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Best Passion Project Ideas for High School Students

byline Jonathan Pizzutti

In an increasingly competitive college admissions landscape, high school students are looking for better ways to stand out from the crowd to get into their target schools.

Many are finding that the best way to maximize your chances of acceptance is through a passion project. A passion project lets you take a passion that you have and turn it into something impactful that you can showcase on your college application to demonstrate your interests, your initiative, and your ability to make a difference.

A passion project can be anything that you want it to be, but here are a few of your best options.

Start a Business

College admission officers love students who are entrepreneurial. Starting a business shows that you are a leader and have the practical skills to create something that other people value. Your business can be in any area (tutoring, marketing, etc.), but it is often recommended that you find a way to run your venture online to have more opportunities to scale. And once you start your business, you will find yourself learning a lot of knowledge and skills that will give you a better idea of what you want to study and what career path you want to pursue.

Develop an App

Technology is powerful, which makes those who can use it very powerful. Developing an app demonstrates that you are the type of person who can come up with an idea and create a piece of technology that improves people’s lives. And if you are worried that you are not a tech savvy enough to build an app, there are plenty of “no code” development platforms that allow you to build highly sophisticated apps without as high of a learning curve, and no one will know the difference. Plus, creating an app opens you up to a whole new world of technology which can lead to plenty of great professional opportunities as well.

Create a Social Campaign

Who doesn’t want to accept a student who will make the world a better place? If you have a cause or an issue that you care about, creating a social campaign might be the right choice for you. Whether you want to enter the nonprofit world or not, launching a campaign teaches you about organizational operations, advocacy tactics, and social issues. And again, if you are able to run your campaign using technology, you will have the chance to have a much greater impact and even touch the lives of people around the world.

How to Build a Passion Project

Knowing that you should do a passion project and actually doing one successfully are two entirely different things.

Thankfully, there is a solution here.

PrepX is a college prep company that offers online bootcamps and advising specifically on how to build a passion project that you can leverage for college and career success. They work with students on creating all the passion project ideas above in their various bootcamps and can help you build any other idea that you can think of through one-on-one coaching.

You can check out what PrepX has to offer here.


The Power of Play

 by Miss Grace of consultingandtutoringedu.com


School, learning, academics, and tutoring are often synonymous with sitting in a hard chair at a table or a desk with the expectation that you will learn based on what the teacher or tutor is telling you and complete some sort of worksheet or drill. I want to shift the perception of learning and highlight the incredible benefits play provides to a child’s educational journey.


Why Play?

As educators we strive for children to find that spark of curiosity; to evaluate, analyze, predict and problem solve in diverse scenarios. A key part of curiosity is the freedom to explore not only your environment but also individual learning preferences. Curiosity and the freedom to explore encourages natural engagement. Play-based learning methods activate and stimulate areas of the brain to build foundations for later learning more effectively than traditional schooling methods (Stagnitti, 2016).


Play Isn’t Just for Academics

Social emotional learning, or SEL, in the educational world is gaining traction across the country. Social emotional learning includes thoughts, feelings, safe spaces, behavior management, self-regulation, following rules and directions, conversing with others, focus/attention, and play. Through play a child has the opportunities for practice the skills listed above all in a short period of time and sometimes all at once. Take for example sharing, young children learn to share toys and naturally not everyone is happy about it. During play, scenarios arise and provide natural consequences to actions. Taking a toy from a peer without asking leads to an emotional outburst and in this moment we can teach some how to choose a positive role in our society. The person who took without asking takes ownership of one’s actions by apologizing and giving back the toy. They learn to repair the relationship through continued play with the same peer and how to obtain the toy they want using a positive approach.


Play Partners

A play partner is anyone; parents, siblings, teachers, tutors, same aged peers, older or younger peers, grandparents, the list goes on. As a parent play partner your role is crucial and sometimes feels a little weird. As adults we don’t use our free time to sit and play with dolls or create wild fantasies in our head and then run around the yard pretending to be superheroes, or at least, most of us don’t. We often sit and observe play, or when we do participate we are at a distance and allow the child to take the lead. Get involved, if you want your child to move and grove you are right alongside them with silliness, laughter, and messy hands and clothes. Don’t be afraid to get down in the dirt, literally, when playing. Let go of your expectations for the play and allow for complete exploration and start with a warm up. For example, set up a goal area and kick a soccer ball through the goal, bring out butterfly nets and catch bugs, or throw water balloons to each other without them breaking.


How To Play

Remember, you are an equal part of this experience. First choose a toy, I like toys with multiple steps and possibilities, like trains. Clear a space on the floor, then have your child help you put the tracks together, choose a train, and move it around the track. During play use your own voice to make the train sounds, and create a scenario where the train falls off the tracks and needs help. When playing outside in the summertime I gravitate towards open spaces with some shade. Explore your area, sticks are now drumsticks and the tree is your drum, sing a familiar song to the tree as you play and lull it to sleep. A big stick is now a pony named Buttercup and you count your gallops/steps as you ride across the yard.


Play Activities for Academics

As a play partner you can guide the session with predetermined goals. For example, my goal is for a child to repeat and identify rhyming words. First, we take turns blowing bubbles and twirling around in a circle to make a bubble ring, and run around to pop, stomp, and clap the bubbles. Pair the movements with a song that has repetitive phrases like “clap, clap, clap those bubbles, clap, clap, clap those bubbles, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap”. Gradually, add in another word rhymes like clap and tap, pop and bop.


