Building a Passion Project for College Applications

Want to know how to craft a standout college application? Join for an upcoming webinar on “Building a Passion Project for College Applications.” Led by Harvard alumna and CollegeAdvisor Admissions Expert Maria, this webinar will delve into the importance of pursuing a passion project and how it can set you apart in the highly competitive college admissions process.

In this 60-minute webinar, Maria will cover:

  • Her personal experience of building a passion project and how it helped her gain admission to Harvard University.
  • Practical advice on identifying your own interests and transforming them into a passion project that showcases your unique talents and skills.
  • The benefits of pursuing a passion project beyond college applications, including personal growth, skill development, and career opportunities.

By attending this webinar, you’ll gain valuable insights and actionable tips that can help you stand out in the competitive college admissions process. Whether you are a high school student or a parent looking to support your child’s college application journey, this webinar is a must-attend for anyone interested in crafting a standout college application.

Join Maria and fellow aspiring college students, and take the first step towards building a passion project that can make all the difference in your college application.

Date 05/09/2023
Duration 56:31

Webinar Transcription

2023-05-09 – Building a Passion Project for College Applications

Hello everyone. Welcome to CollegeAdvisor’s Webinar, “Building a Passion Project for College Applications.” To orient everyone with the webinar timing, we’re gonna begin first with the presentation, and then we’ll have the opportunity to answer your questions in a live Q&A. Before we get started with our presentation lists, first, meet our panelists.

Hi everyone. My name is Maria Acosta Robayo, and I was a student at Harvard class of 2020 where I studied sociology and global health policy and where I was also pre-med. Great, great. So we wanna get a sense of what grade you are in, so please let us know. Let us know what grade you are in so that we can try to make sure that we’re speaking directly to our audience.

Maria, what’s one thing that you loved about Harvard? I really loved just the opportunities to do a lot of, like traveling extracurriculars. A lot of the like clubs and competitions and things that you can get involved with outside of classes often had opportunities to travel or to perform somewhere, so I think that there’s a lot of open doors to try new things.

Cool. And to see new places. Cool. Cool. That’s so great. You have the opportunity to do that. So let’s go back to our poll. So we have 1% of our participants in eighth grade. So we have some students who are in middle school. We have 24% ninth grade, 23%, 10th grade. We have 52% 11th grade, and then we have a few 12th grade students.

So I will turn it over to you, Maria. Okay. Thank you so much. So just kicking off, I think something that would help for those folks who maybe got interested in this webinar but may not know what a passionate project is there is lots of different definitions for it, but essentially it’s just an activity that you start doing because you love it.

So a couple like key indicators that this is probably a passion project is if it’s curiosity filled. Curiosity field. So it’s starting because you have an interest in a topic or a variety of topics that you wanna explore more. It’s impact driven. So you recognize that there is currently a need that isn’t being met and you wanna be part of delivering that that need.

And then Jo Joy inspired, which is you find joy and fulfillment in actually participating in that activity. So I would say if your project or project that you’re thinking of has these three components, I think that is really like the, the nuts and bolts of. Or the broader scope of like what a passion project includes.

So I’ll just start off talking a little bit about my passion project experience. So I started a nonprofit in high school called Salt and Life Project. And the way that kind of maps onto the framework that I explained in the previous slide. Is in terms of curiosity filled fueled? I was, I started it because I was really curious about international service.

I lived in I grew up in Miami, which is like a port where lots of people stopped by to do a lot of international service trips. And so I got a chance to host a lot of them in my home and meet a lot of people who are going different places to help deliver critical needs either in like.

During a natural disaster or medical needs or doing any other types of like educational camps. So I was really curious about what that might look like for me. So it was impact driven because I realized there was a need to, so actually before I go into that I’ll talk a little bit about what the Salton project actually Oh, Salton Light Project actually did.

So I realized pretty early on that there was a lot of the teams that were coming through the city through Miami. We’re going and doing really great like service trips, but a lot of times they lacked a lot of the resources that they hoped to to fundraise for. So for example, they would go to Like the first project I got involved with is a team that was going to Ecuador to with to help for like educational camp for kids.

And they really noticed that even though they were teaching kids like a specific curriculum and like it was really helping them advance in like their math and their science skills they didn’t really have a lot of the school supplies that they needed and so I was able to partner with them. And help them get some of the schools applied so that they were able to push their work forward even more.

There was another team that was going to Romania and they were helping with a lot of projects with like a lot of people who were homeless or displaced, and they realized a lot of these folks needed clothes and so we were able to do. Like clothing drives to help meet that need. And so the, the crux of the project was figuring out, okay, different service teams are going all over the world to help people, and sometimes there’s these key like material items that they need that they aren’t getting fundraising to get.

And so what we did on my team is we would pair that up with, I knew that there was like I volunteered at a hospital and they had a lot of like hygiene materials and like clothing that part of like fairs or like big events. And what we would do is we would partner with institutions like schools and universities and the hospitals to get a lot of those materials.

And then we kind of formed that bridge between institutions that could give materials and then service groups that were going and delivering them. And so it was impact driven in that I realized that like there was that mismatch between the supply and demand of resources between those U.S. institutions, right?

