As the busy holiday season is upon us, I’d like to take a few minutes of your time to talk about some of the ways middle and high school students can continue to engage in self discovery, including some suggestions for interesting essay and other competitions across a variety of fields.

Don’t Just Learn– EXPLORE  & ROAR!!In addition to the many extracurricular organizations offered at your high school (DECA, FBLA, FIRST Robotics, Speech/Debate, NACLO, HOSA, Model UN, Math Competition, Young Arts, Band/Orchestra, Hackathon & yes,- even Gaming!), there are many ways for students to explore potential interests BEYOND FORMAL HIGH SCHOOL options.

  • TED TALKS Is an amazing resource of quality short videos on an array of topics.  The search engine has no limits!    
  • Conversations with family & friends about their work. Students ever wonder why a parent might appear “grumpy”  some evenings?  Ask mom/dad about their work and interactions with others. How did they solve a problem?! 
  • Attend Community Lectures at local universities. These are often open to the public.

EXPLORE YOUR PASSION – FIND YOUR NICHE THROUGH READING!!!  YES READING!!!The best way to do so is through reading and subsequent hands-on experiences. When I was in high school and away at college, my dad used to share newspaper clippings related to my field of study (yes, pre-internet 1980s). These were always thought provoking and appreciated. Today, it’s really easy for parents and teachers to share articles of interest with young adults. My clients can tell you about some of the pieces I’ve shared via text aligning with their emerging interests bringing a balance of perspectives outside of their school assignments.



 If a student has an emerging interest in business, economics or finance, learn more about the field and its core concepts through readings such as The Economist or Forbes. Extracurricular pursuits might include assuming a treasurer role in a club.Students interested in medicine or the sciences broadly defined might read Popular Science or Discover and perhaps try the monthly experiments at home. The Center for Disease Control and the FDA also have really informative pieces that are easy to digest.Students interested in the arts or writing, or history should explore a variety of literary magazines and essay competitions.By reading, not only will learn more about potential areas of interest but you will become a better writer. Observe vocabulary, write styles, sentence construction and how writers convey a message.Universities including Stanford, Carnegie Mellon, Wake Forest and Columbia to name a few are examples of colleges asking about readings outside of class on the college application. It’s fine to explore works of fiction and non-fiction alike. If you’re bilingual-read literature written in another language!

Another benefit of reading is that it can be a great way to relax and unwind. Keep in mind, reading on a blue-light device is not a way to unwind before sleep.

ADMISSIONS TIP: EXPLORE AND DISCOVER If you want to minimize the stress associated with the college admissions process, build your Educational and College Admissions Plan as early as 8 th  grade! This will allow you to carefully select classes and extracurricular opportunities to encourage academic and personal exploration preparing you for success as a high school and undergraduate student.  
Don’t follow the crowd nor march through high school without a smile ! BE INSPIRED!!
What is your student passionate about?  Now is the time for discovery!

In the past few weeks I’ve been contacted by both anxious and confident parents of high school students getting ready for the college admissions process ahead in a year or smack in the middle of their applications as current seniors. I’ve also spoken with parents of middle school students  about to begin high school expressing concerns about taking too many or too few AP or AICE courses and wondering whether their GPAs should be boosted through Dual Enrollment (see early newsletter addressing Dual Enrollment courses).

A Strategic Educational plan not only includes a curriculum mapping of challenging, relevant and manageable courses.  A plan that balances academic experiences with meaningful student selected extracurricular activities leads to confident, mature, self-directed and grounded young adults. 
Admissions staff look favorably upon students with a sustained commitment to activities throughout all four years of high school.

Essay competitions and contests abound across many fields – STEM, Business, Humanities and the “Arts”.  Some include financial awards- but the primary reason to compete is the opportunity to learn more about your interests and add to your activities resume.    A great essay can be part of your college application showcase as well.

I know- this is one more thing- but if you love to compete, your resume a bit short- or you just want one more thing to do please check out this note– and the links.   Your “competition” extends far beyond the peers at your current high school- this in and of itself is a valuable lesson to appreciate and I encourage everyone to give this idea some serious thought. 

 Here’s a sample of some of my picks for this year. I have many more to suggest based on your student’s needs.  This list was personally curated by me – it’s not off a search engine. Our team is here to assist you with all your essays– brainstorming content, polishing finished pieces and pushing you way outside your comfort zone to create some amazing work.  Everyone on my team is a former educators – middle, high school and at the collegiate level- and we’ve all graded great to awful papers (sorry).  If you can take the constructive critique – we’ll work with you start to finish to submit to any of these competitions that may be on your radar.


American Foreign Service Association

Why Diplomacy & Peacebuilding Matter

National High School Essay Contest – afsa.org www.afsa.orgTopic for AFSA’s 21st Anniversary High School Essay Contest: Why Diplomacy and Peacebuilding Matter. The United States has many tools to advance and defend its foreign policy and national security interests around the world—from diplomatic approaches pursued by members of the Foreign Service, to the range of options available to the U.S. military.


Association for Women in Mathematics


CONTEST RULES – AWM Association for Women in Mathematics – Googlesites.google.comThe purpose of the Association for Women in Mathematics is to encourage women and girls to study and to have active careers in the mathematical sciences, and to promote equal opportunity and the equal treatment of women and girls in the mathematical sciences.


National Ag Day

Official Topic: “Agriculture: Food for Life. How Does Our Nation Lead the Way?”


National Ag Day | HOMEwww.agday.orgNational Ag Day is March 19, 2019. Ag Day is organized by the Agriculture Council of America (ACA). ACA is a nonprofit organization composed of leaders


Society of Professional Journalists

Topic: “What is the role and importance of the Fourth Estate in American society?”


High School Essay Contest – Society of Professional Journalists – Improving and protecting journalism since 1909www.spj.orgThe Society of Professional Journalists wants to increase high school students’ knowledge and understanding of the importance of independent media to our lives. National winners of this essay contest receive scholarship awards.




Benington Young Writers Young Writers Awards 2018-2019—3 separate categories












Egirl Essay Writing Contest
Fountainhead – Ayn Rand




Dupont Science Challenge Essay Competition




Profile in Courage Essay Writing Contest












Please give me a call to schedule your Educational and College Admissions Planning Assessment this Winter Break   561.509.0021




Bonnie Rabin, PhD




Professor Emeritus




Educational and College Admissions Consultant