As a graduating senior, I’ve faced many academic hurdles on my way toward my goal of attending college. As students, we all contend with seemingly unending assignments and projects each year, and for most students, that process within school is Sisyphean and dull. But I know many students truly enjoy challenging themselves intellectually outside of the confines of a classroom, and there are so many unknown programs and activities that students can participate in outside of school. I did not know about many of these programs until recently, so I will share what I’ve discovered in hopes that a younger student has the chance to participate in them. The following list revolves around my interests, so I encourage any younger student reading this to recognize that important fact; these activities are not things you should or must do, they are simply ones I’ve loved. If you have any questions about the below activities, feel free to email me at any time.
This is the most obvious activity outside the classroom. If a topic fascinates you, go pursue it! I am involved in Political Discussion Club, Lab Rats, and The Eagle, which I highly recommend to any new students. If those don’t suit you, check out this list here (https://bchigh.myschoolapp.com/app/student#resourceboarddetail/7556) or start your own (I’ve founded two clubs – Powerlifting Club and Lab Rats, and it’s a really easy process).
United States Naval Sea Cadet Corps
This is a youth program that is similar to JROTC. It’s structured like the military, and provides you with opportunities to attend SEAL-like trainings, traverse the ocean on ships, and compete in SeaPerch competitions. There is no service requirement, but joining can lead to an increased pay grade for enlisted personnel and about 16% of Naval Academy midshipmen were Sea Cadets. For those interested, read more here (https://www.seacadets.org).
This is a research competition for high schoolers. If you haven’t done research before, don’t worry! You must only research the background of your project, and if you are selected as a finalist, you will receive up to $1,000 in funding, connect with MIT students and faculty, and receive an all-expenses paid living experience on MIT’s campus. I highly recommend submitting an application; I submitted one and was not chosen, but it still got me to think creatively. If you want to learn more, follow this link (https://think.mit.edu).
This is a hackathon run by MIT undergrads (see the theme here?). I was accepted into the Advanced Web Development competition, but if you haven’t had much hackathon or coding experience before, you can still submit an application. There are categories from beginner to advanced, and they spend a whole day teaching you coding skills to help prepare you for the competition. Also, they have hardware AND software hacking, so if you are more excited about working with physical materials, you could still find a niche in this event. If you want to check it out, click here (https://blueprint.hackmit.org).
International Arctic Buoy Programme
I got involved in this through Sea Cadets, but you can still apply as a regular high schooler. Essentially, you work to design and build Arctic weather buoys, which are then deployed to the Arctic to provide data to various organizations and universities in the world. I am actually working on my buoy right now, and it’s super fun! If you’re interested, go here to read more (https://iabp.apl.uw.edu).
This is an education platform created by Harvard and MIT. Many different universities post free classes on the site, and this year I am taking an Intro to Linear Algebra class that uses MATLAB, which is really fun! You can also pay for a certificate to prove that you passed the class, but it’s not necessary. If you want to sign up for or find a course, go here (https://www.edx.org).
Research/Working With Professors
As a high schooler, it can be difficult to get involved with research or to work with professors. However, it is possible! I reached out to a professor at Wentworth Institute of Technology, and I will be helping him in a robotics lab this summer. You may be wondering how I got in contact, and all I did was send an email. I wouldn’t expect a cold email to always be responded to, but if you’re polite, the worst consequence is a nicely worded no or no reply at all. For example, there’s another professor I wanted to work with earlier this year, but he wasn’t available to work with me. Another way to get in touch could be through your teachers! I know Dr. Sears in particular has some connections, so you could always ask teachers like him. If you’re interested in research, be tactful, and go for it!
Seriously. I’ve learned how to code web applications, physics, and math by simply watching lectures and taking notes on them. If you click around without much of a goal, it can be difficult to truly dive into a topic, but with the right channel, you can find some amazing free content out there. For example, for all you Physics C students out there, Walter Lewin has amazing lectures on classical mechanics, and my understanding of that class has exploded. He organizes his material in a playlist, which makes it very easy to stay on track as you explore that subject. So if you plan on using YouTube to delve into a topic, I recommend finding someone who has high quality playlists and watching them all the way through.
I am going to truncate my list of academic opportunities there, but there are so many more! There’s hundreds of programs and competitions for almost every subject, so even if none of the items on my list interest you, maybe it can get you thinking of what you would like to do with your free time. And that’s the most important part of the list; I highlighted activities I am genuinely excited and passionate about. You should formulate a list of cool events and programs that genuinely excite you. So if there’s one piece of advice I’d offer to the younger students, it’s from Fr. Pedro Arrupe: “Fall in love, stay in love, and it will decide everything.”