Building a Passion Project for College Applications

One of the best ways to stand out during the college admissions process is by working on side projects! Join Admissions Experts Maria Acosta Robayo as she provides tips on how you can build a passion project in high school that will make your college application shine. The webinar will start with a 30-minute presentation and end with a 30-minute live Q&A. Come ready to learn and bring your questions!

Date 05/03/2022

Webinar Transcription

2022-05-03 Building a Passion Project for College Admissions

[00:00:00] Hello everyone. My name is Rachel D’Amato and I am your moderator today. Welcome Creating a Passion Project for College Admissions. To orient everyone with the webinar timing, we’ll start off with a presentation. Then answer your questions in a live Q&A on the sidebar. You can download our slides and you can start submitting your questions in the Q&A tab.

Now let’s meet our panelists. Hi everyone. My name is Maria Acosta-Robayo. And as Rachel said, I’ll be talking to you more about building a passion project for your college application. And hopefully even outside of just the purpose of, uh, applying for college. Um, I was a student at Harvard. I graduated class of 2020, um, where I studied sociology and global health policy and where I was also a pre-med student.

Um, so I’m excited to dive a little bit more into this talk. [00:01:00] Wonderful. Thanks, Maria. So to kick us off, we’re going to run a very quick poll. So I’m clicking start. Now you can start entering in your information for what grade are you in? Um, in the meantime, Maria, I’d love to hear, um, you know, a little more about how you wound up a pre-med major in college.

What led you to pre-med sure thing. So, um, I, since I was little, I just, um, had really good exposure to doctors who made going getting medical treatment less scary. And just with. Uh, during, um, like stressful times. And I just figured it’s a profession where impact on others was just so clear. Um, and so when I went into college, I was like, okay, I want to be a doctor.

And part of that includes doing all my pre-med req. So, um, even though I ended up majoring in sociology to get more of like that qualitative, more like cultural side of my academic interests, I stayed on a pre-med track. So if there’s any students who want to be a doctor, but don’t want to necessarily major in [00:02:00] like one of the stem sciences, like chemistry or biology, like, I’m sure you can talk with your advisor and even your CollegeAdvisor once you’re, um, actually in college to talk more about like courseload, but anyone can be a pre-med, um, uh, like a pre-med student and major in anything that you, that you’re interested.

Yeah. One of my really good friends was a theater major who did his premed prerequisites on the side. And, um, it made him a really compelling applicant for medical school. So that’s great advice, Maria. Um, awesome. So, uh, now that, you know, with folks that filled out the poll, we’re finding that around 3% of our attendees are in the eighth grade.

Um, 8% are in the ninth grade. 37% are in the 10th grade. 47% are in the 11th grade. So a good majority in the 11th grade and around 3% are in their senior year. Um, which makes sense. We have lower numbers there and senior year. Awesome. Well, I’m [00:03:00] going to close the poll and pass it over to you. Maria sounds great.

Um, so that’s all really helpful to know, um, what grades different people are in. I think that this you’re going to find something helpful in this, regardless of what year. If you’re a senior, you could potentially think about this as something that you want to consider as you’re building your, uh, different extracurriculars in college.

Um, so I’m excited to dive a little bit more into this. So first, what is a passion project? Um, so there’s lots of different definitions depending on what field you’re in or, um, how long you’re like planning the extent to which you want to do a passion project. For some people it’s just like a hobby that they do on the side for others.

It’s like a big endeavor. They start a nonprofit, but, um, I’ll give you like a more standard definition then we can build into what does this look like for college students or, uh, college applicants slash high school students. Um, so essentially this is an activity that you either start or do because you love it.

[00:04:00] Hence passion project. Um, I would say there’s three main things, and these are like the three requirements. Again, as I like research different types of passion projects, I think this hits the majority of them captures them into these three categories. Um, one it’s curiosity field. So this means that you have an interest in that topic.

Um, it’s not just like something you have to do for homework because you have to do it or. This is something that you use your spare time in or something that you think about when you don’t have to think about school or all those other requirements, um, to, um, it’s impact driven. That means that you recognize that there is a need that isn’t being met.

This can be taken in a more community oriented way where you’re like, oh, you know, maybe there’s people who are not getting the resources they need, I can eat them. It could also be in a more like entrepreneurial, like more business-like way. Like maybe there is a lack of something in your community, in the, um, like a lack of a service or a product.

And you think, [00:05:00] oh, I can meet that need. Um, so it’s, it’s really geared to being able to provide something for somebody else. Sharing a passion or skill that you have and giving it to others or sharing it with others. Um, it’s also usually joint inspired. So that means that, again, this isn’t something that not only are you curious about, not only do things you can make an impact, um, but you, it also brings you joy to do.

Um, and so what’s really cool about a passion project is that even if there’s logistics involved, are there things that you have to build out for it it’s usually something that you enjoy? Um, so think about like something that, whether it’s a sport or an activity, um, or a sport or another activity in like the arts or, um, anything else that you’re like, wow, I really like this gives me life.

Like, this is what I do when I just need to break from everything. Like that is something that, that feeling of like joy inspired activity is what should come to mind when you think about a passion project. Um, so again, the, the project usually intersects [00:06:00] those three. Um, and I’ll come back and yeah, and in this slide, I’ll give a brief overview of like, how that looked like for me.

So that it’s a more tangible that I think the last slide was a little bit too meta. It gives some good generic, like definitions and kind of categories. But I want to give you this example of my own passion project in high school, um, to kind of solidify that in. So in high school I started a nonprofit called the salt and light project.

So the reason, and I’ll go through the different categories and kind of touch, explain this based on the three categories I just explained. So the first is curiosity filled. So the reason I started this was because I was really curious about international service. I’m originally from Columbia and I grew up in Miami, which is a very international like city.

Um, if you’ve ever been there, there’s people from all over the world, there there’s a lot of international connections like with flights coming in. And so. We have people stay who were there for layovers, um, who just wanted to come and stay and [00:07:00] live in the city. Um, and so I was really interested in other cultures and other languages.

