Learning What You Love in High School
Here’s something no one tells you about your high school education: You’re the one in control. You’re in charge of what you do and how well you do it. It’s up to you whether you treat high school as something imposed on you─something to simply trudge through─or as a time to figure out what you love and want to do with your life.
Here’s another secret: When you’re doing something you love, it doesn’t feel like work. What can you do now, while you’re young, to find out what you’re passionate about?
How to Find Out What Your Passions Are in High School
Being an enthusiastic learner or having enthusiasm for learning doesn’t mean gluing yourself to your school textbooks. It means a lifetime of developing your talents and feeding your curiosity about the things you love. That can be anything from music to math and physics to painting and sports. Your options are endless.
But what if you aren’t sure what you're very interested in? With college admissions right around the corner and high school drawing to an end, you may be worried that you haven’t found that spark that leads you down your ideal career path. This is something everyone will experience at some point in their lives. Here are some things to do right now to guide yourself an education you’re enthusiastic about:
Write Down All the Things That Make You Happy.
As in so many situations, writing down your thoughts─just for yourself─is a good way to start. Think about the things you love to do. Be specific about what it is you love about something and what your role is in it.
Here are a few examples:
- You’re passionate about music, specifically about composing original music.
- You’re passionate about sports, specifically about coaching others.
- You’re passionate about computers, specifically about coding video games.
- You’re passionate about writing, specifically reporting on the news.
Once you have a list of things you’re enthusiastic about, think about your personality and how you prefer doing things. Answer questions like these:
- Do I prefer to give a speech or write a speech?
- Would I rather be an actor or a director?
- Would I rather listen to music or play music?
- Do I plan out everything before I take on a project or dive right in?
- Am I outgoing or introspective?
- Would I rather think up something new or improve upon something that already exists?
- Do I prefer to be a leader or a team member?
Write down your answers and any other thoughts you have about your personality and interests. Then list the classes you’re taking now or have taken recently. Try to make connections between your notes about yourself and your classes. Which classes cover subjects or teach skills that relate to the things you love? Have any of these classes helped you recognize an interest you didn’t know you had?
You can also list your talents. Are you good at math? Can you sing or act? Are you able to teach yourself computer languages? A list of your skills and talents may help you discover a career path. This list may also help you with choosing the rest of your high school classes and improving your study skills.
Work Backward From Your Future Vision.
Envision yourself in the future. Five years, 10 years, even 20 years from now. In your ideal world, what are you doing? When answering this question, don’t limit yourself. Answer with your heart: If you could be doing anything in the future, what would it be?
Let’s say, for example, that in your ideal future, you are a marine biologist who is authoring groundbreaking research papers. How did you get there? What classes did you take in college? What internships did you get? How did you build relationships with your professors, mentors, and peers to get these opportunities?
The best thing about doing this is that you don’t need concrete answers to these questions right away, just ideas. You’ll have plenty of opportunities in college to explore majors and experiment with taking classes that pique your interest.
Plan Ahead Based on These Insights.
Now that you have some ideas for what you're enthusiastic about, what your role is in these interests, and a road map for getting to a future where your passion is your career, let’s work our way back to the present day.
Take a Fresh Approach to Your Work in High School.
See if you can approach homework in a way that allows you to explore your interests and spark your passion for learning about what you love. For instance, if you love art, you may be able to choose a topic for a history paper that investigates the connection between the art movements and key political events of a particular time period.
Try New Things.
If you’re open to stepping outside your comfort zone, you’ll find yourself meeting new people, going places you never imagined, and discovering skills and talents you didn’t think you had.
New opportunities can come to you in many ways. You can:
- Register for a challenging class.
- Join clubs and extracurricular activities.
- Try out for a play or a team.
- Say “yes” to a teacher, employer, or mentor who suggests a special project.
- Make a new friend who expands your perspective.
The next time someone approaches you with a new opportunity, don’t say “no” right away, even if it seems boring or hard. Think about it. Ask yourself questions like these:
- What will I learn from this?
- What kinds of people will I meet?
- Where can it take me?
- Am I afraid to do this? If so, why?
Ask for Help.
Your counselor, principal, and teachers can help you figure out how to make the most of your high school experience. Try asking these questions:
- Does our school offer elective classes that may interest me?
- Are there school clubs related to my interests? If not, how do I start one?
- Can I take an interest inventory? (This test shows you careers that match your interests.)
What should I do if I’m not sure what I’m interested in?
Explore! You may not realize it now, but high school isn’t just a rigorous chore where everything is planned out for you in advance. You have the opportunity to join dozens of clubs and extracurricular activities outside of the classroom.
See what clubs and activities are offered at your high school. Talk to some of your friends and classmates about clubs they're in and what they do. If anything sounds interesting or exciting to you, go to a few meetings. You might discover interests you didn’t even know you had and make new friends along the way.
How do I decide what extracurricular activities I’m interested in?
How can I start exploring career interests in high school?
As mentioned earlier, writing down your interests and what role you’d play is a perfect way to start. Talk to your teachers, mentors, and school counselors about what careers exist that relate to your passions and if there are any internships available to help you try them out.
How do you develop interests?
Interests are developed through curiosity. This comes naturally to everyone. It’s one of our defining traits. Think about what sparks your curiosity. You may have wanted to explore what makes technology work the way it does. Or you’ve wondered why your pets behave the way they do.
Do some research. Read up on answers to things you’re curious about. You may find yourself immersed in an article about computer coding or a book about animal behavior.
How do you develop passions?
Passions are developed through emotions, particularly through activities that you find to be fun. Consider the things that move you emotionally and the things that you love to do. You may be moved by music or film. You may enjoy playing sports with your friends. These things are all examples of passion. Think about what you can do to further develop your interests in the things that move you.