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In the following article, CollegeAdvisor.com Admissions Expert Kim Phan (Harvard ‘21) shares tips on how middle schoolers can turn their hobbies and passions into extracurricular activities in high school. For more guidance on the college applications process in general, sign up for a monthly plan to work with an admissions coach 1-on-1.
Much of the schooling process involves learning what activities you like and cultivating your interests. Here are some tips on how you can turn your hobbies and passions into larger endeavors in high school and beyond.
1. Reflect: Think about what hobbies you have and would like to explore further in high school
In order to find or create opportunities to further your interests, you should have some inkling of what those interests might be! Discovering your passions is a key part of your early education.
As you look toward high school, take some time to reflect upon the activities and hobbies that capture your attention right now. Consider the following questions:
- What do you like to do in your spare time?
- Which activities can you spend hours doing without getting bored? What is one subject you could spend hours learning about and still want to learn more?
- What do you look forward to doing the most in your day?
Let’s look at an example. Andy is about to enter high school; here are his answers to the prompts above:
- I love to play basketball with my friends after school, especially if we didn’t have gym class in school that day. Sometimes I also play video games.
- I could play basketball for hours. Even though my body gets tired after a while, once I refuel, I’m always ready and excited to begin another game with my friends. And if we’re talking about a subject, I really like learning about computers in school. I play video games, so it’s fun to learn about how to create different, simpler games by myself.
- I look forward to a lot of parts of my day. Like I mentioned before, I love gym and computer class because I get to do things I like with my friends. I also just like free time when my friends and I can hang out, like during lunch or after school.
2. Dig around and do some research
One of the best ways to learn more about potential high school hobbies is simply to expose yourself to different perspectives! Take advantage of online resources to learn more about your passions. You may watch videos about others who have applied your passion in their own lives. You can also find articles from professionals in the field that interests you or listen to podcasts where these professionals discuss their work.
Let’s return to our example. Since Andy has some interest in computer science, he may watch videos or listen to podcasts where computer scientists discuss their work. He might also learn about how video game developers create games or even how technology is used in sports. And to cultivate his interest in basketball from another angle, he may follow a basketball star who documents his life on video to learn more about the experiences of a professional player.
3. Take a look at the extracurricular scene in your high school and community, and see which activities might align with your hobbies
Are there after-school clubs or elective classes that relate to your interests? Most middle and high schools offer many clubs led by both students and teachers. Their focus can range from poetry-writing to tennis, sustainability awareness to community service.
What about programs in your neighborhood, city, or surrounding community? Check for opportunities to participate in after-school programs at a local community center, volunteer at an organization that aligns with your passions, or search for an internship that allows you to explore an area of interest.
For Andy, he realized that he would love to play basketball more than just during gym class. As a result, he joined his school’s basketball club that meets two days a week to play after classes end. If his school didn’t have such a club, he may have started his own extracurricular organization with the help of a teacher or administrator.
As for his interest in computer science, Andy’s middle school does not have a computer science club. However, Andy’s computer teacher introduced him to some online introductory coding classes that Andy has been taking on the weekends. He has also had a lot of fun creating his own games and animations on a beginner software program. When Andy enters high school, he’ll want to consider taking more computer science classes that go beyond what is mandatory, and he may join an after-school club related to video games. He can also take advantage of breaks and summers to volunteer with local organizations to further apply his skills.
4. Ask your teachers, mentors, and guidance counselors for advice and connections
The adults around you want to help you learn, grow, and find opportunities to engage in your interests! With their life experience, your teachers and mentors likely have much broader networks than you do. They can connect you with other individuals who can help you explore your passions further.
In particular, if you are especially interested in a certain school subject, get to know your teacher. They will have expertise in the area and can guide you to high school hobbies you may not otherwise find. Here are some questions you can ask:
- I’m really interested in x. How can I learn more about it?
- Do you know if there are any clubs at school related to x?
- How would you recommend I learn about x outside of school?
- Are there any local organizations I could join to learn more about different aspects of x?
In Andy’s case, he may speak to his computer science teacher and ask if his teacher knows of any opportunities to work with a local organization with either a mission or open work position relating to computer science. Perhaps the neighborhood food pantry needs someone to help redo their website, or a technology company wants interns who are interested in learning about their business.
5. And finally, keep on being curious, asking questions, and trying new things!
The more you explore and share your curiosities and hobbies with others, the more you will learn about how they may intersect with other subjects, opportunities, and people. Good luck!
This article was written by Kim Phan, Harvard University ‘21. If you want to get help with your college applications from Kim or other CollegeAdvisor.com Admissions Experts, register with CollegeAdvisor.com today.