I hope I gave enough background knowledge and ideas to include play in your everyday life, or at the very least a little silliness.


Play  🧩 Learn  🧠  Grow  🌼


Miss Grace

For more information on how Miss Grace can help you, visit https://www.consultingandtutoringedu.com/


​​Stagnitti, K., Bailey, A., hudspeth Stevenson, E., Reynolds, E., & Kidd, E. (2016). An investigation into the effect of play-based instruction on the development of play skills and oral language. Journal of Early Childhood Research, 14(4), 389-406.




How to Get into TJ – Update

We posted a blog entitled How to Prepare on Your Own for the TJ Test several years ago.  The general recommendations are still good, but it is time for an update.


Here are the components for admission to TJJSST (Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology):
  • Grades and course work
  • Math, science, and reading test in November
  • Teacher recommendations
  • SIS essay with math prompt


Grades and course work:

Top grades are vital, and a GPA lower than 3.0/4 will disqualify an applicant.  Most of the students who gain acceptance have completed geometry by the end of 8th grade, and students only taking algebra 1 in 8th grade are at a distinct disadvantage.


Math, ACT Aspire Reading and Science:

The math required for the test is basic math, algebra, and geometry.  In the past, we have used old SAT tests from 30 years ago augmented with select problems to mimic the Quant Q.  In order to adapt to the changes, we will increase the number of permutation and combination problems in response to students’ observations about the math last fall. Past materials from ACT Reading and Science for college admissions  have served us well and were easier to locate than the ACT Aspire.


Teacher recommendations:

Assuming you make the first cut, you will need to get two teachers to write recommendations.  It is important to remember that a teacher can only write about what he/she has first hand knowledge of.  Your English teacher cannot mention that you won the math counts competition (unless she is the math counts coach).  On the other hand, if he/she counseled you on the written aspect of a science fair project, that would be first hand knowledge.  Don’t wait until the last minute to develop a relationship with your teacher. Be respectful and considerate in your interactions with all your teachers and ask thoughtful questions when appropriate. Remember to listen with courtesy when your classmates speak. Make sure to volunteer to help as needed and show you are the sort of student who is mature enough to handle the demands of TJ.  Finally, make sure the teachers who write your recommendations have a successful track record.


SIS essay with math prompt:

Writing well is important, but the topic of your essay is crucial – you need something to write about.  TJ has two ways to see your commitment to STEM: teacher recommendations and your SIS.  To provide proper preparation for the SIS, start get involved with STEM now.  If your family can afford it, go to STEM summer camps.  Even without summer camp, you can still develop your STEM interests by working on projects on your own via the internet.  Your local library also affords opportunities to pursue STEM interests.  If you can’t get to the library on your own, get a friend or family member to take you once a week so you can check out books on a variety of interests.  That sort of dedication to learning can translate to a compelling SIS prompt response.  In addition, make sure to capitalize on your personal interests; a strong essay from a passionate author will regularly trump “preferred” essay topics.

What about the math prompt on the SIS?  The last three years have seen the addition of a complex math problem on the SIS.  Inspiring Test Preparation’s Youtube channel has explanations to two of the problems and a third is on the “drawing board”.  Check out the videos there and then seek out other videos online for similar challenging problems.


What can you do with Inspiring Test Preparation?

Take our free at home math test for an first look at how well you do compared to the competition.

Sign up for a free 25-minute consultation to see what you need to do to get ready.

Come to our math drills on Tuesdays starting in February 2019.

Enroll in our geometry review/preview class the summer of 2019 — date to be announced.

Get essay writing instruction with Dr. Weinstein.

Enroll in one of our fall comprehensive TJ preparation courses.

Take our one-day SIS workshop in January.

Take our 3-hour diagnostic quant q, science, and reading test.  Call Kate at 703-203-5796 to schedule.  $100 fee.


Geometry Crash Course for Early August

Is your lack of geometry hurting you on high school admissions tests?

Take our four-day crash course to preview/review essential elements for tests such as the SSAT, TJ admissions, HSPT, and ISEE.
Homework sets included to reinforce class instruction.
Class is 7-8:30pm Monday through Thursday, August 6-9, 2018.
Cost: $290
Instructor: Caroline Hesse

To see the course description or to register click here.

For ongoing practice throughout the summer, come to our reading, science, and math skill building drill classes.


Finally!! A Summer ACT in July

For years, students and parents complained that there were no ACT or SAT test dates for the summer.  For years, our summers were spent chillin’ at the beach.  Over the last few years, however, there has been a drastic change.  More and more students have been getting a jump start on prep during the summer between sophomore and junior year. Last year, the College Board responded to the pent up demand for summer testing dates by offering an SAT in late August  (at the same time removing the late January test date from its calendar).

Not to be outdone, the people behind the ACT are rolling out a mid-July 2018 test.  For the first time,  students who prefer the ACT can take the test on Saturday, July 14.

Here is where Inspiring Test Prep comes in.  We have scheduled a three-week course to prep for that July test date.  The class meets Monday-Thursday, the weeks starting June 18, June 25, (we skip the week of July 4), and July 9.

Take advantage of our special introductory pricing: sign up now and pay later and still get $200 discount of course price. Regular price: $1,195.

Your price: $995.

Delay no longer.  Take action today and click the link to sign up.

Call Kate at 703-203-5796 to schedule the diagnostic test.