids were into what extracurricular, and perhaps most importantly, they knew everyone at school. From freshmen to seniors to faculty, yearbook gave them a connection to everyone. Yearbook kids radiated serene confidence in themselves and their work. At my school, that’s how it is: yearbook is a mini-company of 20.
So, late sophomore year, I applied and was selected from a pool of applicants to become part of the yearbook class. At first, I was just a regular staff member, but gradually I was given responsibility for tougher spreads, such as Jobs, which requires the photographer to travel to wherever students work. In January of my junior year, I was promoted from staff member to editor of Ads, making me part of the senior staff. I went from being told what to do and how to do it, to teaching myself how to use Adobe InDesign and checking my own work.
The independence and self-reliance I learned last year is key for my job this year, as Clubs editor. Now I direct a team of three, and am responsible for their work as well as mine. That’s the real work--not checking my teams work, but just working with people, whether they’re fellow staff members or not.
The real work is working with club presidents to make sure their clubs will be ready to have their pictures taken, to negotiating with the Vice Principal about photoshoot locations. And then there’s the tough choices, juggling the differing desires of the people who report to you and those that you report to. Do I tell my team to get shots of Key Club’s weekend convention, as the editor in chief is telling me to do, or do I chose to understand the fact that my team has weekend obligations of their own? Making choices like these has shown me what it is to be a leader, how you have to decide what to do and when to do it. I’ve seen for myself what it is to lead others.
In the literal sense, all the hard work I put into the yearbook over past two years was taking pictures, editing layouts, and helping win the national Best High School Yearbook award. But really, I’ve put in two years of work toward understanding how to be a team player. Most importantly, I’ve learned how to be a team leader. That’s a lesson I know I’ll be using in the future, whether as a student at UCLA this fall, or later on in my life, as I enter the medical field.