College Application Tips: Establishing Interests and Goal Setting

When I was in middle school, I was dead set on going to NYU and becoming a photographer after high school. A lot has changed since then and that plan is certainly not the one I am following.

While taking my first photography class freshman year of high school, I realized I didn’t really like it as an academic subject, just a hobby. Even though that may appear to be a setback, it really wasn’t. It opened the door for new educational opportunities, with both coursework and post-grad plans. High school is a great opportunity to test out your interests and see if you actually like them.

Self Portrait

After my freshman year, I joined debate team, which I loved. I had always had some interest in writing and politics, so debate was a perfect combination of those interests. Joining the team inspired me to major in Political Science and made me want to go to college on a politically active campus.

Debate Team Picture

You can delve into topics that interest you in a myriad of ways: taking related coursework, joining or starting a related club, playing on a sports team, or volunteering, interning, or working in the field.

Exploring your interests not only helps you determine what you want to study, but also what social, academic, and athletic features you want in your future school. Additionally, the classes you take add to your academic profile and your activities outside of school contribute to your resume—two features that colleges look at when admitting students.

Once you know what you like to do, or what you might be interested in delving deeper into in college, you can start to set related goals. These goals should be anything that will make you stand out when applying to college. Goals may include getting good grades in certain classes, leadership roles in clubs, making the starting lineup in a sport, or something else that suits your interests. Your goals will keep you on track, help you build your resume and academic profile, and will contribute to having a fun and successful high school career.

Here are what some of my goals in high school looked like:

  • Become captain of the JV basketball team
  • Be appointed to a higher supervisory position every year in debate team
  • Become president of Debate Team at my school
  • Take 3 AP classes
  • Get A’s and B’s in all my classes
  • Get a political internship
  • Start a retail job to make some money

These goals reflected my interests across academics, sports, and extracurricular activities. Even though I was not able to fulfill all of these, they contributed to me enjoying high school and feeling successful. These goals also helped me explore the topics I was interested in and added unique elements to my resume and academic record.

One thing to keep in mind, however, is that your interests and goals are fluid and can change throughout high school, and even throughout college. Don’t be afraid to try new things and find new interests and thereby change your goals. You are not glued to anything and you should feel free to take risks.


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Instagram: carolineolesky / Pinterest: Caroline Olesky / Twitter: carolineolesky

Disclaimer: This post was originally published on Cleverly Caroline on January 17, 2019.

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