And specifically, what did it look like to serve and meet the needs of people in other places specifically like in rural Columbia, where I was from and in other areas that were under. Um, that leads me into it also being impact driven. So I realized that there was a need to match a supply and demand of resources between us institutions and understood their underserved neighborhoods, both in the us and abroad.

So what that meant for the project was I realized really early on that sometimes, um, there was like school drives and like things that were happening, but some of those resources like went to waste or like there was a lot of people who were looking to like do service or like had like a generous heart, but they were like, I don’t really, nobody’s making it easy for me to either donate things or to provide a service.

And then as I was hearing people coming back from like service trips and other places of the world, they were [00:08:00] like, you know, We just came back from Romania and specifically in Romania. And this one, like town that we were in, a lot of the kids had to like, have all like the hand-me-down clothing from older siblings because they just, their parents didn’t have the resources at that time to be able to buy clothing.

And so that was, again, a very specific niche thing that I heard from like the first time I heard like, oh, maybe there’s like a need for that. Um, and then in that same week, I was volunteering at a hospital and they had a ton of leftover shirts from an event that were just in boxes, in storage. And so that was the first time that it clicked for me that like, okay, like things like maybe like a school graduate, like a school event where like they print tens of like t-shirts or like things like that.

I was like, oh, there’s clothing that people are not using. That is just kind of being put in storage. And then I realized, okay, maybe what there, I could be as like a bridge between supplies that aren’t being used. And places that, [00:09:00] uh, places where people need that. I realized that that also ended, it ended up being the case for school supplies.

In some of our school drives, um, at my, at my school, there would be students who donate a lot of supplies and the partner organizations we were at my school was working with. Sometimes they didn’t meet them all. So all of a sudden we had like closet full of school supplies that we didn’t need. And so again, that’s where I like started noticing that mismatch between supply and demand.

So what I did is I started this nonprofit that again was like a bridge I would connect. I would say at the beginning of the year, I would look at the different service organizations that pass through my area. I would call them and ask, what areas are you going to? And based on your experience being there, what are the needs and that specific town, I didn’t want to just give things away without being conscious about whether that specific town needed them or.

So I got a list of all the needs that year. And then I contacted institutions like schools and churches and universities and said, Hey, like, these are some of the events that you have on your [00:10:00] website or things that are coming up. Do you think there’s going to be any leftover supplies? And that’s how I started mixing and matching.

So that was the impact driven kind of like category there. Um, and then join inspired. So what I realized is I really love being able to hear other people’s stories. So when I was contacting, uh, those service organizations, they were telling me stories of their experiences serving abroad. Um, they were telling me about like the people they met and the different like families and the culture and the language.

And I thought it was fascinating. Doing a passion project that exposed me to that even more was really like, it was a joke or inspired event for me. Um, same with like when I got a chance to meet people from different universities, hospitals, I was getting to meet new people in places I wouldn’t have otherwise.

Um, and so again, that brought me joy. So this is just one example. There’s lots of different ways that passion projects can like the how passion [00:11:00] projects come about, but these are the ways that it came about for me. And if it also into those three categories of, I was curious about something I wanted to make an impact and needed need, and it gave me joy to actually do these activities.

Um, so how can completing a passion project help you during the missions process? So I think for me, specific thing, I think for a lot of other students you’ll find that the college application. Lots of different ways where admissions officers can gauge more about who you are and if you’re a good fit for their school, one of those ways is quantitative, right?

Your GPA, your scores, pretty much just numbers on a paper. The other way is more qualitative. So like the essays that you write, the descriptions that you write in your extracurriculars, I think another way is when you showcase something like a portfolio, like an art portfolio, um, uh, nonprofit work like this, like those are all passion projects [00:12:00] that kind of give a perspective on, okay, this student didn’t just do this as an activity.

This was a specific passion project that they started and that they wanted to like do for a specific purpose. It kinda reveals two things. One, it can reveal more about your personality and two, it can reveal more about your skillset, right? I, I’m not an artist. I’m not very good at anything really artistic.

And so I. Did not turn in a portfolio, but for my friends who were really artistic and art was a big part of their life and like design was something they really wanted to do in college. Submitting a portfolio, helped them to not only show their personality through the content that they were illustrating, but also their skills, their artistic skills form, the non-profit that I was, that I started and it allowed me to showcase my personality and being resourceful.

Right. I had a mind to think about, um, I might not like, it just clicked for me that like, okay, I can meet this need here. I can make do with like the cards that I’m [00:13:00] dealt. Like I was resourceful to be able to match those supply and demands. Um, I was creative. Um, I was able to, you know, find different organizations and find a creative use for something that was just being stored with.

Um, and I was service oriented, like specifically this passion project while my friends could have was artistic. Mine was more service oriented. And so that another was another, uh, like evidence of that personality trait. Um, and then second, it allowed me to showcase my skills. So, um, in a lot of this, I was going to schools and I was going to hospitals to talk to different people, different like quote unquote stakeholders, um, who would be able to partner with me.

And so I had to explain the project very clearly, uh, tell them about where they could partner with me and to help other people and really get that buy-in. Um, so it helped me to showcase a little bit more of my public speaking skills. Then when I was in schools, I was no longer talking to like these adults in like [00:14:00] hospitals and universities.

I was talking to students who I was encouraging to bring in supplies. I had to also not just shift, um, not just, I used to public speaking, but public speaking to different, like very different audiences. Speaking to high school, students can be very different than maybe talking to like the unorganization lead in, uh, or like the service lead at a hospital.

And so I had to think about what’s the best way of presenting information. How can I get people excited about this? Um, and then second, I think it also helped me to showcase my skills in, um, my command of logistics, right. I was kind of balancing a lot, uh, lots of different suppliers and lots of different, uh, people like service organizations that were taking the supplies with them.

Um, and so it helped me to get better at like Excel and some of the software that helped me to keep track of those things. Um, so those are things that this specific passion project allowed me to showcase, but regardless of what passion project, you’re thinking. [00:15:00] Think about what skills is this passion project going to help you to showcase?

