Encouraging Students to Use Their Passions as a Guidepost

January 15, 2024
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So many motivated students think they know what colleges “want” when they are selecting their pool of students each year. From good grades, to high test scores, to participating in a full schedule of clubs, sports, and activities, many students and families assume that getting in depends on having the longest resume that will impress admissions officers. 

All too often, students make choices about which activities to participate in because of how they think it will be received rather than those that are guided by their passions, skills, or future ambitions. However, this approach prevents many students from authentically exploring experiences and topics that fit their profile of interests and strengths. And, making choices based on the perceptions of what future schools will look for risks students’ accomplishments and activities in high school mirroring many others’ rather than reflecting the interesting and unique person they are. 

More Meaningful Exploration and Growth

High school is a pivotal time for students’ growth and development. It provides a safe space for students to explore interests, consider different future paths, and learn about themselves. When students focus too heavily on doing what they think colleges will want from them, they lose out on these critical experiences. 

When students are encouraged to allow their passions to drive their decision-making around activities, course selection, and work-based learning experiences, they are more likely to find areas of interest that motivate deeper engagement. Identifying passions and finding opportunities to build on them sustains students’ interests and connection to learning and often leads to overall more successful outcomes. Counselors can help students build connections between their interests and current learning opportunities and extend these to postsecondary pathways. 

Students Want to Stand Out

With a streamlined application process via the Common Application being used by many colleges and universities along with expansions in financial aid support and options, rates of college applications are on the rise. Total applications for 2022-23 were up 30% from 2019-20 and first generation college applications have increased by 67% during that time frame. And, colleges want to admit a student body with a diversity of interests, experiences, and backgrounds. 

With this backdrop, it is more important than ever for students to stand out in the college admissions process. When students choose activities and pathways guided by what interests them, they are much more likely to accumulate a set of experiences that is unlike the majority of other students applying. By showcasing a unique path, they convey curiosity, independence, and other positive qualities that would make them a good candidate for a school community. 

Tips to Share with Students

Counselors can help students understand the benefits of exploring their specific passions rather than simply accumulating items on a resume. Use the tips below to encourage students to forge their own path in high school while engaging in meaningful activities and experiences.  

  • Focus on quality over quantity. Having a long list of activities that a student simply dabbles in does not convey to a college that a student is willing to dedicate time, energy, and patience to see something through over time. This approach to activities also limits students’ opportunities for leadership positions or developing skills over several years. Guide students to be thoughtful about how they decide to dedicate their time to activities. And, share with them that when they engage with a group or topic deeply over time, they will have more substantive and interesting experiences that build their skillset and that they can share about in essays and interviews. 
  • During course selection, think beyond academic subjects. Oftentimes, the focus during course selection is exclusively on graduation requirements and academic subjects. Elective courses can offer a great opportunity for students to explore passions in a productive way. Alongside the guidance about academic requirements, encourage students to try electives that align with their interests rather than simply filling a spot or using that time in the schedule to add an additional academic course. 
  • A hobby can be the foundation for substantive experiences. A budding interest or hobby can be a great seed for growth and learning. Help students to think about their own passions, how they might connect to an activity, and what opportunities are available. And if they have an interest that does not easily map onto available offerings, encourage them to start a club or program or look to other options beyond school such as organizations in the community or local municipalities. Doing this shows resourcefulness and ambition, and will likely connect them to broader networks of supportive individuals interested in similar topics. 

Building A Resume that Tells a Story 

It is important that students realize that their experiences, activities, and elective courses make sense together and help convey who they are. When students use their interests as the north star, this typically happens naturally as their choices build upon one another and truly relate to who they are becoming as students and members of a community. Starting with these messages early during freshman year can ensure that students make decisions for the right reasons, maximizing the four years of high school as a time to learn about themselves and allowing them to use those experiences to guide and inform their postsecondary next steps.

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So many motivated students think they know what colleges “want” when they are selecting their pool of students each year. From good grades, to high test scores, to participating in a full schedule of clubs, sports, and activities, many students and families assume that getting in depends on having the longest resume that will impress admissions officers. 

All too often, students make choices about which activities to participate in because of how they think it will be received rather than those that are guided by their passions, skills, or future ambitions. However, this approach prevents many students from authentically exploring experiences and topics that fit their profile of interests and strengths. And, making choices based on the perceptions of what future schools will look for risks students’ accomplishments and activities in high school mirroring many others’ rather than reflecting the interesting and unique person they are. 

