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No Plans This Summer? Consider Creating a Homegrown Project

A number of students had their summer plans fall through at the last minute. Whether it was a job, research opportunity, or other experience that would have been listed on college applications, students start to worry.

For all those students, don't fret. Pivot instead. Consider doing what I call a "homegrown project." Note, I don't call this a "passion project" like many. If you have worked in college admissions, the mere term "passion project" denotes that it is something done just to get into college. A homegrown project is authentic, personal, and done for the right reasons.

RELATED READING: Need a Plan This Summer? Here Are Some Ideas

Here is how you can plan it out and achieve something this summer that is far more meaningful than anything you had planned:
 

Step 1: Select an academic area, community need, or personal interest that you have.

For example, if you are interested in majoring in business, you could select the field of business as the theme of your homegrown project. If you are a photographer, you could choose to create a collection of your work. If you are a historian, you could choose the field of history to explore. The project can match up with the student's major choice, but it is not required.
 

Step 2: Get as specific as you can about your area of interest.

Choosing a very distinct area to pursue allows you to become an expert at it and be able to tackle this project in a few months (or even a few years, depending on how far you take it). The more specific, the better. So the student interested in business could home in on the gender gap in pay among Fortune 500 CEOs. The photographer could choose the downtown area where they live to capture how the city is recovering from COVID. And the historian could select the topic of how the civil war in Nepal led to Nepalis immigrating to the United States. 
 

Step 3: Choose how you will deliver this work.

Will it be a paper, presentation, or exhibit? To whom will you present your work? Your school, a local organization, library, or some other group?
 

Step 4: Pick a mentor.

This individual won't be doing the work for you, but they can be there to answer questions, bounce ideas off of, or guide you in the right direction. Teachers at your school and local community leaders can serve as your mentor. It is hard for an adult to say "no" to a student who is earnest and willing to do something in their field of interest.

Step 5: Create a timeline and stick to it.

If you want to complete the project by the end of the summer, map out what you need to accomplish by the end of each week and hold yourself accountable. Make sure to build in time to research, interview experts, collect data, write, create, edit, and finalize your work.
 

Step 6: Invest time into this project like it is your full-time job.

That is the only way to get the project done and create something meaningful. The more weeks and the more hours each week that a student devotes to this project or any activity will always make a difference in what they are doing and how admissions officers evaluate them.
 

Step 7: The goal of the project is not to get national attention, local attention, or even to get published.

Instead, the goal is to grow as a person and community member. Don't underestimate the power of your own work and what it will do for your confidence and development.


READ MORE: What a College Counselor Encourages Her Own Daughter to Do This Summer



Does the homegrown project take discipline? You bet it does. Does it take self-driven curiosity? You bet. Does it cost any money? Nope. And that is why it is so transformative for a student to pursue.
 
Your homegrown project is waiting. Dream it up. Go after it. You will learn more about yourself than you ever imagined.