And how can this help you also showcase your personality?

Um, which brings me to the next question, which is how do you actually develop a passion project? So I think a lot of these passion projects just start, um, in one of two ways usually, um, they either start because you identify a need that isn’t being met, right. That was my case. Um, or you do you realize that there’s something you enjoy and you want to share with others?

That’s more of the case of like my friend who started that art portfolio and was like, part of that was like things that she was like, um, donating to schools and like different graphics that she was like marketing to different people. Like this was all an opportunity for her to showcase her art. And so again, these are two different things.

One was an, uh, or two different ways to end up in the same, um, on the same path. Developing a passion project. One is meeting a need or [00:16:00] identifying a need. And the other is wanting to share something that you really love and enjoy. Um, and then once you have that idea, you need to actually like plan it out and in writing, it really helps to be able to kind of break down the purpose of the idea, um, what you will do, who will you need to help you?

Who will you help in? How will you carry out your idea? So, again, in my case, it was very obvious that like w what I wanted to do was be a bridge between people who needed a different resources and people who could supply them or institutions that could supply them. Who, who did I need to help me? I needed, um, probably like some logistical work and like a guidance from an adult because I wasn’t totally sure how to even reach out to some of these people.

So I asked them on my teachers who I felt were more experienced and my parents as well. And so if there’s mentors or different people who give you guidance, like that might be something you’re looking into. [00:17:00] Um, I also knew that like some of the stakeholders I needed was I definitely needed to partner with service organizations because I wasn’t taking those supplies to different countries, myself and I needed, um, help from the different suppliers.

And then who I was helping was very clear. It was a different, like, um, rural communities that these service organizations were going to. And then how will I carry out my idea? I made a timeline for when different suppliers were doing events and where I could get a lot of supplies. Um, and then I made a timeline of when the different service organizations were going on their trips.

And so through there I was able to build out, okay, when do I need to contact? Who, when will I be able to like, know what supplies they can give and do some of that coordinating work. And all of that started with making timelines and getting a sense for what my deadlines are, which isn’t too different, probably from your application process.

Right? You have to figure out when you have to submit, and then you can work backwards from there to [00:18:00] figure out when you’re going to do testing essays, all of those things. So this isn’t too foreign to you. Um, and then finally just carrying out your. Uh, using that timeline and maybe a program or like program plan, document that can be a Google doc or any other software that you want to use.

Um, I think the easiest to use are Excel and Google, I’m sorry, Excel and word, or Google sheets and Google doc. I think these are things that, um, make it very easy to document some of your progress. Um, and then what are some things? So now let’s say you have a general, general idea of how to develop a project plan.

What are some things that you should consider when building that out? I think two main things is, uh, scope and purpose. So scope is really important because I could have said, you know, I want to provide resources to underserved communities in every single country of [00:19:00] the world. Like that would have been a giant scope that was just out of the realistic resources time.

Pretty much any, any type of resource that I had on hand. So I had to be very intentional and realistic with how much time and what resources I had. I was a student, I was applying for college. I was playing like a competitive sport. And so I knew that I could only help, um, in places where I knew service organizations were going to, and that it was like, I didn’t have to go out and do a ton of research and like try to build a ton of new partnerships.

Like I knew there was a couple of partnerships that I could actually invest in. Um, and some that I couldn’t. And so that meant I had to limit my scope a little bit. Yeah. Um, and the considerations there again were how much time could I devote to it. And also how long would it take to accomplish my goals?

So I had to work with the schedule of the service [00:20:00] organizations. Like I wasn’t sending any supplies unless they weren’t going. And so my scope was, it was like a yearly scope. Um, at the beginning of the year, I got a plan for what they were, what trips they were going to go on that year. And then I knew who I had to reach out to you to get supplies.

And that just like was a recurring cycle. Maybe the project, maybe the passion project you’re thinking of is something that happens like every month or like at the, like a recurring rate of like maybe every six months, maybe it’s every summer, like maybe it’s every holiday or like school break. And so.

Allows you to have a better sense of like what your timing is going to be, what your scope is, how fast are you turning over? Like if you’re doing something every summer, is it you’re doing it with the same people every summer, or you’re changing up how much planning is there between one cycle and the next, those are all considerations that fall under the category of like creating a scope.

Um, let me think. The most important point there is remembering that you’re also a [00:21:00] student that’s about to embark in the college application process. So trying to be realistic with your time and your resources is really important because you don’t want to leave anybody hanging once you, when school picks up a little bit more and you have the college process to think about.

Um, and then the second thing to consider is the purpose. So I think that it can be really easy to, as college gets closer feeling. I have to stand out, everybody’s doing a passion project, or it seems like everybody’s doing a passion project or someone is doing better than me in academics, extracurricular.

So I have to do something that stands out and that becomes, even if you start out with a good, genuine purpose for why you do a passion project, it can often like cloud that real, like true genuineness with like a more of a, I need to do this for college instead of I need to do this because, or I want to do this because I love it or because I want to help others.

Um, so I would say every step of the way, kind of [00:22:00] like check yourself a little bit to see, like, is this still something that I’m doing because I love it. Is this still something that I’m doing because I’m curious about, and because I feel like it’s making an impact. Um, and I think those are good, like helpful, like gauges of if you’re maybe steering in the wrong direction.

Um, and then also think about how you’re helping others and the power dynamics that might be involved. A lot of times when it comes to passion projects where you are doing service, it could be the case that you’re stepping into a culture or a place that you’re not really familiar with. For example, like I am from Columbia.

So I knew, and part of my family lived in rural Columbia. And so I knew the town that we were helping there pretty well. I knew the language, I knew the culture. Um, I was able to communicate with them personally and know the resources that they needed. That wasn’t the case for a lot of other places that I was helping.

And so one mistake I could’ve made was just gone in and said like, okay, I think that because in Columbia they needed this, then in another [00:23:00] place, they needed the same thing. And what I realized was the people who knew the needs of the communities, their best were the service organizations that were working there.

