7 Student Passion Project Ideas (And How They Were Executed)

Extracurriculars and passion projects are an essential component of your university application.

Why? They give admissions committees some insight beyond your grades into your skills, leadership potential, achievements outside the classroom, and more.

However, most students choose the exact same activities (like DECA, HOSA, elite sports, camp counselor, robotics club, lifeguard, etc.), or they choose an activity that lacks a personal connection (even if it looks good on paper).

This means that you, along with thousands of other students, are writing applications and essays that talk about the exact same things.

Put simply, cookie-cutter activities won’t help you stand out among thousands of applicants. 

If you want to gain an edge and increase your chances of admission success, you have to choose a passion project that’s as unique as you are.

It has to be aligned with your experiences, skills, strengths, values, and goals, and be something that will initiate learning and personal growth. This will not only make it impactful, but it will increase the chances of you completing it.

To help inspire you to start your own impactful passion project, we’ve put together a list of real-life examples from every type of student you can think of, with a quick breakdown of the outcomes of each one.

By the way, if you’re serious about building your university profile and identifying and executing a meaningful passion project, check out our 1:1 Passion Project Coaching Program. Spots are limited, so enroll now.

7 passion project ideas youthfully

1. Self-Publishing a Book

Self-publishing a book is good option for a passion project because you can take full creative control and make it about any topic that interests you. It’ll also help you improve skills like communication, organization, and time management skills, while learning to manage your time and adapt to challenges. These are all qualities that admissions committees look for in applicants.

We’ve had several students publish books on various topics over the years. 

This student in particular became an Amazon Best-Seller in two different categories.

His book was about a very specific topic because:

  • His coach noticed he was passionate about it
  • The student had a lot of interesting ideas and habits about it
  • The student was an extremely strong written communicator

They formed a plan and a strategy, structured out the book, created a title, convinced friends to co-write, and promoted it very creatively.

7 passion project ideas youthfully

2. Host a TEDx Talk 

Doing a TEDx talk is a good option for a passion project because it gives you an opportunity to share your ideas, build your brand, network with like-minded individuals, and develop your verbal communication skills. It’s especially good if you have a message you believe is worth sharing because it’s a platform to amplify your voice and make a difference.

This student found an impactful passion project that was aligned with his interest in spreading awareness about Tourette’s Syndrome, OCD, and ADHD.

His coach helped him brainstorm ways that he could share his experiences with the world and support others who have the same disorders. 

After working together to craft a high-level theme of the talk, and connect with different networks, he landed his own TEDx Talk

Inspired by his efforts, his coach encouraged him to go even bigger with the project, so he pitched himself to podcasts and was invited to appear on one of them (and today it has over 1.5 million downloads!).

Read his full story here.

7 passion project ideas youthfully

3. Publish a Research Project 

A research project will allow you to explore an area or field of study that you’re interested in. This is particularly beneficial if you are thinking of pursuing this area in university. 

This student published a research paper in Frontiers in Psychology Journal, called “Sociality and self-awareness in animals”. It explores self-recognition and awareness in over 30 species.

He and his coach first discovered his passion for cognitive science, pinpointed a topic to write about, and generated a hypothesis.

From there, it was about structuring the paper, refining the argument, connecting with reviewers, and ultimately submitting it for publication.

This helped him land an internship at a local university supporting research on a similar topic. 

He also was admitted to several universities in California.

Read his full story here.

Launch an impactful passion project.


7 passion project ideas youthfully

4. Engineer a Functional Device

Inventing something is a good passion project for those who want to develop creativity and problem solving. By working on a project like this, you will show your innovative and entrepreneurial spirit and your determination to help improve the world. You will also prove that you can work through challenges and roadblocks, and that you have the confidence necessary to push past them.

This student was interested in pursuing mechanical engineering.

When brainstorming for a project, his coach found out he was injured warming up for squash. So he asked the student, “What device would have prevented this?”.

That’s when the idea to engineer a squash ball warmer was born.

His coach guided him through the design process, pinpointing exactly the type of contraption he wanted to build. Together, they completed an application for a government grant and was awarded it.

They took it even a step further to sell the device in squash gyms around the city.

7 passion project ideas youthfully

5. A Physical Feat For Charity

Doing a physical feat for charity can be a rewarding and meaningful project that can help you develop a wide range of skills and make a positive impact on the world around you.

This is the most common passion project students choose, so you want to make sure it’s incredibly unique and authentic.

This student in particular was on a gap year in 2015, so we helped her design her year.

One of the things she did was train and climb Kilimanjaro for charity.

Her story behind why Kilimanjaro and the charity she chose was extremely unique.

I know what you’re thinking… I’m not going to fly to Africa to climb a mountain.

Not to worry.

If you want to do a physical feat, your coach will help you find something that works for your situation.

7 passion project ideas youthfully

6. Create an Online Course

Creating an online course is a good option for a passion project because it will allow you to learn how to research and become an expert in an area you’re interested in, while helping you develop teaching skills, enhance your technical and leadership skills.

When this student first joined the debate team, he quit after one month because he performed so poorly after his first competition that he was embarrassed.

But about a year later, he rejoined and developed an approach that worked for him. Later, he became a competitive debate champion.

His coach learned about this approach through their conversations and knew it was something other students could benefit from, so he helped them package this approach into a course and got it approved on Udemy, the world’s largest marketplace.

The course has a 4.6/5 star rating and has had 1,000+ students enrolled.

7 passion project ideas youthfully

7. Start a Research Project

Starting a research project is a good option for those who are interested in pursuing a particular field of study in university, and perhaps even continuing on to graduate school. A research project will allow you to enhance your communication skills, as well as time management and self-reliance – all while becoming an expert in the topic you’re researching. 

This student was applying to a top psychology program and wanted to stand out. She was also passionate about mental health and reducing bullying in schools.

A great coach learns things like this about a student that others would miss, and sees an an opportunity others wouldn’t see.

This opportunity was clear: start an independent research project on bullying.

  1. They formed a hypothesis
  2. Designed an experiment
  3. Found reviewers
  4. Had it approved on the “GoFundMe” for independent research
  5. Launched the experiment IRL
  6. Analyzed the results

This student was admitted to their program and learned many skills she used at university and beyond.

Feeling inspired? Want to get a start on your own passion project? Our coaches have helped hundreds of students identify and execute passion projects in various fields and industries — and they’re ready to help you take yours further than you thought possible. 

Enroll in Youthfully’s 1:1 Passion Projects Program to identify and execute a meaningful project and stand out to universities and employers. Apply now. Applications close on April 21.



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