More Meaningful Exploration and Growth

High school is a pivotal time for students’ growth and development. It provides a safe space for students to explore interests, consider different future paths, and learn about themselves. When students focus too heavily on doing what they think colleges will want from them, they lose out on these critical experiences. 

When students are encouraged to allow their passions to drive their decision-making around activities, course selection, and work-based learning experiences, they are more likely to find areas of interest that motivate deeper engagement. Identifying passions and finding opportunities to build on them sustains students’ interests and connection to learning and often leads to overall more successful outcomes. Counselors can help students build connections between their interests and current learning opportunities and extend these to postsecondary pathways. 

Students Want to Stand Out

With a streamlined application process via the Common Application being used by many colleges and universities along with expansions in financial aid support and options, rates of college applications are on the rise. Total applications for 2022-23 were up 30% from 2019-20 and first generation college applications have increased by 67% during that time frame. And, colleges want to admit a student body with a diversity of interests, experiences, and backgrounds. 

With this backdrop, it is more important than ever for students to stand out in the college admissions process. When students choose activities and pathways guided by what interests them, they are much more likely to accumulate a set of experiences that is unlike the majority of other students applying. By showcasing a unique path, they convey curiosity, independence, and other positive qualities that would make them a good candidate for a school community. 

Tips to Share with Students

Counselors can help students understand the benefits of exploring their specific passions rather than simply accumulating items on a resume. Use the tips below to encourage students to forge their own path in high school while engaging in meaningful activities and experiences.  

  • Focus on quality over quantity. Having a long list of activities that a student simply dabbles in does not convey to a college that a student is willing to dedicate time, energy, and patience to see something through over time. This approach to activities also limits students’ opportunities for leadership positions or developing skills over several years. Guide students to be thoughtful about how they decide to dedicate their time to activities. And, share with them that when they engage with a group or topic deeply over time, they will have more substantive and interesting experiences that build their skillset and that they can share about in essays and interviews. 
  • During course selection, think beyond academic subjects. Oftentimes, the focus during course selection is exclusively on graduation requirements and academic subjects. Elective courses can offer a great opportunity for students to explore passions in a productive way. Alongside the guidance about academic requirements, encourage students to try electives that align with their interests rather than simply filling a spot or using that time in the schedule to add an additional academic course. 
  • A hobby can be the foundation for substantive experiences. A budding interest or hobby can be a great seed for growth and learning. Help students to think about their own passions, how they might connect to an activity, and what opportunities are available. And if they have an interest that does not easily map onto available offerings, encourage them to start a club or program or look to other options beyond school such as organizations in the community or local municipalities. Doing this shows resourcefulness and ambition, and will likely connect them to broader networks of supportive individuals interested in similar topics. 

Building A Resume that Tells a Story 

It is important that students realize that their experiences, activities, and elective courses make sense together and help convey who they are. When students use their interests as the north star, this typically happens naturally as their choices build upon one another and truly relate to who they are becoming as students and members of a community. Starting with these messages early during freshman year can ensure that students make decisions for the right reasons, maximizing the four years of high school as a time to learn about themselves and allowing them to use those experiences to guide and inform their postsecondary next steps.

So many motivated students think they know what colleges “want” when they are selecting their pool of students each year. From good grades, to high test scores, to participating in a full schedule of clubs, sports, and activities, many students and families assume that getting in depends on having the longest resume that will impress admissions officers. 

All too often, students make choices about which activities to participate in because of how they think it will be received rather than those that are guided by their passions, skills, or future ambitions. However, this approach prevents many students from authentically exploring experiences and topics that fit their profile of interests and strengths. And, making choices based on the perceptions of what future schools will look for risks students’ accomplishments and activities in high school mirroring many others’ rather than reflecting the interesting and unique person they are. 

More Meaningful Exploration and Growth

High school is a pivotal time for students’ growth and development. It provides a safe space for students to explore interests, consider different future paths, and learn about themselves. When students focus too heavily on doing what they think colleges will want from them, they lose out on these critical experiences. 

When students are encouraged to allow their passions to drive their decision-making around activities, course selection, and work-based learning experiences, they are more likely to find areas of interest that motivate deeper engagement. Identifying passions and finding opportunities to build on them sustains students’ interests and connection to learning and often leads to overall more successful outcomes. Counselors can help students build connections between their interests and current learning opportunities and extend these to postsecondary pathways. 

Students Want to Stand Out

With a streamlined application process via the Common Application being used by many colleges and universities along with expansions in financial aid support and options, rates of college applications are on the rise. Total applications for 2022-23 were up 30% from 2019-20 and first generation college applications have increased by 67% during that time frame. And, colleges want to admit a student body with a diversity of interests, experiences, and backgrounds. 