Long-term and we’re just coming back to the U S for either training or for some other reason, but we’re going back there. And that was that like their main headquarters are like state. And so I recognize that like the power dynamic there is like, we are off we’re providing resources and we have in the, in that scenario, like the power to like figure out like what we want to give.

And so part of the consideration was being like, okay, instead of just giving resources, because it makes me feel good or because we have them available really trying to focus in on like, what do people in each of those areas actually need and being conscious about how can I meet that need instead of imposing these ideas that I had about their needs.

And so I would say this is specially important for any service activity or service passion project is [00:24:00] remembering that if you’re meeting a need to really help empower those people, that you are, um, that you were helping, and I’ll pause there for a pool that Rachel is leading us. Awesome. Thanks, Maria.

All right. So the next poll that we’re doing is where are you in the college application project? So I’m starting the poll right now. Um, and so Maria, I’m curious to hear, you know, in addition to doing a passion project in high school, what other extracurriculars did you partake in? Um, so this one, as you could probably tell to quite a bit of time, uh, but I also played competitive tennis for most of my life and that included high school.

Um, I also tried, I really love playing sports. And so I, I also tried different sports in high school. I played water polo and did some cross country and track. And, um, it was a very athletic high school, extra extracurriculars. Um, and then [00:25:00] for those of you who might be thinking of starting something new, something I wanted to pick up that I wanted to do for a while, and I just didn’t get a chance to until literally my senior year was, um, I started playing the VR.

It’s something that I tried to continue in college, but, um, what was really something that made me really enjoy my senior year of high school? Um, so that’s maybe like a mini type of passion project that I didn’t really share with many people, but it was something that I enjoyed and that I did end up sharing on the common applicant.

Oh, that’s super cool. Um, and good on you for, even though it was senior year, you know, just taking advantage of the opportunity to try it out and try something new. Um, awesome. So we’ve gotten a good amount of results. Uh we’re at around 24% of people have not started the application process yet. Um, 62% are still in the researching schools.

Um, portion of the application process, 12% have started working on their essays. 3% are, you know, kind of [00:26:00] finalizing and getting their application materials and nobody is done yet. So a good chunk of us are still kind of figuring out where we might want to go to school and navigating, you know, the beginning stages of the application process, which makes sense, based off of the grades that we saw.

Maria, that sounds good. And I think that’s also, it’s a good time to be hearing this, um, because it does mean that you probably have some time to either build on or to start a passionate. If this is something that like, again, if you genuinely meet some of those criteria, um, being part of this webinar doesn’t necessarily mean that all of a sudden, like, yes, go and do a passion project, unless like it’s something that, again, you’re either like impact driven, you’re curious about or something that brings you joy.

Um, So with that, I’ll come over and talk about a couple examples of passion projects. So starting a new club or group on campus, that can be a passion project. So like, let’s say there is no theater club or like drama club in your [00:27:00] school, but you’re someone who’s really passionate about theater, musical, Cedar, about dance, about the arts, anything that that’s not represented in your school.

And you want to devote, it takes a while to, to start something new I’m in a place where there isn’t precedent for that. And so, um, that would be considered a passion project as well. Um, you can start a nonprofit or a branch of a nonprofit, like for example, um, there is, um, UNICEF and lots of other, like really big already like nonprofits or like, um, global organizations, um, are, may already exist, but maybe there isn’t a brand that specifically does like fundraising or events at your school.

That’s something you could start. Um, you can read a children’s book. Um, and that’s just an example of like, you can do something like that shows your passion, your expertise in writing that can be writing poems that can be writing songs that can be writing a children’s book, a novel, like these are all things that are passion projects related to like, literally.

Um, again, you [00:28:00] can compose songs. Um, you can start a mentorship program. Maybe you realize that there’s a lot of students who, um, don’t, you know, they’re coming in ninth grade and they don’t really know how to like navigate high school or maybe there’s a specific like mentorship program within like a class where like maybe their students who are learning a new language and to get paired with other students who are really proficient or native speakers.

Um, those are that’s another example. Um, if you code or if you’re doing anything related to computer science, maybe something that you can do is like develop an app again. Maybe all of these, maybe some of these don’t sound like something you would do, but these are all examples of things that you may enjoy doing that could help others, um, that you might be curious about and something, uh, that kind of goes along with like writing the children’s book in that like literary example, it’s like start a blog or, sorry, that should be a V a blog, like a video blog about a topic that you’re passionate.

Um, again, these are all just [00:29:00] some examples, not comprehensive at all. Like there are so many other passion projects, but these are what I could fit into a slide. Um, and the, the, one of the biggest questions here, and again, I want to reiterate, if you’re here in this webinar, you might be feeling like, oh my gosh, this is about passion projects.

Like I don’t have a passion project. You don’t need a passion project, but you do need to showcase your passions in your application. So the difference between those two is you might not have the time, the resources, or like the very genuine interest in this. Just one thing that you’re going to devote a lot of times, And that’s okay.

Like, as long as you’re showing that you’re interested in other things like that, you’re pushing out some of your extracurriculars, um, that you are interested in like different fields. Like those are all things that you can write about in your essay, in your activity list. Like you don’t need to have just one passion project, as long as you’re, again, showcasing those passions and skills in other places of your [00:30:00] application, mostly that ends up being in your essays or your descriptions of your activities.

Um, and then to, to make that very real, like I, like I got into Harvard and I had a passion project. There’s people who are like most people that I know that got in didn’t have passion projects. And there’s people who I knew had even like more elaborate passion projects than I did, who did not get into Harvard.

And so, again, it just, I want, I say that to give evidence that not all, not all like. Not all students have passion projects necessarily get into like their top schools, nor all top schools, just looking for students that have passion projects. Um, so many applicants are doing passion projects. How do we stand out?

So, um, if you’re doing a passion project, make sure that you have a genuine story. Sorry, that’s the type of there. Um, make sure that you have a genuine story about why you started this project. Um, make sure that it isn’t something that like, um, [00:31:00] you know, does that make sense with like any like interest or cure, like, um, yeah.

