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Passion Project Ideas for High School Students in 2023

11 minute read

If I could give my high school self one piece of advice, it would be to stress less about school and to spend more time pursuing passion projects! Doing passion projects comes with so many benefits - you can take a potential college major on a test drive, it can help distinguish you from other applicants in the college admissions process, and the most important benefit is that it can be a ton of fun!

What is a passion project? 

What is a passion project, you might ask: A passion project is an endeavor that is uniquely yours. It is not a school assignment or a prescribed task - it is your opportunity to explore an area of interest that is unique to you. It is usually something that you pursue outside the confines of school or your profession. It is a project or a hobby that you are excited to pursue because you’re intrinsically motivated to learn about the topic and to devote time and energy to it. It can even help with your college admissions chances. (learn how to leverage your project for college applications) And most importantly, it is something that brings you a sense of joy, intellectual and creative fulfillment, and personal satisfaction. 

If you're still learning what gives you that sense of joy and fulfillment, don't worry! Read our guide to discovering your passions.

It's possible to conduct research through established programs, but if you would like to work independently, passion project ideas can take many shapes and forms, including but not limited to:

Writing Passion Project Ideas

Writing a research paper exploring a hypothesis or a question

This is perhaps one of the most popular types of passion projects - the academic project! Do you wish you had more time to explore a particular unit that your teacher breezed through in school? Is there a nerdy question that’s been bothering you for months that you’re curious to find the answer to? Do you enjoy writing and clearly articulating your arguments and findings? If any of this resonates with you, this might be the right type of passion project for you!  To get started here, you need to first identify what question(s) and hypotheses you hope to explore.

Through the course of her project, one of our students developed a clear hypothesis and research paper on schizophrenia and neuroplasticity that was accepted and published by the Youth Medical Journal. We've also put together a complete guide to Psychology Passion Projects with more detail.

Write a review paper 

If you’re fascinated by a subject area you don’t know much about, writing a review paper could be a great way to kickstart your passion project journey. There is tremendous value to learning how to distill, paraphrase, and summarize existing research for the rest of the world to consume. Being able to write strong, informative review papers is critical to getting yourself ready for original research.

Interested in showcasing your passion project? Check out our showcasing database to learn more about what journals and outlets are open to accepting review paper submissions!

Publishing a personal blog documenting your learning process 

If you enjoy writing in a more casual setting and a wider readership, then blog writing might be for you!  Whether you’re exploring an issue you care deeply about (e.g. prison reform, data privacy law etc.), or picking up a new hobby like tennis, or backpacking across the country this summer, keeping a blog can be a great way to synthesize what you’ve learned and share it with the world!  

Writing an experimental proposal 

Lots of students think of white lab coats and pipettes when they think of the words “research” or “project”. But let’s face it, not all students have ready access to physical lab space and resources, and experimental design is . A great way to hone your experimental skills while you wait for space to open up is to practice crafting and designing an experiment that you can take to your school or an independent lab space afterwards.  

Writing a creative piece - a novel or a screenplay!

Trying to satisfy your creative urges and put pen to paper? A creative writing passion project might be just the right thing for you. Whether you’re writing a novel or creative nonfiction piece, getting started is often the hardest part. You can lean on organizations and programs such as NaNoWriMo to find a community of other writers and creators!  

Write a series of poems

Are you tired of prose and want to experiment with the rhythm of words and language? Trying out poetry-writing might be the right thing for you then!  You can pick your favorite poet and write your own verses that mirror their style, or you can pick a number of poets and create a mashup of their styles! If you’re interested in understanding the intersection between computer science and literature, you could even do a literary analysis project on the merits of using ChatGPT to write poetry! If you’re proud of your work, submitting it for publication in magazines, newspapers, or competitions is a great way to flex that creative muscle of yours. 

For a larger list of creative writing passion projects, see our recent article here.

Work with an expert mentor to explore your passion

At Polygence, we precisely match you with a mentor in your area of interest. Together, you can explore and deepen your passions.

Passion Creative Passion Project Ideas

Producing a podcast on a topic you care about

For those of you who prefer speaking to writing, podcasts are a great way to disseminate information!  Podcasts are a versatile medium that allows you to achieve a range of goals. Whether you want to interview a series of inspirational scientists or make science accessible to younger listeners or educate the world about your unique insights on a topic, podcasts can be a great way to do that! One of our students created a podcast deep diving classics.

Write a song 

For those of you who are musically inclined, composing a song and writing the lyrics to it can be a great way to both destress and to build up your creative muscle! Whether you’re a classical musician hoping to untangle the secrets of Bach’s partitas and fugues or an aspiring jazz composer fascinated by syncopation and chord progressions, getting creative with music is one of the most rewarding passion projects you could engage in!  

