In this episode, I offer 35 extracurricular activity ideas for students interested in sports/journalism. This is one of the most popular answers to the question, "So, what are you interested in?" A high percentage of the students that I work with aspire to go into this field.
Unfortunately, most of them end up participating in the same old activities as their peers. Listen to this podcast to hear 35 of my best ideas that have worked for many PrepWellers over the years. Even if you are not interested in sports/journalism, you can use this strategy as a template for what interests you the most.
[00:00:25] Hello friends, and welcome back to the PrepWell podcast. in today's episode, I want to give an example of how to take a student's initial interest in a topic or subject or industry or field and turn it into an action plan. An action plan that, if done well and early enough, will morph into a compelling list of extracurricular activities that will one look great on a college application, and two will hopefully have given the student a better idea of what to pursue once they get to college, which may manifest in the form of a particular major preference or department or on campus activities. Let me lay out the two cases. Case study number one is your average high school student. Let's call him a freshman or a sophomore who assumes he's going to college. He hasn't put too much thought into what college actually means or why he's going to college or what types of colleges he even aspires to yet. But he is an overly worried about it. After all, he assumes that he has plenty of time to sort all of that out. He has no idea how he'll do on an SAT or an act because as a freshman or sophomore, he has yet to take a legitimate test like this. But nonetheless, he's pretty confident that he'll do well. He doesn't really know what doing well means in terms of a test score, but he's pretty sure that he'll be successful.
[00:01:57] I'm not sure why he's so confident that he thinks he'll do so well, but he usually is. He's a good performer academically. Mostly A's, maybe a few B's. He takes honors in AP classes. He plays a sport, does some volunteer work, and he's involved in a couple of after school activities. I would say this describes maybe 60% of high school students. And most students and parents would say that a student like this is crushing it. They're busy all the time. They're staying out of trouble. They're firing on all cylinders. And so nobody asks too many questions. He keeps doing his thing and then he eventually comes up for air in the spring of his junior year after getting his S.A.T. score back. And things start to get a bit tense. Because his SAT score wasn't where he thought it would be. He hears about other students who did far better than he did on the SAT. People start talking about college in a more serious way. And what happens in this case is that he realizes that he looks awfully similar to everybody else, if not a little bit behind the power curve when comparing himself to some of the hotshots in his class. And then a bit of panic starts to set in. Because when he starts to research colleges and pulls up the list of the usual suspect colleges that he assumed he'd get into. He gets a rude awakening. The competitive landscape rears its ugly head and he begins to grapple with reality. And the reality is that his time is up. His body of work, for all intents and purposes, is spoken for. He can only do so much more in the next 6 to 12 months before he begins to fill out college applications, and he ends up running around trying to piece together some kind of coherent and compelling college application without too much to work with.
[00:04:05] He's done stuff. It's not like he sat around and stared at the ceiling for three years. But there's really no theme, no brand, no throughline. He's having a hard time connecting the dots, and that's not where you want to be. Unfortunately, I would say that that's where about 60% of the students end up. This is a student I wish had enrolled in Prep Academy because I would have given him a heads up as to what to look forward to down the line. Let's move to case study number two. In case number two, the student was enrolled in Prep Academy as a freshman, and by sophomore year he had heard me in his weekly prep videos talk about the importance of laying out a strategy that would lead to a coherent body of work. So many times that he finally decided to take action. And it's hard to know when or why this light bulb goes off for some students, but I'm sure glad what it does. In this student's case, even though he was just a sophomore, he was starting to feel some heat and thinking that he may already be behind the power curve. So he set up a one on one call with me with the hope that I could point him in the right direction. And when we talked and I got to know him better, he checked off all the boxes. He was smart. He was getting all A's. He was taking challenging classes, playing two varsity sports, involved in afterschool clubs, putting in some volunteer time. He was confident that he would do well on the SAT when he took it. He hadn't spent too much time thinking about college, but he knew that that day was fast approaching. This student was a poster child for that 60% or that I mentioned in case study number one.
[00:05:57] So my job was to try to find something that would help him pull all of these disparate interests and shipments together to help him connect the dots, if you will. Because left to his own devices, he was destined to look like 60% of every other high school senior applying to college. And these days, that ain't a great look. One of the ways that students can differentiate themselves is to have an interest. Some might call it a passion that they have developed over time. It could be an interest in painting, technology, history, robotics, architecture, medicine, something. When I asked this student what he was interested in, after thinking for a few seconds as if he had never been asked to articulate this before, which is very common, by the way, he replied the following. Sports and maybe journalism. I wasn't particularly surprised by this answer, as it's a pretty popular one these days with teenage boys. And the student was very athletic, so it made sense to me. And just to clarify, he was not destined to be a recruited athlete who would use sports to get into college, but just an overall all around fine high school athlete. So immediately my challenge was to, one, try to figure out how deeply he had thought about this or was this just the first thing that popped into his head? And to if this was a legitimate ambition for him, what could he do to differentiate himself from the 211,000 other teenage boys who wanted to do the same thing at the same subset of colleges? If he kept going on this current path in 14 months or so, as he started his college applications, he would find himself filling in the ten spaces for extracurricular activities with eight different versions of sports and sports participation.