Any interests that you have or like a life story? Like if you were doing something that you can’t link, like write about in an essay, if you can’t really show, um, Why you got into this in like an activity description or one of those qualitative measures. Um, and you notice that you’re having a hard time doing it.

Like that can be an indicator about like, maybe this was just like an extracurricular that you did not something that was like your very specific passion project. Um, I would say admissions officers can tell if like, in your writing, you’re not being genuine. Um, if it you’re being very vague about how you describe the passion project, um, that’s another indicator that may be like, this was just something that like, you know, you did it, but wasn’t as like a big part of like your high school experience.

Um, so to make sure that you, that admissions officers don’t think about that when they’re reading your application, make sure that you’re giving [00:32:00] details and that you’re explaining why you’re passionate. Um, every time you read a sentence about, about this in your essay or in an activity description, think about like the ha.

Um, not just like what you did, but like, how did you do it? Why did you do it? I think those are two questions that I think are really important for students to ask any time they’re writing things. Um, and then, uh, have clear goals and organized documentation of your work. So make sure that again, in your college application, like the more like objective and like kind of like evidence you can provide the better.

So like, instead of saying like, you know, I help towns, um, in different countries, I helped people in towns from different countries. You know, I had a list of like, there was nine countries that I like worked with specifically, and there was X number of towns and there was this need and this need, and this need in these different areas.

And the more like I documented those specific details, the more data I had to use in my essays and in my [00:33:00] descriptions. So it would make sure that if you’re doing a passion. That you, that you really log those details so that you could use them later. And also it just helps with like, having a better idea, more organized idea.

Um, and, uh, any lots advice that I would have on building passion projects, um, just include these three short bullets. The first is have a purposeful vision. Like don’t just do something because it sounds good for an application. Um, really think about like, why do you want to do this? Um, you’ll be spending a lot of time, a lot of resources on it.

So think very, um, yeah, very honestly about why you’re doing it and who you’re helping. Um, then make a clear plan. Like I talked about in a previous slide about what you would actually need to carry out that idea. And then lastly, you bring along people who share your passion and can help you. So something that I did in my, for my passion project was I was in liaison in between those institutions on my own.

[00:34:00] I brought in other students who were interested in just helping like volunteer an hour or two a week, um, who would help me like carry boxes and like move things around or maybe like call an organization. Um, and having those people with me is really what was really helpful in not having me burn out during my senior year, um, in, in my junior year as well.

So it makes sure that if you have really good idea and that’s something that you might not have to do all on your own, that you’re bringing people alongside you, who can really move that idea forward. Um, and that is all for, um, the primarily speaking portion of this presentation. Wonderful. Thanks so much, Maria.

So as she mentioned, that is the end of the presentation part of the webinar. I hope you found this information helpful and remember that you can download the slides from the link in the handouts tab. So now we’re moving on to the live Q and a portion of tonight. So I’ll read through the questions you submit in the Q and a tab, post them into the public [00:35:00] chat so that you can see and then read them out loud before our panelists give you an answer as a heads up, if your Q and a tab, isn’t letting you submit questions, just double-check that you joined the webinar through the custom link in your email and not from the webinar landing page.

So, you know, start on submitting those questions and we’ll be going through them. Uh, first question I have for you, Maria, is, should the passion project be related to the major that a student is interested in study? Um, it could fit very neatly into that because it is something that, again, you’re basing on a passion, right?

So if you’re doing a major, it’s usually because you’re interested in studying that field and therefore it can be the case that it’s also like a project or something that you’re using your free time on already. That’s not that doesn’t have to be the case though. It’s just, sometimes it works out that way.

Um, I was doing something that was a nonprofit in like international service. And I wanted, [00:36:00] I wrote my application about wanting to be a doctor and wanting to work with doctors without borders, which is an international service. So as an example where it does work out, there is some students who want to do mentorship, like start a mentorship program and they study, um, computer science or they study like something that maybe is very stem related that you wouldn’t necessarily associate with.

Like the more qualitative and like relational part. Again, very stereotypically doesn’t always go hand in hand as much as like somebody who’s maybe studying sociology or anthropology or some of those more. Kind of like qualitative fields. Um, but really the point of these passion projects is to showcase something that you’re interested in.

And if it’s something different than your major, that’s not necessarily contradictory. It just means that you’re a well-rounded person who has lots of interests and that’s actually a really good thing in an application. Um, so again, there’s pros, if it works out together, right. It’s a cohesive story.

There’s [00:37:00] also pros if it’s not the same, because that way you’re just showing a diversity of your interests and skills. Um, so I wouldn’t say that one is like more advantageous than the other. Okay, great. Thank you. So the next question we received is can you give any examples of stem related passion projects?

Sure. So, um, I’ve worked with students in the past who started a mentorship program. Um, and the specific one was for young women who, um, didn’t really know that didn’t have like mentors in their life to guide them through like what, uh, going, like going through pre-med or going through like the medical application process was, um, medicine is a very male dominant field, um, specifically when it comes to like being an MD, like a doctor.

Um, and so the student noticed that and notice that, Hey, maybe there’s a need for women to be inspired by other women. Who’ve gone through this process before. And so she made a mentorship program there that was specifically with [00:38:00] medicine, but I could see that happening in a lot of other fields. Um, and it doesn’t just have to be in terms of gender.

It could also be relating to like race, if there’s different, like again, ethnicities that aren’t being represented in a career doing a mentorship program that allows people to have that career mentorship, um, who might not necessarily see that representation already. It could be. Um, I know that some of the passion project, another passion project that I worked with a student on was, um, uh, they sent like these like telescopes, or like, uh, sorry, these microscopes, um, to like low resource schools.

So they like fundraised to like, be able to supply these like lob materials for schools. And so again, it was, um, it was an opportunity for her to like, meet a need, um, that, that she saw in her community. And it was related to science. Um, another last, very clear one that I think kind of hits more to like the, some part is like, [00:39:00] if you’re doing like CS, like computer science, like doing an app, something that maybe involves a lot of coding, um, that you are still using to help other people.