Produce a photography exhibition 

Are you a casual iphone photographer but interested in learning more about what makes photos great? You can put together a local exhibition (or even one for your family and friends) with photos you’ve taken on a special trip, or of a special someone, or even of still life around the neighborhood!  The world of photography is vast and there is so much to learn - if you feel intimidated, start your passion project journey by following some photography blogs

Designing an infographic

Are you a visual thinker who marvels at the ability of a well-crafted visual to “speak a thousand words”? Pick a complex topic or process (E.g. the process of breaking down plastic molecules in the environment, or the history of affirmative action in higher education), and design an insightful and clear infographic to educate the world! 

Learn an instrument and hold a recital 

On the topic of humbling learning experiences, learning to play a new musical instrument is very similar to learning a new language. Not only does it improve your musical skills, but it also develops discipline and perseverance. As you progress in your instrument, you can see your technique and ability improve, which can culminate in in a performance you hold for friends and family, or for your wider school community. Public performance is an excellent platform to overcome performance anxiety and build confidence. 

"Starting Something New" Passion Project Ideas

Creating a social media campaign for a cause that matters to you

Many of you out there are social media whizzes - combining those skills with raising awareness for particular social issues could be a very rewarding and fulfilling experience. Have you been wishing you could do more for your community? Fundraise for a particular cause?  There’s simply no better time to start than now!  See an example here of a student whose passion project was to create an educational instagram account about the Nung people of Vietnam!

Starting a company, or club

If there’s an entrepreneurial side to you that’s waiting to be let loose, starting your own organization or company could be the perfect passion project for you. Is there a product you’ve always thought should exist but doesn’t? Is there a club that you wish existed at your high school but doesn’t? Do you and your group of friends already meet up regularly to discuss a topic, a book, current affairs, video games? The possibilities are endless and starting your own organization is a really great way to hone your skills as a leader and doer! Here’s an example of a high schooler whose passion project was to start a mental health advocacy group at Los Gatos High School!

See our full list of other business passion project ideas!

Start a fundraising campaign or a Non-profit 

Do you have a cause that you care deeply about? Starting a fundraiser or non-profit can be a fun and fulfilling experience because it gives you the opportunity to make a positive impact in your community or the world. It allows you to channel your passions, creativity, and leadership skills towards a cause you care about. Additionally, working with a team of like-minded individuals towards a common goal can be a bonding experience and provide a sense of accomplishment. The satisfaction of seeing the tangible results of your efforts and knowing that you have made a difference in someone's life is a reward in and of itself!

Develop a website 

Have you always wanted to try your hand at building a website to educate the world about a particular topic? Have you always wanted to put your HTML skills and design chops to test? Building a website might be the right passion project choice for you! If you already have coding skills, check out some of our most exciting computer science project ideas, or recent student projects creating a rocket simulator website or a database for internships. You might want to showcase your work via Github, as well.

If you don’t have the requisite coding skills needed to build a website, you can always lean on website builders such as Wix and SquareSpace to get started!   

Constructing a prototype of your very own invention 

Last but not least, there are plenty of passion project opportunities for those who prefer hands-on learning. Are you a knitter? A builder of robots? A constructor of models? Building something with your own two hands is a great way to engage with your passions. Think of a problem that you’d like to solve and let’s get building! Here’s an example of a high school student who designed a robot auto-snow-melter to help with his winter chores at home!

Other Forms of Passion Project Ideas

Designing an App or VideoGame  

Calling all creative minds here!  Are you a gamer yourself or have dreams to design the next big blockbuster app or videogame? It’s never too early to try your hand at this and to learn some new skills! You can even combine your building abilities with a social cause and design a website or app for a social cause that matters to you! Note that you will need to have some basic coding skills in order to do this project. 

Learn a language and journal using it

If you’re a language nerd and want your passion project to be both deeply personal and creative, learning a new language with the goal of journaling in it could be a great way to go ! Language learning is a humbling and rewarding experience - it teaches you to think in a completely new way and to adopt a fresh perspective on the world. Passion projects don’t have to be world-shattering - sometimes, the most fulfilling ones are deeply personal. As you progress in your writing, you can see your understanding of grammar and vocabulary expand, which can bring a sense of accomplishment. 

Build an AI model 

Are you a computer whiz with some experience in AI/ML?  Are you excited to apply your skills to a generate and classify images, generate your own NLP project, or to investigate a dataset that you’ve always been wondering about? Building an AI model that answers a question or tests a hypothesis you have is a great way to challenge yourself!  Check out some past projects on AI that Polygence students have answered with the help of AI models!

Compete in a science fair or a competition 

Are you a science whiz who wants to put your best foot forward at a science fair or a competition? We got you covered!  Check out our comprehensive guide to the nation’s most renowned science fair competition - Regeneron ISEF! We also have guidance on how to conduct a research experiment from home, regional science fairs, as well as a full list of psychology competitions.

Still want to explore additional passion project ideas?

Want to pick any one of these 20 ideas to dive into in 2023?  It’s not too late to start!  Sign up at Polygence to embark on your very own passion project journey!  

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