The schools, the universities, and then these service organizations that were going to Underserved neighborhoods in the U.S. and abroad. And then it was joint inspired because I really loved visiting different schools and hospitals and getting a chance to talk about the different communities that they would be impacting and then actually doing the coordination between different service organizations, which helped me, me, a lot of really cool people with really great stories.

And so it was, it kind of ticked off all those those check boxes for curiosity fueled, impact driven and joy inspired. So how did completing a passion project help me? Help me in the college admissions process. So I think o obviously there’s lots of things that go into your college admissions, right?

There’s things relating to your academic scores. There’s a lot of your extracurriculars if you play sports or play an instrument. But one of the things that’s really important is community service. And so I think the first thing off the top of my head is like, it helps showcase like, Hey, I’m someone who I really, who really cares about community service.

And so I think that’s something like very evident. I think two other underlying things that this helped me with is one to showcase my personality. So it showed that. Even though I myself wasn’t able to at the time go on these different, like service trips, I was able to find different partners in different kind of links between unlikely institutions a lot of times.

Like, you wouldn’t think of like a middle school and like a medical like service trip, but being able to connect folks who were maybe able to donate something that others needed, like clothing from a school going to help a missionary trip doing like medical missions. And help not just with like medicine, which would you would expect, just comes from like hospitals, but also with the clothing that patients needed when they finish their surgeries.

And a lot of times they like weren’t warm enough. For like that outpatient care. And so being able to link those two like coats from a school with medical admissions was just an opportunity to showcase like the resourcefulness that I had. Also, the creativity again between making those unlikely links and then the service oriented, which again was like that first thing that I mentioned of just like wanting to do community service, not just for as an extracurricular, but as something that I really wanted to.

Used to help my community and to help others in in communities abroad. And then it also allowed me to showcase my skills. So I a lot of times had to go into like schools and into the hospitals and make a pitch for why we should get donations. While there were so many other organizations that were also asking for the same.

And so help me to. Fine tune. Okay, what’s the message that I wanna tell? Who are the people that I’m telling it to? And how can I best tailor this to really like tug at their heartstrings and show why this is important? It also helped me to narrow in my command of logistics and da data software. So I had to do a lot of like cataloging and had to do a lot of like things with.

Figuring out how I’m gonna take inventory as things are being delivered and how I can get those invoices to people who are helping with the transportation. And so there was a lot of like logistics involved where I had to really learn that early on, where it’s like now as an adult, I don’t even use as much of the things, the logistical tools that I had to use back then.

So you might be thinking, okay, I, I feel like I have something in, in mind, or like, this is interesting. I might wanna delve more into it. Like, how do you actually start developing a passion project? So I think the first thing is realizing this isn’t just something that makes your resume look good, or that is like a plus on a college college application.

This is something that starts with genuinely identifying a need that isn’t being met. Or something that you really enjoy and want to share with others. It comes from like a genuine hard place because I think there is a lot of folks who try to start a passion project just for the sake of like having something to show on their application.

And the problem is that a lot of times for these projects, you have to bring people on board. And if you, it’s really hard to convince people to use their time and energy to help you with something if you’re not even convinced that this is something you love or it’s something that is in need. And so having like a true heart posture of like, I wanna help somebody or I wanna share skills or something that I really love and enjoy with others will just set you up for success cuz you’re gonna need people to partner with you and they won’t come along unless you really convince them.

And so that’s kind of just like the foundation then how do you actually start the planning of it? So I would say like, plan out your idea in writing. So, Figure out. Okay. Like what on like a document that you could share with others, and that can maybe be the basis of like a mission statement or a communications email.

Like, right. Like what do you wanna do? Like what will you do? Then think about like, like who will you need to help you? Like who do you need to partner with? Who do you need to contact for advice, for logistics? Like who are the different. Players that are into this, who are different partners they need to reach out to.

And then think about how will you carry out your idea? Like what are the steps? If you start with like, okay, these are the resources I have right now and this is the endpoint that I wanna get to. What are the different steps that you need to take and who are the people who are gonna help you along the way?

So that’s again, very, very basic. Like start to end chronology of like how you’re gonna accomplish your goal. And then carry out your plan. Think about again, very specifically, what are the steps? What are the timelines? When do you need to do what? Who needs to do what? Who do you need to bring along?

And then make a program plan document. So actually figure out like, okay, do I need to like, Ask for help from someone who’s like, you know, planned like planned programs before. Do I need to like, reach out and look at some templates online for how to best organize my time? And just try to like, make a centralized place, whether it’s like a folder on your computer or on Google Drive or somewhere where you keep all your documents and keep things very clear or organized.

So what are some of the things to consider when building a pr a passion project? So, I think one of the first things that can be really easy to forget is to think about the scope of your project, right? Like, it’s very different if you’re like, okay, I’m going to help in my local community where I know the people, where I know the resources.

Maybe it’s not as, Expensive as like, I’m gonna do an international nonprofit that’s gonna span like different continents and like bring in partners that I might never like actually meet in person. Those are two very different scopes. They’re like on different ends of the spectrum. And so I would be very, I clear about like, okay, what is.

What is the time? How much time do you have to devote to this and what are the resources that you have? And then think about how much time you could devote to this idea and how long it will take you to accomplish those goals. Because this might be something that like, you know, especially if this is something that you want to share in your college application process, like think about what’s an achievable like scale.