[00:08:03] Not that there's anything wrong with that. But I was hoping to give him a little bit more meat. A college application filled with mostly sports participation, with a few clubs thrown in here, and there would not be particularly riveting for the reader. So what could he do to add a little juice to his body of work? So I started to rattle off a few ideas for him to consider that would be related to sports and journalism, but not necessarily as an athlete because he already had that covered. But instead as a writer, an interviewer, a blogger, designer, educator, social media influencer, editor, filmmaker, documentarian, historian, statistician. I think you get my drift. So in no particular order, I suggested the following get a part time job working for Instagram accounts like Over Time or House of Highlights. Capturing photo and video highlights of high school sports stars in your region. Start an Instagram account of your own filled with unique content about your favorite sports topics. Become the sports editor for your high school newspaper or online newsletter. Start a homegrown podcast interviewing the best high school athletes in your region. Create a YouTube channel dedicated to your favorite sports players and news and highlights and stats. Read books that do deep dives into the world of sports. For example, Moneyball. Listen to podcasts about current sporting events, biggest sporting scandals, the lives of celebrity athletes. Take an online course or a community college course in sports marketing, sports statistics, legal representation of professional athletes get an internship with a local sports agent where you do a bunch of online research and grunt work. Write a weekly blog about a certain aspect of sports that interests you. Maybe it's underdog stories or sports legend stories.
[00:10:20] Or athletes who lost all their money. How about documenting the season with video of one of the sports teams at your high school, maybe even one of the teams that you play on and turn it into an actual documentary? What about documenting in photos one of your team's entire seasons and then creating an end of season photo book? Get a job announcing games from one of the sports teams at your high school. Ask for permission to do postgame interviews with the athletes on one of your high school sports teams. Volunteer at a local newspaper and pitch them on different content ideas. Go to a sports marketing trade show or a convention to see what types of businesses have display booths there. Do some networking, look for a job. Sign up for master classes and watch classes taught by Wayne Gretzky, Coach Chefs Serena Williams, Steph Curry work for free at a pro sports franchise over the summer. Be a research grunt, carry the water bottles, sweep the floors. Try to get a job at a pro or semi-pro sports team at a ticket booth in the marketing department as a parking lot attendant. It doesn't really matter. Watch movies like Jerry Maguire, Ballers, Million Dollar Arm, King Richard The Way Back. Miracle. How about writing a short story about a particularly interesting aspect of sports and try to get it published somewhere? Get a column in your high school's weekly newsletter giving a review of last week's athletic games and a preview of the next week's schedule. Become an expert in video editing and sound work. Take an online class in statistics, database management spreadsheets so you can add value to any sports organization. Do a review of NFL team websites, which are the best, which are the worst, which are the most high tech, The most old school.
[00:12:23] Maybe study for the LSAT, the LSAT, the test. You need to go to law school to see if you might like the legal aspects of sports. Get a job over the summer at a sports camp. Ask to be in charge of marketing or creating the daily schedules or communicating with parents. Arrange a few shadow sessions in the training facility at a local college sports complex or in the physical therapy room to observe how athletes deal with injuries. Volunteer at a major sporting event in your town or region. It could be a marathon or a CrossFit regional or a golf tournament or an Ironman triathlon. Tell the organizer that you'll do anything they want. Hand out waters, pick up trash. You'll do anything to get an inside look at how one of these events comes together. Become a world class expert in something, anything. The pros and cons of online sports betting like DraftKings versus FanDuel. Collective Bargaining Agreements. How elite athletes handled the COVID Vaccine. Male versus female Sports. Revenue sharing agreements in pro sports. Fantasy sports leagues. The impact of Virtual reality for Professional Sports. The Evolution of EA Sports. Steroids in Sports. Cheating in Major League Baseball. Anything that interests you dig into it and learn everything there is to learn. Make a short film about teenagers who play Madden or FIFA 6 hours a day. What are they thinking? Listen to long form podcasts with athletes, these two or three hour interviews, so that you can get more than just the surface level content. Run a fantasy football league with your friends. Start a comic strip about all of the absurdities of professional sports. I could go on and on. Sports is such a massive field, and when you begin to intersect it with tech and social media and journalism and culture and high performance, there are unlimited possibilities.
