top of page

Passion Projects for High School Students: Your Ultimate Cheat Sheet to Getting Started

A passion project is work that you complete on your time that showcases your talents, skills, interests, and connection to your community. Plus, completing a passion project can serve as an edge in college admissions. Download your Ultimate Cheat Sheet to Getting Started here.

Many more colleges and universities are going test-optional. Yet, College Board has decided to go digital with the SAT.

Even if students were to go forward and continue taking standardized tests, achieving a high score isn’t the key to getting an edge in college admissions.

A perfect GPA isn’t going to cut it either or what seems to be a carefully curated list of extracurricular activities that support a possible major or career.

Want to know what will get the attention of admissions officers?

A passion project.

A passion project is exactly that: a work that you care deeply about. Since it’s a work that you care deeply about, you don’t need anyone to tell you to put substantial time, effort, and energy into pursuing it.

In its very nature, a passion project is self-initiated, independent work that makes you excited to know or do more about something.

You don’t need a teacher, counselor, or parent to give this idea as an assignment.

Many students already engage with their learning, curiosity, and their community through different kinds of passion projects.

Some conduct independent research, develop a new product, start a nonprofit or business, or produce media like podcasts, videos, and books.

PACP Passion Project Spotlight: An Interview with Kevin

One of our PACP students, Kevin, is a great example of how to pursue a passion project.

A senior at Portola High School in Irvine, Kevin is the founder of Inquire, an app that enables easier communication between students and teachers. He will be attending the University of Pennsylvania as a student of the NETS program, where he also plans to launch Inquire nationally.

We interviewed him for his insight and advice.

TLDR: Check out the headlines for main takeaways on passion projects for high school students

Passion Projects can be about providing a solution to a common problem

PACP: Why did you decide to pursue this project that ended up being Inquire?

Kevin: During that time we were transitioning to online learning, it kind of came about when I was talking to one of my teachers. During that conversation, we touched upon the fact that communication at this time was just so, so bad.

In general, from that moment, I kind of realized that even before distance learning and online learning, the connection between a classroom of students and then students with their teacher outside of class once the school day ends was also definitely lacking.

That was definitely the impetus for me wanting to pursue this project and see it through.

After talking with that teacher, I went back and started talking to my friends and asked, “Is this a problem that you guys are seeing as well,” and they were like “Yes, definitely”.

Also, I know that my sister at that time [who was at the junior high school] was kind of in an online virtual format. And it was difficult for her to talk to her classmates even more so because all of her classmates were from all over the district. She had an even harder time connecting, especially with her teachers and her classmates.

All this coming together, I think there definitely can be a solution to this. For me, the most logical solution was to do an app and put that out as fast as possible.

PACP: But why take this on? How did you determine that “I really want to do something about it”? What is it about you or that moment that helped you make this decision? You could’ve just walked away.

Kevin: For me, it was definitely a problem that I saw affecting so many of my classmates and affecting myself. It was an opportunity for me that I saw that I could really make something that could live beyond myself. I could pass this app onto a team on the other side of the country. They could test it in their school, maybe in New York. Or after I graduate from Portola, I can have a team of students still carry this on.

Passion Projects demand planning, troubleshooting, and commitment

PACP: How did you start the project?