Maybe you’re like, Idea is something that’s gonna spa, like end up growing into an international nonprofit. And that’s like great if that’s like the, the goal that you have and the passion that you have. But maybe in terms of like what you can do at the moment as a high school student is maybe start the foundation of that.

Maybe you start more locally. You learn, what are the skills of partnering with people on the ground? What are actually the needs? Taking time to actually figure out what are the skills that I need, what, like what’s the process of starting a nonprofit? And so being able to do that and like narrowing the scope can really help at first.

And then just remember that you’re a student embarking in the college application process, which means that you won’t have as much time as maybe you thought before. You will be writing essays and having to think about very existential questions to answer in your college essays and making sure you’re continuing to do well in your classes and your extracurriculars.

And so I would just scope this well in terms of the time that you have available. Then other things to consider is like the purpose. So this is kind of what I was getting at at first and being genuine about why you’re pursuing this pa, this passion project, and really having a reason why this matters to you.

And then thinking about how you are helping others and, and I think something that oftentimes gets forgotten here is like thinking about the power dynamics that might be involved. So, especially when I was working with like communities that I didn’t know like. I was an 18 year old girl living in like the US trying to like help people who, like one of the trips was like in Romania where I had never been to, and not knowing at all what the community was like there, what the culture was like.

I had to really rely on just being like, okay. The team that knows the people, the community members that know the needs, like, just let me know what you need. I’m not gonna try to like step in with my own agenda and say like, oh, this is what I wanna get for you. Like that is not at all the purpose of doing a, a passion project or a service project that includes other community members that you, or other communities you might not know.

The purpose is to be able to. Help where you can and like provide, like the value that you’re giving is being able to connect people who need help with those who can help, but making sure that as much as possible, that’s led by those who are asking for the help. And so that’s just the, an important thing to mention when you’re working either with underserved communities or with just communities that you don’t, that you don’t personally know or, or are a part of.

So what are some examples of passion projects? So a passion project can be as like simple and evident as like starting a new club or a group on campus. That’s like if you are really excited about doing an acapella group and you know that there isn’t one in your high school and this is something that you love and you wanna share with others and you wanna help others grow in, like, that is totally a passion project and that’s something you can do in school.

Same with like starting a new band, starting a new. Like academic club, language club, any, anything like that. You can start a nonprofit or a branch of a nonprofit, right? Like an example for that is like, habitat for Humanity is already a nonprofit, but you could start a chapter of that in your school.

And again, that’s a passion project where you’re bringing something you love, you know that there is a need and you’re bringing others along. You can write a children’s book, you can compose songs, you can start a mentorship program, develop an app. You can start a blog or blog about a topic you’re passionate about.

Again, all, all of these examples are things that should just show you ways that you can hit those three kind of core values that I shared in the first slide. And then a lot of kids, like, especially after coming to a webinar like this, wonder like, do I need a passion project? And so I think what can be really scary is if you look around and you think that everybody else is developing a passion project and you’re falling behind in your application, and this is something that you should have started or you needed, like the truth of the matter is you don’t need a passion project.

Like, I know several student, I actually, most of the people like I knew at Harvard, like didn’t start a passion project. Like they, a lot of the times were just part of their, their student organizations, their extracurriculars out of school, and they just really loved it. And they like grew in leadership and none of those were something that, like, they started from scratch.

So you don’t need that. But in general, in your applications, you do need to showcase your passions. So again, like those students who maybe didn’t start a passion project, they were still able to display, they were passionate about sports, they were passionate about languages. They were passionate about like different like career related clubs.

And so as long as you’re able to show like what your passions are like, that’s the crux of like writing a lot of these essays is figuring out. What are you passionate about and how can you show other, or how can you show admissions officers like that this is an important part of your life and helped you grow into the person that you are?

So again, in a nutshell, you don’t need a passion project, but you do need to showcase your passions throughout your application. So the question here is so many applicants are doing passion projects, how to stand out. So if you are among the pool of, of applicants who are doing passion projects, there’s a couple things that That, that you should keep in mind.

And I think there’s a typo on this slide, but you should make sure that you have a genuine story about why you started that project. So again, whether it’s during an interview that you might get with this college or an essay just be h make sure that you have like a truthful and like a heartfelt like narrative for why you started this project, why it was important, the things that it taught you.

And then another thing that’s important and again, that, that, that relates to this question because it’s gonna help you stand out from folks who just say like, oh, this was just like something cool that I wanted to start. Like if you have a compelling story, it stands out a lot more than others who might just be saying like, this is one of many of my extracurriculars.

Another thing that could help you stand out is just having clear goals and organized documentation of your work. For example, when I was applying to Harvard, I also submitted a portfolio with all the different like, Donor letters and my business plan, when I did the nonprofit, like how I started with my mission, the vision, I, I made a website with all the people who were helping me.

I asked every missionary organization and service group that went abroad to. Just documents as much as they, as they could about the stories that they were seeing to take lots of pictures. And so I was able to use that to build a cohesive narrative around, like, this isn’t just something that I, I cooked up my senior year to like impress admissions officers.

It was something that I truly had wanted to do and I started like back in the eighth grade.

So my last advice on building passion projects here is to, again, have a purposeful vision. Make sure that it’s, you’re using your time for something that you find purposeful and genuine and that you’re genuine about. Because again, you have so many things claiming your time and your energy.