With this backdrop, it is more important than ever for students to stand out in the college admissions process. When students choose activities and pathways guided by what interests them, they are much more likely to accumulate a set of experiences that is unlike the majority of other students applying. By showcasing a unique path, they convey curiosity, independence, and other positive qualities that would make them a good candidate for a school community. 

Tips to Share with Students

Counselors can help students understand the benefits of exploring their specific passions rather than simply accumulating items on a resume. Use the tips below to encourage students to forge their own path in high school while engaging in meaningful activities and experiences.  

  • Focus on quality over quantity. Having a long list of activities that a student simply dabbles in does not convey to a college that a student is willing to dedicate time, energy, and patience to see something through over time. This approach to activities also limits students’ opportunities for leadership positions or developing skills over several years. Guide students to be thoughtful about how they decide to dedicate their time to activities. And, share with them that when they engage with a group or topic deeply over time, they will have more substantive and interesting experiences that build their skillset and that they can share about in essays and interviews. 
  • During course selection, think beyond academic subjects. Oftentimes, the focus during course selection is exclusively on graduation requirements and academic subjects. Elective courses can offer a great opportunity for students to explore passions in a productive way. Alongside the guidance about academic requirements, encourage students to try electives that align with their interests rather than simply filling a spot or using that time in the schedule to add an additional academic course. 
  • A hobby can be the foundation for substantive experiences. A budding interest or hobby can be a great seed for growth and learning. Help students to think about their own passions, how they might connect to an activity, and what opportunities are available. And if they have an interest that does not easily map onto available offerings, encourage them to start a club or program or look to other options beyond school such as organizations in the community or local municipalities. Doing this shows resourcefulness and ambition, and will likely connect them to broader networks of supportive individuals interested in similar topics. 

Building A Resume that Tells a Story 

It is important that students realize that their experiences, activities, and elective courses make sense together and help convey who they are. When students use their interests as the north star, this typically happens naturally as their choices build upon one another and truly relate to who they are becoming as students and members of a community. Starting with these messages early during freshman year can ensure that students make decisions for the right reasons, maximizing the four years of high school as a time to learn about themselves and allowing them to use those experiences to guide and inform their postsecondary next steps.

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So many motivated students think they know what colleges “want” when they are selecting their pool of students each year. From good grades, to high test scores, to participating in a full schedule of clubs, sports, and activities, many students and families assume that getting in depends on having the longest resume that will impress admissions officers. 

All too often, students make choices about which activities to participate in because of how they think it will be received rather than those that are guided by their passions, skills, or future ambitions. However, this approach prevents many students from authentically exploring experiences and topics that fit their profile of interests and strengths. And, making choices based on the perceptions of what future schools will look for risks students’ accomplishments and activities in high school mirroring many others’ rather than reflecting the interesting and unique person they are. 

More Meaningful Exploration and Growth

High school is a pivotal time for students’ growth and development. It provides a safe space for students to explore interests, consider different future paths, and learn about themselves. When students focus too heavily on doing what they think colleges will want from them, they lose out on these critical experiences. 

When students are encouraged to allow their passions to drive their decision-making around activities, course selection, and work-based learning experiences, they are more likely to find areas of interest that motivate deeper engagement. Identifying passions and finding opportunities to build on them sustains students’ interests and connection to learning and often leads to overall more successful outcomes. Counselors can help students build connections between their interests and current learning opportunities and extend these to postsecondary pathways. 

Students Want to Stand Out

With a streamlined application process via the Common Application being used by many colleges and universities along with expansions in financial aid support and options, rates of college applications are on the rise. Total applications for 2022-23 were up 30% from 2019-20 and first generation college applications have increased by 67% during that time frame. And, colleges want to admit a student body with a diversity of interests, experiences, and backgrounds. 

With this backdrop, it is more important than ever for students to stand out in the college admissions process. When students choose activities and pathways guided by what interests them, they are much more likely to accumulate a set of experiences that is unlike the majority of other students applying. By showcasing a unique path, they convey curiosity, independence, and other positive qualities that would make them a good candidate for a school community. 

Tips to Share with Students

Counselors can help students understand the benefits of exploring their specific passions rather than simply accumulating items on a resume. Use the tips below to encourage students to forge their own path in high school while engaging in meaningful activities and experiences.  

