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As high school students, we all dream about finding our own path in life, imagining what we will do after we fling our graduation caps in the air. We dream of amazing colleges and ideal jobs that suit our passions. However, as Dumbledore says, “It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live.” That’s why we need to start turning those dreams into realities now in high school by living our lives and pursuing our passions.
In high school you have a multitude of opportunities to experience a “preview” of what you hope to do in the future. Pursuing your passions through high school extracurricular activities can give you a lot of clarity into choosing the right college and even career path. And not only will these activities make your college application and/or résumé all the more impressive, but they will help you get hands-on experience, develop important skills, meet new friends, and network at the same time. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, you will almost always be able to find a high school experience that you’re both passionate about and you enjoy.
I will say that finding high school experiences that allow you to pursue your passions can sometimes be challenging and time consuming. It took me a while to find the right internship last summer, especially since I needed an option appropriate for my age and qualifications. However, I can also say without equivocation that the experience is rewarding.
The following three ways can help you pursue your passions in high school. So you can explore the ambitions you plan to foster in college and pursue in your professional career.
1. Get a high school internship
Internships are often the best way to attain relevant job experience in high school. Although it can be difficult to find an internship that suits your high school schedule and expectations, the skills you garner give you a great head start on any future positions. And internships can also make your college résumé more competitive, as they show how hard working and dedicated you are. If you’re concerned about fitting an internship into your high school schedule, there are plenty of internships open to high school students during the summer.
Personally, over the course of researching and applying for my first summer internship last year, I realized that telecommute internships were the most flexible and feasible options for me, especially as there weren’t many positions allocated to high school students in my home country, Singapore. The telecommute role also helped me work while traveling, and I was able to be more self-sufficient and independent. I communicated through Skype, Zoom, and e-mail, and I felt very involved in discussions.
If you’re unable to find in-person internships in high school, I would recommend researching and applying for telecommute roles, especially if you wish to pursue writing, research, or journalism in the future.
Volunteer opportunities are another great and practical way to pursue your passions in high school, give back to your community, and gain relevant work experience. Volunteering at hospitals, schools, and shelters can go a long way in providing you with real-world experience, as well as fulfilling any community service component of your high school diploma you might have.
For example, volunteering in hospitals and clinics can give prospective health care students a unique perspective on pursuing a career as a nurse, doctor, or allied health professional. These experiences can be a real eye opener into the world of health care and some of the common challenges that practitioners face. Responsibilities normally include interacting with patients, administrative efforts, and providing overall support for nurses and doctors.
Other nonprofits in your area, from homeless shelters to libraries, are almost always looking for volunteers as well. However, it’s important to learn about any place you could potentially volunteer at to make sure your interests and skills are a good fit for them and vice versa. But once you’ve found such a place, don’t be afraid to dive into their advocacy, outreach, and fundraising efforts. For example, you might support children in your community by offering free tutoring services or get involved in campaigns aimed at standing up for important social and cultural issues like refugee rights, mental illness, animal welfare, and empowerment for marginalized groups.
Many students also organize campaigns and fundraising events within their neighborhoods and high schools to support their nonprofits of choice. Some high students even launch their own volunteer organizations! Students considering working at an NGO (“non-governmental organization,” typically a philanthropic nonprofit) as a possible career option will benefit from these activities to a large extent. Whatever you do, try to ensure you volunteer on a regular basis and for a prolonged period of time to show your commitment and passion for the work.
3. Become a contributing writer
Even if you don’t want to become a professional writer after high school, writing for magazines, local newspapers, regional websites, poetry collections, and even academic journals can go a long way in improving your overall communications skills. You’ll also improve your analytical, critical-thinking, and research methodologies. (While conducting my college research, I have observed that universities are perpetually interested in students who conduct extra research, writing, and reading in their spare time!)
Writing letters to editors, blog posts, articles, essays, and reviews can be a great opportunity for students to express their views on world issues and participate in creative forums. You can embark on writing opportunities within and outside your high school, from school yearbooks and newsletters to local and international magazines.
Start by thinking about subjects you’d like to not just write about but learn more about too. Then find related outlets and search for things like “write for us,” “guest writers,” and “guest blogger” opportunities. But even if no such opportunities are publicized, you can always reach out to the organization directly and simply explain that you are a student looking for writing exposure and experience. It’s also important to have examples of your writing you can share in these instances, ideally via an online portfolio or personal website.
Then, once you’ve found a writing position, be persistent and regular in your contributions so that you can learn, read more, and write extensively to showcase your views about the issues and topics you are interested in. You’ll inevitably improve over time, developing better arguments and writing with more cohesion and clarity. Who knows—one day your writing might be featured on the prestigious and renowned platforms you most admire!
Pursuing your passions can take on many forms in high school, but every skill you develop and experience you have will enrich your foundation for the future.