You’re, you’re still in high school, you’re doing college applications. You probably have a lot of different time demands and just making sure that you have something that’s purposeful and that you’re devoting your time. To something that really matters to you. Then making a clear plan about what you need to carry out your idea.

Again, thinking about what’s your start, like, where are you starting and where do you wanna end? And like, what are, what are your goals and like the different steps that you wanna do between that start and finish. And who are the different people that you need to partner with you. And that brings me to the last point, which is bring people along, along who share your passion and who can help you.

I think one of the, one of the best things about the project that I started was that it helped me to connect to a lot of people that I had, like known in my life, but I didn’t know their passion for travel. I didn’t know their passion for service. I didn’t know the connections that they had to people in different countries.

And so it’s a really good opportunity to build community, even among folks that you had known, but like could partner in one unified vision and then also introduce you to new people you didn’t know before and who could teach you really important life skills. And just get, get, help you get a broader understanding of your role in community service.

Okay. Thank you Maria, for sharing this really great information about how to. Start your passion project as you prepare for your college application. So we are now gonna move into our live questions and answers. So on the Q&A tab, you are able to submit your questions and then I will paste those into the public chat for everyone to be able to see them.

So Maria, are you ready for our first question? Yep. Okay. Is the passion project in a span of all four years or many projects each year? So I would say when you talk about a passion project, this is usually something that is a much heavier lift. It usually is something that you’ve do, you’ve been doing over several.

Years, or at least a year. And that involves a lot of people. And so I would say different from an extracurricular. This is truly like something that might take you quite a bit of time. And I think that’s why it’s like, not really an extracurricular, but rather like a whole project. You can start several.

But I would just say dilutes the amount of time and focus that you can have on one. And so I would be very careful about trying to taking an approach of like, you know, taking as many classes as you want. Like this is not like, let’s take as many, let’s make as many passion projects as I can. This is more of like a quality over quantity.

Great. Great. Our next question is, If you don’t put the project in your essay where should you list it on the application? Yeah, so there’s in your common app, you’ll have 10 slots to write extracurriculars, and one of them can, you can use that slot to write about this project. There’s also another section devoted to community service, and that’s another place where you can also.

Write this, but I would, whichever one has the most work count is where I would put a passion project. And because your essay has the most work count, I would try as much as possible to include that there. Again, if you’re spending as much time and energy and like this is something you love and you’re passionate about, then I would definitely devote a lot of work count to explain that.

And in your interviews, if you, if you are scheduled for one, Yes. Those are really great recommendations. Our next question reads, how do I ask or approach a teacher if I have an idea? Yeah, so I think something that is really helpful before you reach out to a teacher, to an another sponsor is to have a written down version of what you’re gonna share.

I think something that can be really confusing for the person you’re sharing with and potentially like disappointing for you is if you have a really great idea but you, you haven’t figured out how to communicate it yet. And again, it can be disappointing if. You know, it’s a great idea and they just didn’t get it because of the way you were communicating.

And so being able to put things down on paper and have a clear focus on like, this is what I wanna accomplish. These are the things that I need. And having it be a draft that, again, you work with, with your teacher, you work with, with other people around you, but you have at least a clear initial vision for it yourself.

So that, that’s a first step. Then I would think about, okay. I’m guessing you, you might have a teacher in mind already, but I would think about like, okay, who’s the best person to bring this to and what are the specific questions I wanna ask them? I think you, you could definitely just take the approach of like, Hey, this is my idea.

What do you think? But sometimes it’s really helpful and it’ll, it’ll help them to give you more information and more feedback if you’re able to come up with a couple ideas that you can share with them and that you think that they would be a good source of feedback for. And lastly just like the last push of actually going out and like scheduling either a time with them, I would try to not just like in between classes, go and ask them, cuz you could catch them at a bad time or they can be focused on school.

I would, I would recommend that you just reach out to them and say like, Hey, this is on my mind, love. I have. Some specific questions that I wanna ask you and a vision that I’d like to share with you for how, how to do this. Is there a time that you have before school or after school or any point that where you could actually reserve a time on their calendar and they can devote their attention to you and feel prepared to, to help you?

Cool. Our next question reads, what is the best way to find and reach out to organizations that would aid you? And I wonder if and if that person’s on the chat, by a do you mean like like organizations who would help, like, give donations or like provide support? Is this like a receiving organization, like someone that you wanna give to and partner with in that way, or someone that you wanna receive or like a supplier that you wanna, so is it like the demand or the supply side?

I can share. I don’t know if that person answered, but I’m happy to share like my thoughts on either one, cuz I think there’s different approaches. Yeah, yeah, yeah. They haven’t responded yet, but do you wanna maybe just share about one approach? Yeah, sure. So if you’re trying to contact organizations to be like a supplier, like you need their help supplying, like donations or money or something like that.

Like, first of all, when it comes to money, you have to like actually set up like a No. At least in Florida, I had to set up a nonprofit. I couldn’t receive. Like funds without actually having it be registered in the state. So I would be very careful about like the legal side of things and making sure that you just and this is something that you can look up online.