  • Focus on quality over quantity. Having a long list of activities that a student simply dabbles in does not convey to a college that a student is willing to dedicate time, energy, and patience to see something through over time. This approach to activities also limits students’ opportunities for leadership positions or developing skills over several years. Guide students to be thoughtful about how they decide to dedicate their time to activities. And, share with them that when they engage with a group or topic deeply over time, they will have more substantive and interesting experiences that build their skillset and that they can share about in essays and interviews. 
  • During course selection, think beyond academic subjects. Oftentimes, the focus during course selection is exclusively on graduation requirements and academic subjects. Elective courses can offer a great opportunity for students to explore passions in a productive way. Alongside the guidance about academic requirements, encourage students to try electives that align with their interests rather than simply filling a spot or using that time in the schedule to add an additional academic course. 
  • A hobby can be the foundation for substantive experiences. A budding interest or hobby can be a great seed for growth and learning. Help students to think about their own passions, how they might connect to an activity, and what opportunities are available. And if they have an interest that does not easily map onto available offerings, encourage them to start a club or program or look to other options beyond school such as organizations in the community or local municipalities. Doing this shows resourcefulness and ambition, and will likely connect them to broader networks of supportive individuals interested in similar topics. 

Building A Resume that Tells a Story 

It is important that students realize that their experiences, activities, and elective courses make sense together and help convey who they are. When students use their interests as the north star, this typically happens naturally as their choices build upon one another and truly relate to who they are becoming as students and members of a community. Starting with these messages early during freshman year can ensure that students make decisions for the right reasons, maximizing the four years of high school as a time to learn about themselves and allowing them to use those experiences to guide and inform their postsecondary next steps.

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So many motivated students think they know what colleges “want” when they are selecting their pool of students each year. From good grades, to high test scores, to participating in a full schedule of clubs, sports, and activities, many students and families assume that getting in depends on having the longest resume that will impress admissions officers. 

All too often, students make choices about which activities to participate in because of how they think it will be received rather than those that are guided by their passions, skills, or future ambitions. However, this approach prevents many students from authentically exploring experiences and topics that fit their profile of interests and strengths. And, making choices based on the perceptions of what future schools will look for risks students’ accomplishments and activities in high school mirroring many others’ rather than reflecting the interesting and unique person they are. 

More Meaningful Exploration and Growth

High school is a pivotal time for students’ growth and development. It provides a safe space for students to explore interests, consider different future paths, and learn about themselves. When students focus too heavily on doing what they think colleges will want from them, they lose out on these critical experiences. 

When students are encouraged to allow their passions to drive their decision-making around activities, course selection, and work-based learning experiences, they are more likely to find areas of interest that motivate deeper engagement. Identifying passions and finding opportunities to build on them sustains students’ interests and connection to learning and often leads to overall more successful outcomes. Counselors can help students build connections between their interests and current learning opportunities and extend these to postsecondary pathways. 

Students Want to Stand Out

With a streamlined application process via the Common Application being used by many colleges and universities along with expansions in financial aid support and options, rates of college applications are on the rise. Total applications for 2022-23 were up 30% from 2019-20 and first generation college applications have increased by 67% during that time frame. And, colleges want to admit a student body with a diversity of interests, experiences, and backgrounds. 

With this backdrop, it is more important than ever for students to stand out in the college admissions process. When students choose activities and pathways guided by what interests them, they are much more likely to accumulate a set of experiences that is unlike the majority of other students applying. By showcasing a unique path, they convey curiosity, independence, and other positive qualities that would make them a good candidate for a school community. 

Tips to Share with Students

Counselors can help students understand the benefits of exploring their specific passions rather than simply accumulating items on a resume. Use the tips below to encourage students to forge their own path in high school while engaging in meaningful activities and experiences.  

  • Focus on quality over quantity. Having a long list of activities that a student simply dabbles in does not convey to a college that a student is willing to dedicate time, energy, and patience to see something through over time. This approach to activities also limits students’ opportunities for leadership positions or developing skills over several years. Guide students to be thoughtful about how they decide to dedicate their time to activities. And, share with them that when they engage with a group or topic deeply over time, they will have more substantive and interesting experiences that build their skillset and that they can share about in essays and interviews. 
  • During course selection, think beyond academic subjects. Oftentimes, the focus during course selection is exclusively on graduation requirements and academic subjects. Elective courses can offer a great opportunity for students to explore passions in a productive way. Alongside the guidance about academic requirements, encourage students to try electives that align with their interests rather than simply filling a spot or using that time in the schedule to add an additional academic course. 
  • A hobby can be the foundation for substantive experiences. A budding interest or hobby can be a great seed for growth and learning. Help students to think about their own passions, how they might connect to an activity, and what opportunities are available. And if they have an interest that does not easily map onto available offerings, encourage them to start a club or program or look to other options beyond school such as organizations in the community or local municipalities. Doing this shows resourcefulness and ambition, and will likely connect them to broader networks of supportive individuals interested in similar topics. 