Great. Thank you. So the next question, I think is a really interesting one with Maria it’s. How do I get over the fear of creating a passion project? Like, you know, the, it, the nervousness that is around reaching out to people or being afraid that your passion project might not work out at the end. How do you navigate that?

I think that’s an excellent question. And I think it’s one that probably everyone who’s ever started a passion project feels, um, and probably every entrepreneur, if anyone’s watched like shark tank or like any of these other things, or someone’s like stepping out of their comfort zone to try something new.

Um, and I think the core of that is really being genuine about, is this something I love? And is this something I would do, even if no one was there to back me up, like, is this something that like, I want to try and I want to [00:40:00] see once you kind of have that. Self, like assurance that like, okay. In a vacuum, even if I was assured that it would go like completely well, like, would I do it because I just think it’s a good idea.

Then you’re like, okay, you have one person on your team. You got yourself on your team. Then after that think about like, what’s helped me to get over that fear is to write out what those fears are. So my fear was, how am I as a 15 or 14, a 14 year old, gonna reach out to the like community service lead at a hospital.

Like this that’s really scary. Like I had talked about those before, but I like had never like pitched an idea before. So I talked to one of my teachers about it, who was like also doing like debate and like, just like help me to like actually narrow down the idea a little bit more so that I could communicate more clearly.

And I was like, okay, that is one way to solve the problem. Um, too, I’m still nervous. Just talk to this person because it’s an adult. I don’t know. Maybe [00:41:00] I need a practice with people who are very low stakes. So I practice with my teacher. I practiced with my friend’s moms. I practiced with my mom and my dad.

And so it just kind of got the reps in so that it was a little bit less scary. So that’s one example of like something specific where I was like, okay, this is what scares me. This is what I could do to help me. Um, it could be like, I just like, don’t have the skills to do this. And that was like a huge, like kind of imposter syndrome of like, I am not like bill and Melinda gates.

Like I am not this, like, I don’t know how to do anything related to the nonprofit world apart from when I volunteer hours. And so I did some research, I read up on like, What do people do? And sometimes that can be a little bit overwhelming. So I just try to like filter what are the key things that people need to do?

It seems like a lot of that was like connecting people with other people. And so I was like, okay, I could do that. I do that in some very low stakes ways. When I like connect a friend with a friend, like [00:42:00] someone who needs tutoring and someone who likes to tutor, right? Like, think about small ways where you already practice the skills that you’re scared of, like trying out with this idea.

And that way, the reason why I’m suggesting all of these is because the second you put a name to those fears and you make a game plan for how to address them, it kind of makes you realize, oh, this is, this is doable. Like this isn’t as scary as I thought. And so really being able to outline those is very helpful.

Appreciate that immensely. So, uh, another question we got is, would it be a good idea to partner up with a friend for a passionate. Yeah. So this is also another commonly asked question. It could be a friend or a group of people, um, is the variation of that question. And I think there’s different pros and cons.

I think a pro is the more brain power and like my manpower behind, um, or woman power behind the ideas, um, just the more resources and kind of creativity [00:43:00] that gets flowing. And the more people can give some input into it, like how to make this idea better, how to carry it out. You’re tapping into different networks, the more people you have.

Um, so those are all pros. The cons are, you’re also having to coordinate between lots of different people. Um, and so it can get a little bit more messy. Um, sometimes again, just not sure because of the college application process and kind of the nature of like people wanting to own different things. It can get a little bit messy about like how many hours.

So in, so do, um, what are the roles that each person has, so it can get a little bit complicated. Um, the more people that you add in, um, and it could also sometimes just the more crowded it is. Sometimes it can be harder to actually like, be actionable on things and say like, okay, we’re going to get X and Y done, because it’s just, you’re having to coordinate the preferences and opinions of more people.

Um, so those are again, pros and cons to, to, to having one or the other. [00:44:00] Fantastic. Um, so another question that we got is, um, This person asked, I’m a type one diabetic and I’d like to study endocrinology. Um, I’m a counselor at a diabetes camp during the summer. Could that be considered a passion project?

And I’m going to combine this with another question that we received is how can you distinguish between what might be a passion project versus what is just an extracurricular? Is it the time that you spend? Yeah, I think that’s a really good question. And I think what it boils down to is that you don’t have like a category in the common up that says passion project or activity it’s activity.

So everything is technically an activity. Well, we’re describing specifically here as a passion project is a work intensive, like specific thing that you’re devoting a lot of time to the hit. Some of those three categories that I mentioned, it’s curiosity, driven, impact driven and joy. [00:45:00] I must have missed it, but like, you should be curious about the topic you’re going into.

It should be something that’s impactful or helping other people. And it’s something that brings you joy. So that can be something like very small, nuts, like an activity that you might just put on your common app and that you don’t devote a lot of time to. But I do think the big differentiator is the amount of time intensive, like resources that go into a passion project.

And I think a variation of that also is like, if you start something completely new, because usually when you’re starting something new, that also means it’s pretty work intensive and time intensive. And so again, an activity. So for example, you mentioned that you were counselor at a diabetes, I’m sorry, at a, at a camp and that you want to, it kind of fit into the story of, um, wanting to study endocrinology coming from like the experience of having type one diabetes.

I think like there isn’t something specific that says this needs to be a passion project on your common app, but if you’re [00:46:00] devoting a lot of time to it, this is like one of the main things that you are doing as an extracurricular, but also as something that like is not just an activity or hobby, but really a passion of yours to be able to counsel other people and something that fits into a larger narrative.

I think, quote unquote, that’s still like, that’s a passion project, but the way you would write about it in an essay might not necessarily be like, this was the passion project I like, I’m a part of, or the, I started, it’s more like. Telling the story about your background, how that fits into what you want to study and as evidence that you are linking those two together, you say I’m already doing this by the, by the, um, the activities that I’m doing in that camp.