Like it was very easy for me to be like, how to register a nonprofit in Florida. And there was like a website and I just had to put my name. I was again, like I was 17. I would, I didn’t have to wait till I was an adult. And so I would share that I or I would first like, look into that and like, see what, what are the limitations on like who I can potentially reach out to or what is the type of aid that I can ask for.

Then I would think about like, okay, traditionally, like what are, what are some of the places like I know have done this in the past? So, for example, when I was thinking about like, Who could donate like school supplies. I just remembered like in the past, my school always did like school supply drives and oftentimes like there was just a surplus because we had a lot of p t a moms that were very engaged and like there, there was always a lot of A lot of donations.

And so I figured, okay, like we do this just once a year. I wonder if we did it again for another cause, like would I be able to get a lot of donations? And so I knew schools, for example or I knew my school and from my experience with my school, I like extrapolated that probably a lot of schools have the capacity to do this.

And so I knew that the institutions I wanted to reach out to were schools. So again, step one is figuring out what type of institution do you wanna reach out to. Step two is figuring out, okay, once I knew it was schools, who are the people that were most involved? And so I could have reached out to the principal, but the principals are always like very busy.

And so I would look, I would email like counselors who oftentimes coordinated the drives or teachers who were the sponsor for like some community service groups. So like I would look up like who were like, what are the different clubs and like who is the sponsor for like save the Children or for unicef and then figure out like who are the community ser like service related teachers at that school.

And those are the folks I would email. And so that’s an example of step number two, which is figuring out, okay, within the institution, who’s the right person to talk to? And then the third step is just being, try to be as professional as you can about how you wanna communicate, right? You’re not just like cold calling them on their, like school phone, like you are sending them an email.

You’re gi, you’re putting a link to. Maybe a PDF document where you have like the mission statement of your organization, what you’re interested in, like what are your goals, and asking for time to talk or time to explain this further. I always offered like, I am more than happy to go in person and to meet you and tell you more about this.

But I would be very clear about like, why you’re seeking this partnership. It’s not just like, Hey, this is my idea. Like come like, just join me. Like you have to be very clear about, Hey, I know like there, this is like the semester you’re in the middle of the semester you’re teaching. These are some ways that I think your school would be really well positioned to help me with.

And framing it in a way that really help, like makes them see you’re needed. I need you. Like this is something that like, You can be like engaged with and giving them a reason to like kinda pulling their heartstrings and giving them a reason to join. And then one caveat that I would add to this, whenever you’re thinking about like that supplier end, so like partnerships on the supply side of those who are giving you things is that a lot of time like folks just won’t respond to you.

I had, I emailed so many people. I called, I called, the reason I know not to cold call is because I’ve actually had people say like, I would’ve appreciated an email instead of a call. And so I went through like that trial and error of trying to figure out the best way to communicate with folks. And just know that just increasing the number of people you reach out to will increase the probability that you might, or you, you will just have a higher chance of reaching of.

Of getting the help that you need. If one, you keep to like a plan, that again is like very like thoughtful and like professional, but also if you just increase the numbers that you’re reaching out to. Because I know a lot of folks just their passion project pretty much died just because they like reached out to one person, one person shut them down, and then they gave up.

And so I would just say it’s not uncommon to have a No, just keep on going cuz you’ll at some point get a yes.

Okay. Thank you. Our next question, which I feel is a very common question, is what if you have nothing you are passionate about at the time? Yeah, so I think a lot of folks feel like passion means that you have to be like, this is my bread and butter. I live for this. Like, like, you know, we see examples in like athletes and like their stories of like training all day for this and like this is their passion.

Or musicians who like train all day and like, We have this idea of what like a passion means that is just like very overwhelming. Especially if you’re a high school student and you’re like, I have school and like, I guess I like this class and I guess I like this extracurricular. And so what I would think about is like, first I kind of put into reference that when we say passion project is like you might be interested in a lot of things.

And maybe like the passion project is just realizing like, Hey, I, I like, enjoy this. Maybe it’s not like the, my biggest passion, my number one that I take out of like all my other hobbies. Maybe it’s just something like, Hey, I’m really interested in this and I just wanna see where it goes. And like, that’s the start.

And so I would just kind of like lower the onus on like, I need to know, this is like my top priority, this is my passion. The second thing is like realizing I. Again, putting things in perspective that you don’t need a passion project. And so I would again consider like if there isn’t anything at all that you’re like, yeah, like I’m, you know, if you really like, don’t think like there’s anything you’re interested in.

Well, one, I would clearly like you use your time and you’re down to where you’re not having to do something. There’s probably things that you enjoy doing. Even if it’s something as silly as like, you know, I just enjoy watching tv. Like, there are folks who, like, especially during Covid, like realized that there was a need for community and would just make like watch party groups to like share different movies and like talk about books and started a book club.

And like that started from just someone being like, I’m watching a movie by myself. I kind of wanna do that with somebody else. And it started a passion project or like, I’m reading this book on my own, would be cool to like chat with somebody about it. And again, something that seems so trivial or so like day to day.

And so I would, I would challenge. Challenge you to think about, again, once you’ve lowered the onus on like, this is my passion, this has to be the thing. And once you’ve put into perspective that you don’t have to do a passion project, just think about like, okay, what are the things you enjoy doing? And I would say everyone again, even if it’s something as silly as just watching tv, they enjoy doing something.

