In years past, the college admissions process was about grades and test scores. You did well in class, studied for the SAT, participated in several extracurriculars, sent in your applications, and were likely to get admitted to a selective college. As college admissions have become more competitive in the past few years, it is no longer enough to just have good grades and test scores and to be an overall well-rounded student. What colleges are looking for these days is students who stand out from the crowd.
There is no better way to show colleges that you are truly unique than to impress them with a passion project. But what is a passion project? A passion project is an independent creative endeavor that highlights a specific interest and skill. It should demonstrate initiative and convince colleges that you are truly invested in your interests or hobbies.
What might you do as a passion project? If you’re interested in literature and writing, for example, you might decide to write a short novel that you then submit for publication or compile a group of short stories or poems that you publish in an online journal. If your interests lie in the non-fiction sphere, you might start your own journal or blog, delving into a specific topic that you find meaningful or informative. If you consider yourself to be more of a visual person than a verbal one, you could create a set of paintings or drawings that you then compile into an art portfolio. If you are more scientifically inclined, you could consider developing an application or a website using your knowledge of coding. If you’re interested in political activism and making a change in the world, you might set up a not-for-profit organization dedicated to a cause that you care about such as climate change or racial justice.
Passion projects are a great way to delve into your interests and make a true difference in your community. Although most passion projects tend to be individual pursuits, they can create a profound impact on your community, either by direct service or by indirect influence (i.e. writing about a cause, creating an impactful piece of art, etc.). Passion projects are a way to showcase your leadership skills and creative talents in a way that is more unique than just playing cello as a member of your school’s orchestra or participating in your school’s yearbook advisory board. Your passion project is truly your place to exercise complete control over the development of your creative vision.
At the end of the day, however, whichever project you choose should reflect your genuine interests rather than the interests you suspect colleges might want to see. College admissions officers are looking for authentic passion in your admissions portfolio, and your passion will shine through most brightly if you choose an idea that you’re genuinely devoted to. Above all, have fun with whatever you choose to do!