Transfer to Comp Sci: How to best spend time in comm. college after lousy h.s. years?
Excuse the length--just read the first two paragraphs; they're all that matter:
I've two more semesters at community college after this one, plus two free summers and a spring in which I need to do stuff. If I were a political science major, I'd even take a trip to North Korea for the summer.
The short form of the question is: what can community college kids who did nothing special in high school--like myself--do now before sending applications so that we're at the top of the competition, "set apart," "leaders," and "really all-round top-notch achievers who are passionate abut what they do as they help build schools in war-torn countries"?
It seems kind of late now, but I know that most top-tier schools accept community college kids. I suppose high school students who go to CMU and MIT probably start early with clubs offered at their school, get on robotics teams, or design websites for people. If I had more experience I might try for an internship, but what I've learned in the one Intro to Java class I'm taking is really all I've got. Humanities kids can make a distinct show of passion or leadership with their interests by organizing plays; science kids can by winning science fairs and volunteering at hospitals--but I don't know what kind of research or creative work I can find that would suit my level and achieve the big pat-on-the-back, you-deserve-a-Nobel-prize.
Here's my story, in case you're of the type who likes boring autobiographies:
High school: graduated last year with a 2.95 GPA and Algebra II, basic classes, three years of French, no programming class, nothing special. I used to hate math-em-matics (my interest in CS is actually a creative one that stems from art, as I was born a humanities guy).
I decided to try a second chance at community college so as to wipe my slate clean, then apply to aforementioned "top" schools when I had redeemed myself and met the transfer requirements of several prospects. Several times I considered going to the state university, but I would stand out less there.
Community college so far:
- Started over with math; to start Calc I next; doing pretty well. Also starting over with physics/any sciences required, and am taking Intro to Java.
- Taking honors physics and will take honors CS throughout the next two semesters. Honors has you write a mini-thesis of your own research; I don't know how valuable that is.
- Will start tutoring algebra soon.
- Attempted to join some clubs, so far they're either too boring, or conflict with my schedule.
- Maintaining a 4.0; at minimum should be no less than 3.8 by the end.
I'm hoping that at some point I can found a CS club (this community college has none). I'd even be willing to travel for a summer, if it was something like a camp--I just want to make the most of my next year and a half or so before sending out applications. I don't really have any connections to the CS field, though, so I hardly know where to begin. I feel like I could be doing so much more, and I don't want this time to waste away.
If it were possible, I'd go to Brown, Cornell, Vanderbilt, UPenn, Tufts, ... as dream schools.
...Any thoughts, similar past experiences, or expert high school failures who went on to transfer to MIT? Any resources where I might find deeper involvement in CS/other relevant areas?