And so think about like in that something, whatever it is. How can you bring people along? What are things that you enjoy about that? And just take a little bit more like time just being introspective about how, why you like that thing. Why does it give you joy? Does it help you step away from something else that you don’t enjoy?

Does it inherently bring you joy for some reason? Is the joy potentially being able to share it with others and ask yourselves those questions that may reveal potentially a passion or just something that you really do like and you just didn’t know? That that fell into like a thing you like to do.

Okay. Our next question reads how big is too big when it comes to these projects? Yeah, so I think it’s hard, like I would say, like, okay. If you are like, too big, might be like you are trying to do a service project in every single country of the world. You’re trying to like, get to every continent. You’re trying to like if this, like you’re trying to scale this project to like incredible, like a crazy amount of growth that you really would only see in like international companies like Amazon or Google or something like that.

Like, I would say those are clear indicators that like, okay, maybe your scope is a little off or like very off. But I think that. Now that you have like this like reference of like, yeah, like to answer your question, like the biggest scale that would be like wrong or like that would be off is like something like that.

Then like there’s a lot of room between that and then what’s wise to do as like a high school student. Right? So even if you’re not all the way to that extreme, just given the time and energy that you have and maybe the connections that you have as like someone who might not yet be 18 means that like you might not be able to, you might have to think about.

Instead of thinking about like, what is too big, think about like what makes sense. So I think it’s maybe shifting that perspective of like, what is too much to, how can I use my resources well and steward them well? So maybe you’re someone who just because you have a large family or maybe like your parents are really well connected, you have access to a network of people who can be really helpful and influential.

I know for me, like I I was doing this, this project and I grew up in like a pretty, like a low income neighborhood. I was a first gen and so I had locked a lot of like those initial networks and so I it was my scale ended up being more like local in Miami and then a couple countries where I knew specific service teams that were going there directly.

There’s other folks that I know who, again, they’re, they had been multi-generationally in, in the us Their parents were very well off and like had networks of like people who could just fundraise very, very heavily. And that just wasn’t something that I was able to do. And so for those people like stewarding well, and like their scope of work and what they were able to do meant that they were able to collect like thousands and like hundreds of thousands of dollars that I was never able to do within my network.

And so I would think again, For your specific position where you are now, the networks that you have access to, the time and energy that you have given, like your schoolwork, your extracurriculars, and the number of schools you’re applying to, what are you able to do and being very realistic about that.

Okay. We have a a great deal of questions that are coming in, but one question I continue to see surface is for students who are currently juniors, which we have a good percentage of students tonight that are juniors. They’ve been asking, is it too late? To develop a passion project. Yeah, so I don’t think it’s too late.

I think something I wanna be like very clear about though is like obviously the longer amount of time that you’ve been doing the passion project, the more validity or cre, like credibility gives it. Like that’s just natural. Like if you put yourself in the shoes of an admissions officer, if you’re looking at someone who’s been doing a passion project for five years versus one year.

Right. There’s gonna be a level of just like how much work was done, how long it’s been a passion project. So just be clear about like that is a disadvantage of starting late. That doesn’t mean that you can’t do it. And I think again, it comes down to are you doing this as just a strategy to get into college or is this something that you’re really passionate about?

And so if you’re doing it as a strategy to get into college, like again, there’s pros and cons like you did start later, which means that in terms of like this being a value add for your application, like if you’re taking time away from being on like a varsity team that you’ve been like building up to be in maybe your ability to compete, that it might not be the right time to experiment with a passion project.

But if on top of what you’re already doing without Without like falling back on or without taking time or effort away from your existing extracurriculars or from your classes, you’re like, Hey, I am so excited about doing this. I love it. I wanna share it with others. Like, I don’t care. Like obviously, like, yes, we all know it’s gonna go on the application.

It is an important factor. But again, if you’re thinking about it as like a cost benefit analysis, like I would say if you’re a junior, It is more of a cost to experiment with a passion project than to stay on track with your schoolwork to do well, to focus on that, to build up in your extracurriculars.

And if it’s truly something you love and passionate about, then like it shouldn’t matter, like how it compares to other people, like the, the longevity of other people’s projects. Great, great points mentioned like ensuring that it’s a passion and it’s not just to perhaps appease an admission officer.

Mm-hmm. It has to be about things that truly drive you and make you excited. Like you said, Maria brings that joy mm-hmm. To you. So, yeah, I think, I think one last thing just related to that point is that it could actually be a detriment if you start a passion project that seems very disingenuous.

Actually could an admissions officer who otherwise might have thought your application looked great, could be like, okay, well this, this student just started this this year and it doesn’t really look like they’re excited about it. Like it’s kind of out of the blue. Yeah, I, I feel like in that scenario, that’s something that can actually take away from your passion project or, or take away from your application.

Mm-hmm. Yes. Yes. So we’re gonna take a short pause for me to share more about the work that we do within CollegeAdvisor. I know I saw a few questions around, you know, how do we work with students on developing passion projects and are we able to serve as mentors? So for those in the room who aren’t already working with us, We know how overwhelming the admission process can be, especially for our competitive applicants like yourself.

Our team of over 300 former admission officers and admission experts are ready to help you and your family navigate all in one-on-one advising sessions. So the advising sessions are the opportunity for you to work directly with one of our admission experts and learn more about how you can develop.