Building A Resume that Tells a Story 

It is important that students realize that their experiences, activities, and elective courses make sense together and help convey who they are. When students use their interests as the north star, this typically happens naturally as their choices build upon one another and truly relate to who they are becoming as students and members of a community. Starting with these messages early during freshman year can ensure that students make decisions for the right reasons, maximizing the four years of high school as a time to learn about themselves and allowing them to use those experiences to guide and inform their postsecondary next steps.

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So many motivated students think they know what colleges “want” when they are selecting their pool of students each year. From good grades, to high test scores, to participating in a full schedule of clubs, sports, and activities, many students and families assume that getting in depends on having the longest resume that will impress admissions officers. 

All too often, students make choices about which activities to participate in because of how they think it will be received rather than those that are guided by their passions, skills, or future ambitions. However, this approach prevents many students from authentically exploring experiences and topics that fit their profile of interests and strengths. And, making choices based on the perceptions of what future schools will look for risks students’ accomplishments and activities in high school mirroring many others’ rather than reflecting the interesting and unique person they are. 

More Meaningful Exploration and Growth

High school is a pivotal time for students’ growth and development. It provides a safe space for students to explore interests, consider different future paths, and learn about themselves. When students focus too heavily on doing what they think colleges will want from them, they lose out on these critical experiences. 

When students are encouraged to allow their passions to drive their decision-making around activities, course selection, and work-based learning experiences, they are more likely to find areas of interest that motivate deeper engagement. Identifying passions and finding opportunities to build on them sustains students’ interests and connection to learning and often leads to overall more successful outcomes. Counselors can help students build connections between their interests and current learning opportunities and extend these to postsecondary pathways. 

Students Want to Stand Out

With a streamlined application process via the Common Application being used by many colleges and universities along with expansions in financial aid support and options, rates of college applications are on the rise. Total applications for 2022-23 were up 30% from 2019-20 and first generation college applications have increased by 67% during that time frame. And, colleges want to admit a student body with a diversity of interests, experiences, and backgrounds. 

With this backdrop, it is more important than ever for students to stand out in the college admissions process. When students choose activities and pathways guided by what interests them, they are much more likely to accumulate a set of experiences that is unlike the majority of other students applying. By showcasing a unique path, they convey curiosity, independence, and other positive qualities that would make them a good candidate for a school community. 

Tips to Share with Students

Counselors can help students understand the benefits of exploring their specific passions rather than simply accumulating items on a resume. Use the tips below to encourage students to forge their own path in high school while engaging in meaningful activities and experiences.  

  • Focus on quality over quantity. Having a long list of activities that a student simply dabbles in does not convey to a college that a student is willing to dedicate time, energy, and patience to see something through over time. This approach to activities also limits students’ opportunities for leadership positions or developing skills over several years. Guide students to be thoughtful about how they decide to dedicate their time to activities. And, share with them that when they engage with a group or topic deeply over time, they will have more substantive and interesting experiences that build their skillset and that they can share about in essays and interviews. 
  • During course selection, think beyond academic subjects. Oftentimes, the focus during course selection is exclusively on graduation requirements and academic subjects. Elective courses can offer a great opportunity for students to explore passions in a productive way. Alongside the guidance about academic requirements, encourage students to try electives that align with their interests rather than simply filling a spot or using that time in the schedule to add an additional academic course. 
  • A hobby can be the foundation for substantive experiences. A budding interest or hobby can be a great seed for growth and learning. Help students to think about their own passions, how they might connect to an activity, and what opportunities are available. And if they have an interest that does not easily map onto available offerings, encourage them to start a club or program or look to other options beyond school such as organizations in the community or local municipalities. Doing this shows resourcefulness and ambition, and will likely connect them to broader networks of supportive individuals interested in similar topics. 

Building A Resume that Tells a Story 

It is important that students realize that their experiences, activities, and elective courses make sense together and help convey who they are. When students use their interests as the north star, this typically happens naturally as their choices build upon one another and truly relate to who they are becoming as students and members of a community. Starting with these messages early during freshman year can ensure that students make decisions for the right reasons, maximizing the four years of high school as a time to learn about themselves and allowing them to use those experiences to guide and inform their postsecondary next steps.