Um, so this is why I think this is a bit of like a nebulous kind of like differentiation. I think the most clear cut answer is if you’re spending a lot of time and resources, it’s something that brings you joy. And that you’re curious about, I think that falls under like the passion project. Um, but there is no distinguishing, like I put the soul [00:47:00] in light project right next to like me running cross country, which was not a passion project.

It was just an activity I was doing. Great. Thanks so much, Maria. So our next question, we got, um, this person, um, they’re one of our juniors in the room and they are towards the end of their junior year about to enter senior year. And they’re wondering, you know, is it too late for them to start a passion?

Yeah. So I think that’s a really good question. And it comes back to the difference between, do you want to continue or start a new activity or is it that you want to start something that’s very work intensive time intensive. Um, and so again, like I started violin my senior year, so I was even like older.

I was like, literally my fall semester, like August of senior year. Um, and I wouldn’t say that was a passion project. That was just a new activity that I was passionate about, but it, like, I was just taking classes. It wasn’t like really something that I was like all of a sudden, starting on ensemble and like teaching people or anything like that.

[00:48:00] Um, and so I don’t think it’s too late to ever start anything. I think if you really want to truly be like a passion project, then you have to think about, do I have the time and the resources and like the mental energy to make like a very robust idea that carries out and like is very impactful. Um, and it’s not too late to do that.

Your junior year. It just might mean. Are there things that you might have to like step away from, or that you might have to stop in order to devote that time and attention that’s needed to actually develop a true passion project. Perfect. So the next question we got is a little more specific to you, someone who’s wondering, why did you name your passion project, the salt and light project.

And how did you come up with that name? Yeah, for sure. So I think something that’s really great about that college application process is that we can showcase lots of different aspects of our identity and our personality, um, our different, like ethnic backgrounds, religious backgrounds. Um, and I [00:49:00] think something I wanted to showcase in my, in my, uh, application was my like non-denominational Christian background.

And I think that comes from like a specific part of like a tax that says like, you know, to go be like salt and light of the world, like. Like, um, kind of that background, like, um, kind of context for why I wanted to go into service. Um, and I think it went well with like my career goal of, I wanted to work with like Samaritan’s purse and doctors without borders, a lot of these like faith backed organizations that really just focused on wanting to be serviceful and providing resources for people in underserved communities.

And so I thought the name went well with kind of like the longer-term vision for career. And it also showcased like my faith background, um, that I wanted to be part of my identity as I was before. Really cool. Yeah. Salton light project is a awesome name, a very memorable one as well. [00:50:00] Um, so another question that we got is, you know, I know there are certain fields of studies like psychology, um, that can be really difficult to find passion projects in.

How do you recommend, you know, approaching, uh, you know, approaching that when one of your passions is in a very, you know, well-known, uh, field of study. Yeah. So I think I’m Greg with rolling. This is kind of hitting on, like, how do I make my like passion project stand out when so many people are kind of studying the same thing or interested in the same thing?

Um, is that kind of okay. Um, Okay. So I think that, um, this is similar to some questions I’ve had, even in other webinars where it’s like, how do I stand out? Like, there’s only so many majors, there’s only so many activities. Like how do I kind of distinguish myself in this, in this pool of, of other students.

Um, and I think that one answer to that is you just have to be very genuine about why you’re particularly [00:51:00] interested in this while your specific background ended up like kind of inspiring this new project, because you might be talking about the same thing like psychology, but for example, your perspective might be very, very different depending on what your gender identity is, what your different faith background is, what’s your ethnicity is.

Um, and so all of those things inform kind of the type of project that you’re doing, even if it’s within the same field. So an example that I could think of that is like, For example in the mentorship program, um, mentorship in the field of psychology, maybe, um, let’s say you want to do a mentorship program within like your psychology, like your, your school’s like psychology department or like psychology, um, kind of not major, but like some schools have like divisions of like study.

Um, so again, this is a very hypothetical, you might be approaching that same idea of mentorship within a specific career field, [00:52:00] but it might be different if you are a woman who thinks that, like, what needs to happen is just more examples of other female leaders in this field. Maybe different if you’re a person of color.

And you’re recognizing that, like maybe there needs to be more examples of other of professionals who like show the same race show, the, uh, who have the same race, have the same ethnicity. And so, again, like those are like slight variations that still help you to stand out because it shows. Very genuinely why you started that project and how it’s helping a different group of people that may be others are just because of their own personal identity.

Awesome. Great response, Maria. So real quick, we’re going to take a very quick pause in the Q and a session because I just wanted to talk a little more about CollegeAdvisor, um, for the people in the room who aren’t familiar with us. So, you know, CollegeAdvisor, uh, we have a team of over 300 former admissions officers and admissions experts [00:53:00] like Maria, who are ready to help you and your family or the parents in the room, kind of navigate the college application process.

Um, in one-on-one advising sessions. In those sessions, you can talk about things like, you know, how to develop and think through a passion project, you know, going, you could also go over, um, essay prompts, um, really, you know, every aspect of the college application process, our team is ready to help you with.

And so, you know, a quick, like fun stat in last year’s admission. The cycle. Our students were accepted into Harvard at three times, the national rate and accepted into Stanford at 4.4 times the national rate. And as we all know, these top schools have really competitive, um, acceptance rates with Harvard, I think was at as low as 3% in this admission cycle.

So you can sign up for a free consultation with us by registering for our web [email protected]. At that web platform, you can also explore other webinars, keep [00:54:00] track of application deadlines, research schools, and more all right on our website. So again, if you’re interested in CollegeAdvisor at, you know, sign up for a [email protected], I’ll also be adding that link in the chat for easy access.

So then back to the Q and a, um, a, the next question that we got, we have a few student athletes in the room, Maria. And so, um, this individual is wondering, you know, what are examples of a project for somebody who’s a football player athlete? And I think part of this question, I, and even if this wasn’t this person in a tent, I think something that would might be interesting for you to answer is, you know, how 10 student athletes who so much of their time is already spent on their sport, you know, also kind of develop a passion project if they’re interested in and, um, you know, kind of showcase their passions outside of sports in their college applications.

