What are you passionate about?

If you interview with an admissions counselor or attend an information session, this question will inevitably come up. But what do colleges really mean when they ask this question? How can you showcase your passions on your application?

The bottom line is that colleges care deeply about your involvement.  Dedication in the pursuit of your interests and your depth and consistency within them equates to “passion.”  If you are passionate about your involvement, colleges can reasonably assume that you will be passionate about your education as well. Ultimately, the desire you bring to your involvement translates directly to the excitement you bring to your (and others’) campus experience.

Let’s break involvement and passion down further…

Involvement Outside of Class

It may be difficult to categorize your commitments outside of class time. After all, you’re spending most of your time during the week attending class, tackling tough assignments, and dealing with the joys of homework. Commitments you can showcase outside of class could be anything from involvement in the arts, sports or volunteer work to significant family commitments or a part-time job. If you dedicate time to something outside of class, consider talking about it in your college application – especially if you are excited about it.

It’s About Balance

Colleges know that you will likely burn out if you try to get involved in everything. Instead, they look for the activities to which you are committed to and in which you demonstrate depth.  Admissions offices are not counting the number of things you do. It’s about depth in activities, not necessarily breadth. They are looking for overall commitment that shows consistency and leadership.

Colleges Will Notice

Colleges expect you to be committed to academics when you are on their campus, but they also know a large part of your campus experience will include potential involvement in clubs, Greek life, working on campus and other social opportunities. At the high school level, they will take note of…

  • Where do your interests lie outside of academics?
  • What are your time-management skills and do you use them appropriately?
  • How do you bring diversity (and more than just ethnic diversity) to campus?
  • Have you demonstrated you know how to commit to something long-term?
  • What meaningful contributions have you made within your activities?

Where to Invest Yourself…

Sometimes it’s hard to know all of the opportunities that are available to you. Your high school may offer a variety of clubs, but you may also find opportunities to commit to work experience or to community activism. I love helping students look for opportunities and start something new.  In many instances we are able to find a new passion they had not thought about.

Let’s explore…

School Clubs and Activities

It’s not enough to just be in a club. See how much you responsibility you can comfortably commit to. Take advantage of opportunities to step up and take on leadership opportunities. But, that doesn’t mean you need to be President or Captain of every activity. Put forth your best effort whether it’s in a “top” position or not. But remember, the same effort needs to continue to be applied to your school work.

Community Service

Not only can service work bring valuable contributions to your surrounding community, it can also lead to some great introspective moments and, potentially, academic credit. Are there ways for you to contribute to local hospitals or community based organizations? Can you be a mentor to younger students? Community service should not be a one-time commitment to fulfill a school requirement. It can be an important and integral part of your personal development.

Work Experience

Internships, summer jobs, part-time work or volunteering in a work environment can all lead to a better understanding of your career goals and aspirations. Not only that, these opportunities can help you identify potential majors in college and maybe even earn you some money for college along the way. Think about how you can invest yourself in the “real world.”

In Summary

So, what are you passionate about? You can see at this point that your answer isn’t just important to colleges, it should also be important to you. Having a strong idea of what you’re excited about allows you to know yourself better and gives you the ability to communicate the value you can add to a college’s freshman class.

Remember, you don’t need to commit to everything and you don’t need to be the best at what you do. Put forth your best effort and keep your academics a priority, and the colleges that are considering your application will take an interest in you and your passions.