[00:14:30] Some of these ideas came directly from brainstorming sessions I've had with my private PrepWellers and with PrepWellers, who set up one on one consulting calls with me over the last few years. Many of them have taken me up on some of these ideas and gone on to achieve big things. As you can see, some of these ideas are active, like seeking out a job as an editor. Some are passive, like listening to podcasts. Some are educational, like taking an online class. Others are entrepreneurial, like starting your own Little League statistics database. Some require networking and building your contacts. Others you can do in your basement with your computer. Some require individual research. Others challenge you to perform in front of the camera. And still others will push you to see what you can do behind the camera with lighting and sound and video editing. My point here is that if you do even two or three of these things, you will learn a lot about the industry, about your skill level, your interest level, how sustainable your interest is. In short, you will learn a lot about yourself, and that's the goal. Instead of sitting around with a vague notion that you like sports and journalism, take action. Do some stuff. Experiment. Succeed. Fail. Repeat. By the time two years goes by and you've tested the waters on some of these ideas, you will be infinitely ahead of your more passive peers who are waiting around, hoping to be struck by lightning to help them figure out what they want to do. Do stuff. See what sticks. See what you're good at. See what other people value. See what you think might sustain you over the long haul. And by the time you sit down to fill out your college application, ideally you are much more prepared to pick a major that you care about.
[00:16:26] Find a college that supports that major. Fill your list of ten extracurricular activities with a diversity of sports and journalism related endeavors and experiments. Talk about your experience in your essays and your interviews and ideally put you further out on the power curve as you enter college because you already have a better idea of what you like and don't like. This is the goal. This is what I mean when I say to create a body of work that shows that you've been working on this interest for a few years. You've reflected on the good and the bad, and you're ready to take the next step. And if you can do that, the admissions officer will be impressed and you will be a much more attractive candidate than the student who played a lot of sports growing up and now thinks they want to study sports in college. And by the way, this mini brainstorming session obviously was tailored towards someone interested in sports and journalism. But the same strategy applies when it comes to any other interest you might have, whether it's history or drone technology or artificial intelligence or zoology, art collecting, you name it. You should come up with a long and ambitious list like this and then begin to pick out ideas that you can actually execute on. And of course, you should start sooner rather than later. I go over this exact process many, many times during your weekly prep videos, so please watch and learn. I go through it step by step, and if you'd rather brainstorm like this with me directly, reach out to me and we'll set up a one on one call. What? We can come up with a plan specific to what you care most about.
[00:18:18] That's all I've got for you today, folks. Thank you for tuning in. Thank you for your continued support. In case you didn't know, this podcast supports prep academies online mentoring program where high schoolers and their parents receive weekly videos from me, where I break down the important topics and give them timely advice about college admissions, particularly for top tier colleges, service academies, and for ROTC and athletic scholarships. Many parents who listen to this podcast already have their high schoolers enrolled in Prep Academy, which is great. If you don't yet, however, please consider enrolling them. Registration is only open during freshman or sophomore year. After that, we no longer accept new students. So if you have a freshman or sophomore in high school and you like what you're hearing in these podcasts and you like to get more content like this tailored specifically for your child, for their specific grade and with their specific goals in mind. Go to PrepWellAcademy.com and enroll today. If you know a parent with a middle schooler or high schooler that might find this helpful, please share the episode with them and give us a rating too. Word of mouth and positive ratings help our podcast reach a much wider audience. If you have questions, comments or an idea for an upcoming episode, please reach out to me by email. Demi on Instagram. Check out our blog Facebook page. Connect with me on LinkedIn. I would love to hear from you. Until next week, Goodbye. Good luck and never stop preparing. This podcast is brought to you by PrepWell Academy. PrepWell Academy is my one of a kind online mentoring program that delivers to your ninth or 10th grader a short, highly relevant video from me every week. Every Sunday, in fact, where I give them a heads up about what they should be thinking about to stay ahead of the game to get these valuable lessons into your child's hands.
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PrepWell Academy's Founder, Phil Black, has spent a lifetime cracking the code on the world's most competitive programs: Yale University, Harvard Business School, Navy SEALs, Goldman Sachs, Entrepreneurship, Shark Tank (2X), etc.
Inside PrepWell Academy, Black teaches students everything they need to know about the college admissions process in a series of expertly-timed, 3-5-minute, weekly training videos starting in 9th grade and continuing through 12th grade [Note: this program can only be joined in 9th or 10th grade]. My specialties include military service academies, ROTC scholarships, Ivy League, and student-athletes.