High School Passion Project: Impress Your Dream School

Chase Yano
December 28, 2023

Many juniors preparing for senior year’s inevitable college applications process are looking for ways to make their applications stand out from the crowd. Usually, students turn to school extracurriculars,  summer programs, or internships to distinguish themselves. While these are great opportunities, some don’t have opportunities that line up with their desired path of study. In today’s competitive application climate, most will want to explore any pursuit that will increase their chances of admissions into their dream school. The most universally appreciated and accessible task for a high schooler to do is a high school passion project.

No idea what you want to major in? One of our dozens of admissions counselors can help! Set up an appointment here. 

How to choose a High School Passion Project?

High School passion projects are projects completed in an area of study that you are interested in. For the purpose of college applications, it is ideal for your passion project to reflect and highlight areas of your application you want to emphasize. This means your high school passion project should line up, in some way, with your intended major or career to ensure that admissions officers will view you as an impassioned student of whatever you plan to study.

Following this basic guideline, these projects can also tie together different parts of your application. For example, imagine a prospective computer science student who works at Starbucks and codes a video game based on the troubles of being a barista. Devising your project in a way to connect your activities can be a good way for a well-rounded student to create a focused profile for their application.

Finally, it is important for you to choose a project that is possible for you to complete in time for your applications. There are a few factors to consider here: scale and interest. The obvious scale refers to how big of a project you choose to try to complete. Remember, you’re a high school student, and admissions officers know this. Therefore, there is no expectation for you to do anything particularly innovative or massive in size. The priority for your high school passion project is to demonstrate your potential to do great things in the future, so the focus is on demonstrating your work ethic and dedication.

A passion project is a great way to spend your summer, but check out our blog on other types of summer activities for high school students looking to improve their application.

STEM High School Passion Projects

If you’re interested in STEM, there are certain things you should consider when deciding on a high school passion project. Students with interests in STEM will have more luck with projects that are practical or product based. The object here is not to invent something that will change the world. Rather, your goal is to demonstrate to admission officers that you are a devoted student who can spend a significant amount of time outside of school working on a project reflecting your interests.

There are two main effects that you want to have on admissions officers with your project. One is to impress them with the technical achievement of your project, and the other is to appeal to them through the project’s benefit to your community. 

Demonstrating technical skill is tricky, as admissions officers will not likely be experts or familiar. Therefore, presentation is key; make sure that your projects are viewable and comprehensible to someone unfamiliar. A project that is primarily about technical skill may be a machine learning project where a student implements an autocorrect system or a 3D model project for an innovative new toothbrush design. Whatever it is, write up a short description of how you made your project and what it does, and post it to a place where you can build portfolios such as Canva or Github Pages, if you know some HTML. Make a short demonstration video/GIF to display on the page so that, when you eventually share this portfolio, admissions officers can quickly see what you made as they parse through thousands of applications.

Furthermore, an ideal high school passion project benefits a community you’re a part of in some way. Maybe you make an application which allows students at your school to plan their schedules and verify whether they meet graduation requirements. Or, if you’re interested in environmental engineering, maybe you construct a solar composter that allows you to recycle school lunch waste. Make sure you highlight the impact that high school passion projects have on your community and the higher societal reason guiding your work. 

Unsure if you can handle a high school passion project on top of coursework? Read our blog on student organization to help manage your time better.

Creative High School Passion Projects

If you’re pursuing an artistic or creative field like photography or architecture, then you likely already have work you’d like to share. You should compile these into an easily viewable portfolio. However, just as with STEM, you can go above and beyond and work on a standalone thematic project to demonstrate your best work. Use the skills you’ve learned since starting your creative pursuit to make a cohesive set of paintings or a novella.

For social science/political science students, I recommend pursuing projects such as a blog, social media channel, research project, or other vehicle of publishing your thoughts and discussions in your field of interest. These forms of high school passion projects are versatile, but also require consistent work to be worth it!

Service Projects

Other than projects that help student communities in the STEM section, you can also choose to do service-centered projects. For example, a prospective psychology major could organize stress management workshops for their peers. Or, if you’re going into Information Technology, you could organize classes to help elders at a local senior center to learn how to use email.

Basically, find some way you can educate or help others using knowledge from your field of interest, and find a way to organize it! This path requires you to be comfortable sending emails, reaching out, and, of course, talking to others. As someone who toured local middle schools to give talks on (big surprise!) college admissions, it served as a very strong talking point for essays and interviews, helped me build skills, and led to opportunities which have benefited me throughout college.

You are a high schooler! Do your best to make the most impressive high school passion project you can, but what admissions officers are most looking for is potential and passion.

Dewey Smart tutors have experience creating passion projects and can help you brainstorm, plan, and execute the perfect project! Set up an appointment to work with a counselor on your next project here.

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