Your own passion project. Take the next step in your college admission journey by signing up for a free consultation using the QR code on the screen. During the consultation, a member of our team will review your current extracurricular list, discuss how it lines up with your college goals, and help you find opportunities for growth and leadership.

After scanning the QR code, you’ll be able to select a date and time for a phone conversation with a member of our team. Okay, so let’s continue with our remaining questions. All righty. Give me one second.

There was a question in regards to impact that I really, really loved. Let’s see. Okay, so is there, is there, is there such a thing as a passion project that is too small or not in demand slash impact driven? Yeah. So I think I think those three bullet points that I shared in the first slide, and I think that this, this deck is gonna go out after this webinar, but helps to kind of guardrail against, is this like, not very impactful?

Because if it’s something that you really love and enjoy doing, if you’re bringing people along and if there’s like a, like a, a need that needs to be met, like that in itself will be impactful. Like for example, like if you are. Something that might seem very normal, like coordinating again. Let’s say like there’s an, there was a nursing home near my high school and like one student, like, I think it was her junior year actually just noticed that like a lot of students were hanging around school after school finished.

And they, she realized like, oh, like I can just start like A buddy program where like students can sign up and instead of like spending time after school, at school, they can go over to the nursing home in groups and like talk to folks. And that’s something that just seemed very, very normal and like not something that like, you know, would maybe like be like big or scaled, but pretty much what she just started is her herself.

And like a couple of her friends, like they just started going and then she built it up by asking more students to come and more students to come and without her knowing, like it just. Built into something big. And so this is just an example of like, there might be something that you might think is insignificant, like you by yourself or you with a friend going to a nursing home and you can build it into something more impactful.

And the reason why she was able to do that is because, again, started with genuine curiosity of like, oh, like I wonder, like, you know, do these two, like again at different age, like spectrums of life, like coming together, like curiosity around like, okay, like would that be helpful? Two, like would that be helpful for like students?

Would that be helpful for older folks? And two, like it was passion fuel in that like she really wanted to help students who maybe like didn’t have like older mentors or like older folks who maybe felt really lonely. And so I again, would think about it less framed as I want to like help, or I want to just do a passion project.

Is this gonna be impactful enough for an admissions officer? And more so like, Do I think this is important, and if you think it’s important and you find another person who can also come with you, or even if it’s just you but especially if you can find other, at least one other person who will come alongside you, like that’s just a flag that it’s, IM, it’s something you should pursue.

Okay. And this question reads, does my PR passion, excuse me, does my passion project have to be related to the field of study? I’m interested in going to, in my case it’s music therapy, or could I base my project on something more unrelated? Yeah. So It definitely could be something that it’s related to your, to your profession or your, what you think your profession will be.

I think something that folks forget a lot is that you right now as like a high school student might have an idea of what you think. You’re like, think what you wanna do and like, that’s great if that shapes like the hobbies or the interests that you’re in, or like the passion project. Like it helps to build the cohesive narrative.

When you’re applying to colleges. But that doesn’t necessarily mean like that. You have to do that, like you can, if anything. Again, it shows that you’re a well-rounded student by focusing on different areas that you’re passionate about. So it’s not necessary. Again, there’s like pros and cons. The pros is that it would help you to build a more cohesive a more cohesive plan, more cohesive application, potentially more cohesive story.

What. Again, the con could be like, maybe like, it just, it’s all about your profession and maybe the admissions officer doesn’t really get any other aspects of your personality, doesn’t see you, see you as a well-rounded student. And so the, the pros of cha doing something that’s different from your what you’re saying you’re gonna major in or whatnot, is that you show these different variant var like varieties of your personality and how that manifests in the way that you spend your time.

Okay, so our next question is, a lot of my time is spent with sports. Do you have suggestions for working in a passion project with a little amount of time? So sorry. You, you cut out a little bit. Can you repeat that? Yes, yes, yes. So let me go back to the question. A lot of time is spent with sports.

Do you have suggestions for working in a passion project with a little amount of time? Yeah, so that’s, that’s a big one. I feel like. A lot of students have to decide how to balance, like things that they’re already, their existing passions like a sport and potentially something that can like, deviate from like what practice or tournaments might look like.

And so I would say think about if there is a way to connect it. Like for example, a lot of students who are athletes and up doing maybe like some type of like teaching other like, Teaching kids their sport or like being able to like mentor kids and like bringing in their sport into the work that they’re doing.

Just to again, have a little bit of overlap. So for example, I. I know this is not something I did as a passion project, but just something I did to like, as like like a little bit of a job was I would, I played competitive tennis growing up and something I would do during the summer sometimes to help pay for like my lessons is that I would help teach little kids and even if I wasn’t teaching, like just being there and feeling like, kind of like rallying with them and like, Helping them learn different strokes.

Strokes in my mind. Like it cemented the techniques that I knew. It helped me to practice in like a very low stakes way. And so those are things that, like, let’s say if I would’ve started something on my own I like, even if it wasn’t with a coach, that’s a way where I could have brought in my passions for for tennis and like my.

Wanting to like continue in the tennis realm into a passion project. If you’re thinking about doing com, something completely different cuz you’re a little burnt out and you want to just show a different side of yourself in through your passion project, I would just say, think about. Be very careful in like the planning phase and in the scoping phase of how long things will take, how long it’ll take you to like pick a, like build up a passion project how much time you think you will need, and just try to create boundaries where you’re like, okay, in this scenario where this and this conflicts, which one is gonna take priority.

