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Passion Projects at Command Education: Your Questions, Answered!

Apr 19, 2024

In the competitive landscape of elite college admissions, students and parents are often inundated with advice about how to stand out from the crowd. Increasingly, college consultants are touting the importance of independent projects for students’ applicant profiles, emphasizing their role in demonstrating a student’s commitment, creativity, and leadership skills. However, Command Education takes a singular approach to passion project development, rooted in a commitment to helping students uncover and showcase their authentic passions—not just what they believe will impress admissions officers. Our results-tested method has helped students not only stand out to their dream schools, but have a sense of purpose when they arrive on campus.

We sat down with Command Education Managing Director Gabe Cramer to answer the most frequently asked questions about how our Senior Mentors help students develop and elevate their passion projects.

Ali Mantell - VP of Enrollment

How do you identify the right passion project for my child? What are the initial stages of building a passion project?

Gabe: To begin identifying the right passion project for a student, Senior Mentors first work through an “exploration phase” with their students. This stage of the process–which can take anywhere from three months to a year depending on the student’s age–allows students to delve into various activities and disciplines and determine where their skills and interests lie. We seek to help students to brainstorm a project that allows them to both showcase their skills and, if applicable, to make a positive impact on their community. This involves considering what they enjoy, what they’re good at, what their community may need, and what their future goals are (such as attending a certain type of institution or obtaining a particular degree.) Our goal is to set students on a meaningful path in pursuit of their academic and professional goals and equip them with the tools that will serve them along the way.

Ali Mantell - VP of Enrollment

How long does a passion project take to build? When does my child begin working on their passion project?

Gabe: The process of building a passion project typically begins after the exploration phase. Creating a standout project requires a period of trial and error, which takes approximately four to six weeks as students explore their options and assess potential roadblocks. Most students should expect approximately three months of planning before execution, depending on their intended goal, skill level, age, and sense of their own interests prior to starting to work with their Senior Mentor. Foundational steps toward implementation, such as understanding logistical challenges if they need to store food for their food drive or research local restrictions for their public art installation, mark the transition from theory to practice.

Ali Mantell - VP of Enrollment

What if my child has already started a passion project or has an idea? Do you improve or elevate it?

Gabe: If a student has already started a passion project or has an idea for a potential project, we absolutely help them elevate it. Often, students’ ideas are initially too grand, impractical, or lacking in potential for impact on their local community. Senior Mentors bring expert experience strategizing and implementing standout projects—and as such, they are keenly aware of what works and what doesn’t. We guide students to focus on their local community and identify what will be most meaningful to them. Executing a slightly smaller project excellently is preferable to trying to bite off more than they can chew and producing something half-baked and inauthentic. Our experience helps students to identify the difference early so that they can get their project off the ground effectively. Once initially successful, we help them scale and grow their projects.

Ali Mantell - VP of Enrollment

Can admissions officers see through it if it’s “too professional”? How do you make sure the passion project isn’t overly curated?

Gabe: Particularly as passion projects and other independent initiatives have become more popular, admissions officers are very wary of projects that appear overly professional or unrealistic coming from a high school student. Such projects indicate to admissions officers that the project may be the result of a students’ connections or the help of adults around them, rather than their own interests and motivation. Projects that seek to make an impact on a global setting, such as setting up hospital programs in distant countries raise red flags to admissions officers, who will likely doubt that a high school student can complete their academic tasks and complete such an ambitious intercontinental project. Localizing their passions and completing projects in a high school-appropriate manner is key to maintaining authenticity and reflecting a student’s own voice in an application and resume.

Ali Mantell - VP of Enrollment

If my child needs outside support with their passion project, do you help find the right people? Or does my child need to reach out on their own?

Gabe: We assist students in identifying the right people in their community or professionals in their intended field who can enrich their passion projects, and Senior Mentors help them prepare emails, phone calls, and their online presence as they reach out to those individuals. At the same time, while we provide guidance and support, the process remains student-driven from beginning to end. We coach students to be effective communicators, but we do not join calls with them when they seek to connect to professionals or community leaders. Additionally, we offer students our internal network when appropriate, but projects should not rely on others to be successful. Collaboration can enhance a project but should not be a prerequisite for its success.

For more information on the passion project and its importance in the college application process, see Command Education’s Comprehensive Guide!

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