A Step-by-Step Guide Finding Your Passion in High School

A Step-by-Step Guide Finding Your Passion in High School

What is the one thing that all top schools look for in an applicant? Passion.

Displaying passion on your college applications is a major key to getting in, and finding your passion should start early on in high school. Are you ready to turn your many interests into a narrowly defined passion?  In today’s information-rich world, there are hundreds of thousands of topics that may pique your curiosity – which can make finding your passion in high school a daunting task.

As a former Assistant Director of Admissions at Dartmouth College, when reading applications, I searched for ways that students demonstrated a commitment to an area of interest. In some cases, that took the form of completing additional research. In other ways, I watched students tutor others in their favorite subjects.

When I transitioned to working with students at InGenius Prep, I quickly I realized that it’s easier to tell a student what to do when they know what they’re passionate about! However, since few students know exactly what intrigues them, it’s important to start interest exploration and finding your passion early. When I work with students, we always start out by discussing different subjects that they’d like to learn more about. After speaking with hundreds of students, here are my tips to help with finding your passion in high school!

1. Daily News

It’s important to cultivate a critical reading habit early in your high school years. Reading daily news is a great way to become more aware about the issues in your community and to gain perspective on your own life. For one week, read a national newspaper cover-to-cover.

To save time, feel free to skim through several of the articles. While reading, be sure to mark every article that interests you with a check. After a week of reading, review all of the articles that you marked. Record any trends or overlap with certain subjects.  Once you’ve arrived at a few topics that excite you, proceed to step two to further explore your newfound interests.

Example Publications:

2. Take an Online Course

Do you already have a general topic in mind like Environmental Science or Sociology? If so, taking an online course in the area is a great way to narrow your interests down from a more general topic. In addition to learning some interesting facts about one of your subject areas, you’ll get invaluable exposure to ideas that may reveal your true interests. Even further, once you’ve taken a class in a specific area, you’ll either be motivated to learn more, or ready for a change of topic. If you’re still interested in the subject area after the class, proceed to step three.

Online Course Websites:

3. Personal Interviews

When figuring out your passion, it can be helpful to learn about a subject in a more personal way. Once a student has formed a knowledge base in a particular area, I encourage him/her to seek out an individual working in that field. So, if you are interested in archaeology, speak with an archaeologist. These types of conversations can give you valuable insights into the day-to-day lives of people in this field.

Maybe you find corporate litigation fascinating, but don’t think you’d enjoy the long hours spent in an office or time devoted to bringing in clients. If you’ve followed this guide, the news articles that you will have read and classes you took, will give you plenty to discuss with a professional. I recommend speaking with one or two people, at first. After each talk, write a brief report what you learned about the field.

And who knows, maybe this talk could turn into an internship or research opportunity? At the very least, you may start to build up a network.

Sample Resources:

  • Your Parents and Family Friends
  • School Teachers
  • Community Organizations

I hope these actionable tips help you mold your interests into a full-blown passion! Now go explore!

About the Author


I am a former Assistant Director of Admissions at Dartmouth College, my alma mater. As an Admissions Officer at Dartmouth, I traveled and read over 1000 applications of students from a wide variety of backgrounds, and was the Admissions office contact for states in New England, the Mid West, and the Mid Atlantic.

I have diverse experience advising students and families throughout all stages of the admissions process. For instance, I have hosted workshops for US high school guidance counselors and youth development organizations to deepen their understanding of the Admissions process.