As the oldest of 14 grandkids on my mom's side and the first in my extended family to grow up outside Asia, I've done a lot of "Schools! They're Different In America!" coaching for my aunts and cousins. As an engineer, I'm big on optimizing systems that allow me to be lazy. So when I found Cal's book in a used bookstore in Seattle and realized (1) it had a lot of my systems in it, (2) had improved upon most of them, and (3) was already written down, I did a little jig right there in the Bellevue strip mall. Here's my new, more-efficient cousin-college-coaching system: I sketched my take on the book (below, in black-and-white and color versions, click to enlarge) and handed it to my cousin Mia, who's entering her senior year of high school, instructing her to add her own thoughts and pass it to the next cousin in line when she was done.
Short version? Maximize your interestingness. If you have Asian(-style) parents, they may look at you funny because wait that's not a real metric like GRADES AND STUFF!, so get your teachers/mentors to back you up. And if you're related to us, feel free to point at me and Jason as case studies, because that's what Big Cousins are for.