Colleges love to see intellectually curious, go-getters. How do you decide, at 14 or 15 years old, what you want to do with your life? The short answer – you don’t have to. You just have to try to find your passion, and in the process, hopefully create some impact. Given the tumultuous politics of the past year and a half, there’s no better time for young teens to get involved. Here’s a few tips.
1. Start Local
Find a social issue you care about or are interested in learning more about. Whether that’s education, women’s rights, climate change, etc, explore a particular issue and find local organizations, NPO’s, and leaders who can help you navigate the arena. For example, if you’re a young girl that is interested in technology, find a female tech professional who can mentor you and join tech related clubs and NPO’s that can help further your passion. Need help? Ask an Empowerly college counselor for some help tracking down the right people and programs.
2. Find Impact in your Vertical
What if you know that you want to be a computer science major or a lawyer? Great! Now – how do you create impact or showcase your passion? Find opportunities within your profession to leverage social good. Below are a few examples. The main thing is to get creative and try to learn, even when teaching!
- Computer science: Join girls who code, find a tech mentor, volunteer at nonprofits that offer tech/computer skills, teach code to children, join a bootcamp, etc
- Lawyer: Volunteer for the ACLU, shadow lawyers on pro-bono cases, do desk work at immigration non-profits
- Doctor: volunteer at your local hospital, spearhead fundraisers or drives for the cancer unit
3. Read, Frequently and Unabashedly
There is nothing easier you can do to improve your writing and critical thinking skills than reading. Critical thinking sounds like a buzzword your English teacher drills into you but it will come in incredibly useful in applying to college, IN college, as well as the real world. Subscribe to one or two (digital) newspapers (Washington Post and NY Times are two critically acclaimed newspapers) to not only stay informed on current events but also to study the writing styles. Reading frequently and indiscriminately helps you absorb new words, perspectives and ways to communicate your thoughts – skills that will become critical as you navigate the college application process. Go onto Goodreads and browse books you want to read – whether that’s YA fantasy, science fiction, historical biographies, or even comic books. If all you want to read are sports biographies or mystery novels, don’t let the opinions of others dissuade you! Books = books. Happy reading!
4. Service, not Public
Service is as much of a boon for the personal soul as it is for others. Don’t serve for the public acclaim, titles, or volunteer hours. Growing up in the United States means you are automatically in a place of privilege many are not, due simply to the circumstances of birth. Do not shield yourself from the lives of others, and the world outside your window panes and phone screens. Give, not to receive but to love and fulfill. If you learn this lesson in the purest, most genuine way – amidst all your tests, papers, SAT prep- then any college will be lucky to have you.
If you can, travel. Travel is easily one of the best ways to open up your mind and grow. Now, most college admissions readers don’t want to read another essay about your 2 week life changing volunteer trip, but there’s ways to take your experiences, what you’ve learned, and talk about it in a unique way. The key here is perspective, and travel is one of the most surefire ways to do that. Find volunteer/ immersion trips, many offered through your school and clubs, to travel. If you’re having a hard time finding programs, ask an Empowerly College Counselor for some help!