Grades. Essays. Extracurricular activities.
These are some of the usual responses that I get when I ask students the question “What is the most important part of your college application?”.
While these elements are without a doubt important, there is one thing that can elevate your college application above all else.
So what is a passion project and why should anyone care? Fair question. Broadly defined, a passion project is any independently student-founded and led project to achieve a specific goal or mission.
Some common examples include starting a non-profit charity, small business, or blog, building an online community around an issue, doing independent research, writing a book, etc.
A passion project can really be any initiative you take that shows your creativity, resourcefulness, motivation, and leadership ability surrounding a given topic or cause.
Because passion projects are generally perceived as being difficult and requiring a lot of personal motivation and guts, colleges treasure them when it comes to deciding who gets in and who wins the big scholarships.
In fact, a recent study done by Acceptitas showed that over 75% of current Harvard students completed a passion project in high school and felt that it significantly impacted their application. This phenomenon holds for other top schools and demonstrates that a thoughtful, carefully executed passion project is a common thread between students who get in and receive scholarships across the board.
In theory, this sounds awesome. But where, and how, do you start?
It’s no secret that building a passion project from scratch can be scary and also a huge time commitment. You’ve got a full plate of extracurricular activities and classes, so starting your own organization or project sounds overwhelming. Even if you have an idea, what are you supposed to do next?
Acceptitas is a near-peer mentorship service that provides students with 1-on-1 passion project development coaching from current Harvard undergraduates.
We help students build passion projects from scratch or vastly improve their current project. All of our curriculum and methods are based on studying the best practices of what makes a passion project successful. In our eyes, a successful project is personally fulfilling to work on, helps a significant number of people, and builds your college application narrative or “story.”
Acceptitas mentors break down the process into small actionable steps, taking the overwhelming task of creating a passion project and making it much more accessible and less time-consuming.
If you’re interested in starting a passion project, here are three steps to help get you started.
1) Ask yourself: what topic, issue, or problem am I passionate about?
Your passion project will need a concrete focus. This can be a topic such as “invasive plants” or a problem you have recognized within your community, such as “lack of mental health resources in my district’s schools.”
Pick a topic that genuinely excites you, that you are interested in learning more about, and making a difference in.
2) Write a mission statement.
After you know your topic, decide who is going to be impacted by your passion project, how you’re going to do it, and why. Each passion project should have a target audience, or people who will interact with it, such as volunteers or people who read your research.
Next, how are you going to reach these people? This could be through building an online presence and community, live events, fundraisers, etc.
Finally, why are you doing all this in the first place? What do you believe is a problem that needs more attention?
Once you have answered all of these questions, you can combine your responses to form a cohesive mission statement for your passion project.
3) Plan and host your first “event”.
The best way to learn is by doing! If your passion project is event or community-focused, then get started with your first event. It’s okay to start small the first time around. The important thing is that you start it!
If your passion project is some form of research, a written piece, or creativity-based, then your first “event” might be creating an outline for your project and creating the first section.
It’s time to get to it!
If you’re interested in working 1-on-1 with an experienced passion project mentor to take your passion project from idea to shining star on your college apps, go to acceptitas.com and sign up for a free consultation. For juniors and seniors, check out our complete college application program, Hack Your College Apps.
A new future and an awesome passion project await you.
This article was written by Emmet Halm, Founder of Acceptitas. Acceptitas is a near-peer mentoring service that helps high school students build passion projects and get into their dream schools.