Yeah, for sure. So I think that’s a really good question. I think this, uh, [00:55:00] yes, for, especially for student athletes, like it’s not just that they have to focus on their academics, but they also have to focus on. Like the athletic part of their life, which they might be like also building up to get into college.

Right. There’s some students that might be in the recruiting process. So it doesn’t really leave the option of just like not going to practice or not, or devoting less time to that to start a new passion project. Um, so I think it’s really helpful to kind of leverage that background in, um, in athletics.

So think about things that you wish you were supported by, or that you could be a part of as an athlete. So maybe that means like maybe there aren’t very good resources for you as a student, uh, as an athlete to continue being a good student. Like, do you have access to like the tutoring services that you might need because you might not have as much time to, um, to spend in class, maybe you’re you have to leave on a Friday to go to a tournament or to go to a competition and you’re like missing class.

So that’s an example of like, okay, [00:56:00] I remember when I was in like school and I was missing practice. Cause I have to go chill or I was missing class because I have to go travel to go to a competition. I was wondering like, I wish that like my school supported student athletes more by giving me some resources to be able to like, better understand like what I’m missing.

Like sometimes like I just re reading ahead, doesn’t do it for me. And so something I wish I would have done is like maybe started like a mentor, like a tutor. Like program there where maybe students who are in class or willing to like share notes or to tutor a students once they come back. Um, maybe this is like, um, you ask, like you potentially like start, um, a new program in your school where this program funds tutors.

And again, like these are just ideas that are coming to my mind. So I would have to actually like research like this specific scenario. So I’m kind of just spit balling here. Um, but like, you can, you can start, like, you can have conversations with teachers and say like, Hey, like if you know, we’re [00:57:00] bringing as student athletes, like we’re bringing like pride and like, um, kind of like all these great things to the school that we’re providing through our time and resources.

Like, we would really love it if the school supported us in our academic pursuits, as we’re like giving some of these things up to play for the school. Um, that’s something that’s happening at both like a high school level sometimes, but it’s definitely happening, happening at a college level. Again, think about like, what are some of the things that as the, you personally like, are experiencing as an athlete.

And I think extrapolate that to, you’re probably not the only one and usually the best passion projects are born out of that. It’s like you recognize a meet a need, and you’re like, Hmm, I’m probably not the only person that thinks that this is necessary and that’s kind of how you build it out. So whether you’re an athlete, you’re an artist, you are, um, any other like identity that you have related to an extracurricular, you should probably just ask yourself, like, what’s something that I wish I had [00:58:00] and see if there’s other people who feel the same way.

Wonderful. Thank you so much, Maria. Next question we got is what advice do you have for people with more than one interest? Do you suggest they do multiple passion projects? Uh, no. So I think a passion project again by definition is a very work intensive time intensive pursuit in. I was definitely, I categorize myself as someone who had lots of different, like interests.

Like I was learning to play the violin. I played tennis and did cross country. And like, I, um, competed in like medical competitions and like did HOSA and like science Olympiad, and like all these little things that I was like, how does this all work together? Like, I really enjoyed also like learning French and like tutoring people.

And like, I was like, none of these, like all these are so separate, but I think again, it’s like just being genuine about your interests. If you have a lot of interests, that’s not bad. That’s just you being like a curious person. [00:59:00] And like that might, and like, everybody’s like, I think to some degree, like curious to like extremely curious, doesn’t know like what their like, quote unquote, like calling or like passion is, but those are all different personalities that like, should be like, should I diversity to a college campus?

And so you shouldn’t try to just put yourself in the mold of like, I am the specialist in this area. If you are truly like a diverse, like you have diverse interests, if you are like very specialized in like really like something you shouldn’t pretend to like a ton of other things to fit into the like, well rounded, diverse mold, like college, like admissions officers are looking for a variation of those things, the specialists, the more like generalists.

And if you have an interest in lots of things, and you’re trying to find one thing to do a passion project in, again, write it down, make a list of like your different ideas and think about like one what’s the one that you’re most like, passionate about that would bring you a lot of joy that you could serve others with, into [01:00:00] which one is also realistic in your scope of time.

Considering like, you know, you’re not a high school student forever, like, think about how much time you have. Um, so I would say those are helpful questions to help you narrow down, but just take a, a breath in that you don’t have to fit the mold of like being very specialized or being like the most diverse.

Wonderful. Thank you. Um, a so I’m going to do one more question before we close out and this question, Maria, so real quick one, um, can a passion project be joining an already occurring activity or project that you are passionate about? Um, you know, this person said, I know we’re really great refugee care and housing program for middle Eastern refugees that I am a part of.

And it is a passion of mine. Can that count as a passion project, even though I didn’t start that project again, I think it could count as a passion project. If you’re devoting a lot of time and effort to it, there won’t be any distinction on like [01:01:00] passion project versus activity on the common app. And you’re like, you probably shouldn’t be using the words, passion project in an essay.

Like, just describe it as part of your story, but like, it’s not like you have to distinguish one from the other what I would say if you want it to make it. More like a passion project is try to see, like even within the organization you’re already working with, is there some extra need service category that’s like not being provided that you could start.

And so that way adds like a little bit more initiative to, I am not only volunteering my time here. Um, but I also like strategically thought about what is missing, what could I help with? And it adds again, that extra curiosity, that extra, like, um, like personal interest that you’re putting into it apart from just volunteering on something that already.

Wonderful, Maria. Thank you. Thank you so much. And thank you to everybody who has submitted questions tonight. Um, you know, that is the end of our webinar way to really wonderful [01:02:00] time talking to you about building a passion project and how you can really, um, develop your personal brand for college admissions.

Um, you know, for those who, uh, you know, are interested, we have a lot of other awesome webinars. This may, that you should definitely check out and you can access those at that link that I mentioned earlier, Um, again, it was wonderful having you all, Maria, thank you so much. And everyone have a great rest of your night.

I think have a great night, everyone. Bye.[01:03:00]