With so many students earning stellar grades, getting impressive test scores and building well-rounded resumes, it can be difficult to stand out from the pack if your goal is to apply to very selective schools. One awesome way to impress admissions officers is to choose a topic you’re passionate about and spend some of your free time doing research on it. I know what you’re thinking,“You want me to do more studying than I’m already doing?” However, you might be surprised how much fun you will have once you dive into a topic you really care about! Watch-on to find out why you should be doing independent research and how to get started from expert Susanna Cerasuolo.
So let’s talk about independent research. I get this question all the time, “What is independent research, Susanna? What do you mean? How do I do it?” OK, so here’s what I mean by independent research. I think it’s a good idea if you are curious about a topic to explore that topic in your free time. You know, weekends, vacations, summertime. You don’t need to do any kind of a project or presentation about it. You’re cultivating your intellect on your own time and that is really attractive to colleges because ultimately they are institutions of higher learning. If you are demonstrating that you are a curious, inquisitive kid who cares so much about magnets or the Theory of Relativity or how music affects the brain that you would go and research that on your free time, well that’s pretty cool.
So there are some ways that you can do this research. First, you just pick a topic, like some of the ones I just suggested. If this were me I would read a lot. I would read books, magazines, journals, newspapers, websites, blogs. I would listen to podcasts, I would watch documentaries, I would go to lectures, museums, and art exhibits. I would really be interested in talking to faculty at a university who were experts in that area or attending any lectures or presentations that they might offer. For my independent research project I would keep track of all of that, because then in an interview situation you can say to somebody, “I’ve been researching the cane toads of Australia, passionately, for eight months now and I have this entire dossier of all the things I’ve read and all the things I’ve done pertaining to cane toads.” You could say to someone in an interview, this is what I’m interested in and this is what I’ve done. I did that all on my own and it wasn’t for a grade, nobody was telling me to do it.
I just think that’s really attractive and I think it’s just great preparation for college and for life, and it’s kind of fun! That’s my take on independent research and I totally think you should do it because you’ll love it! So go out there and find something that appeals to you and just learn as much as you can about it.