And so being very clear about that from the get go can help you to build a passion project that’s sustainable and doesn’t just feel like a moment of inspiration and then you don’t have the feel to like back it up.

Okay. How do you find a problem in society or your community? Yeah, so that’s that’s a good one. I feel like a lot of times if you just ask your parents, there is something that they will complain about in the community and that they a lot of times, a, as students we’re very focused on like, okay, this is my schoolwork, this is what needs to get done.

And sometimes it’s our parents or our neighbors or folks who have been in the neighborhood for longer who realize what the problems are. And so if you haven’t noticed any of yourself, so I would maybe same. First step is to figure out, like take some time to think about what are the things that you have noticed aren’t going well in your community, or like people who are struggling in your community.

And I feel like in almost every community there is in some, some form shape, in some form or shape. There are folks who are struggling. Especially I feel like post covid a lot of like breaks in community have happened. And so just thinking about how that may have played out in your community. That could be in your residential community, that can be in maybe like a team that you play on or a group that you’re a part of.

So thinking about that, and then if you can’t find something yourself, then I would go and like do a mini like, kind of like research sprint and just ask folks in your neighborhood, Hey, what are things that you would like to change? Like, what are, I don’t know, like what are, what are things that are you know, challenging the status quo of like your community?

And thinking about what ideas might come from that.

Okay. Does creating a passion project come with a price? In other words, does it involve expenses or money? So sometimes it does. Like for example, when I was, it definitely comes with the price of like time, which times, especially for like high, for high school students is like very costly. And so making sure that you have.

The availability to like share to, to think about like, okay, with my limited time and resources, like what can I devote to and like do well is like an important thing to consider. The, when it comes to, I think I also interpreted that as like, no, will I be spending money on this? And it depends, like maybe like something to kickstart your like event or your project is like you’re going to do like, I don’t know, like a house party where you share with folks what your idea is.

You know, there might be some initial costs in terms of money and invitations and whatnot. I know that I like paid for when I was signed up the nonprofit, like there was a fee I had to pay. So that’s like another thing that like I would consider, but it’s really project dependent and it depends on the scale and what type of events and things that you wanna host.

Someone asked, where can I find out how to start a nonprofit? So actually if you Google that, like there’s gonna be a million different blogs of people who have successfully started a nonprofit that can walk you through that. Something that I would maybe look up more specifically is, how can I start a nonprofit in my state and just write like your state, because I think different like, Different states, just the registration pro process might look different.

And you’ll get more specific information.

Okay. Let’s see. So just reiterating this question again, like how do you balance school passion projects, sports, standardized test prep, working on applications? How do you balance. Yeah. So what I did to balance that was I was just very clear about how much time do I need for each thing and how much sleep do I need to get in order to do these well?

And so I needed to, I made a plan for like, okay, what are the things that I need to accomplish? I if like, I’m doing tennis and. My nonprofit and like X, Y, and z like clubs and like these courses. What are the, what are the major milestones that are happening and how do I need to prep for those in a way that’s sustainable?

And I would just create like monthly schedules and then from that monthly schedule, a weekly schedule, and from that weekly schedule, a daily schedule. And I, as much as possible, just try to stick to it. In order to accomplish those goals. And a lot of times, like I went overboard and like over planned and, and it was really difficult, but there was other times where it was actually like I was able to, to do a little bit more work than I thought I could and then just balance that with days where I didn’t.

And so just having that initial plan at least is very helpful. Okay, so this will be our last question. How do you overcome age limitations? I feel like others might not take young people super seriously. Yeah. So I think that’s just the pro I, that’s a problem. I definitely felt myself I feel like I also was like pretty over eager.

I like emailed my like, representative and like, they probably, like, there was just a lot of things as like like do I, like, you know, fresh freshmen and high school. There was a lot of people that I reached out to who were way above my attention. But there was people who like surprisingly reached out to me and said like, Hey, like my office doesn’t deal with this, but I can connect you with someone who does.

And like, I feel like the way to deal with being not just seeming younger, but being younger, is that like you just stay true to like, if I think this is important, I’m going to share it and the folks who will think it’s important will join me. And those who don’t like, don’t need to be part of this. And so I would say that’s the attitude in terms of like how to logistically do things to like gain credence is make sure that when you’re writing an email, when you’re reaching out to folks that you are being professional that there aren’t any typos, that you’re being coherent.

So trying to be as professional as you can is really important. Okay. Well that actually now concludes our webinar for this evening. So thank you, Maria, for sharing more information about how to build a passion project. And I just wanna. Wish all of our attendees, listeners, good luck as you all work to build out your passion projects and continue to have impact.

It’s really, really great to just see all the questions that were coming up in the chat in the questions and answers. So with that, I also wanna share that we do have more webinars that are coming up this month. So please check it out and we look forward to seeing you in a future webinar. And again, at the end of this presentation, there will be a popup screen if you weren’t able to scan the QR code so that you can meet with one of our consultants to learn more about the work that we do with CollegeAdvisor.

Thank you everyone. Have a great night. Bye-bye. Bye bye.