Mastering the Art of Being a High School Superstar: Insights from Cal Newport’s Book

Today college admissions is an overwhelming race. You are expected to achieve the highest grades, participate in various extracurricular activities, and maintain a busy schedule that can often leave you feeling burned out. Cal Newport’s book “How to Be a High School Superstar: A Revolutionary Plan to Get into College by Standing Out (Without Burning Out)” hits the nail on the head regarding how to approach the college admissions process holistically.

The examples presented in the book are from the mid-2000s, the competition for college admissions has only increased since then. However, the advice presented in the book is still highly relevant today. One of the key aspects of the book is the importance of under-scheduling. Newport emphasizes the beauty of having free time and using it to focus on your one or more deep interests, rather than constantly overcommitting and being overwhelmed by a hectic schedule.

The book encourages you to be “interesting” rather than well-rounded but run-of-the-mill. Colleges want to admit students who have unique and fascinating interests and experiences, rather than those who participate in a long list of generic extracurricular activities. The key is to pursue a few interests deeply, rather than trying to do everything and becoming a jack of all trades but a master of none.

High school and the life beyond is a marathon, not a sprint, and it’s important for you to stay sane while running the marathon. You should take care of yourself mentally and physically, rather than sacrificing your health and well-being for the sake of productivity. Burnout is a real risk when you try to do too much, and it’s crucial to maintain a healthy balance between school, extracurricular activities, personal time, and pursuing deep interests. 

Newport advocates for you to be a “relaxed superstar” who has free time to focus on your interests and doesn’t sacrifice sleep to maintain a busy schedule. Sleep is essential for both academic success and mental health, and sacrificing it for the sake of productivity is not worth it in the long run.

In addition to pursuing deep interests, Newport also encourages you to pursue “wow” accomplishments. These are achievements that truly innovate, even in a small way. Innovation should take the world forward, even in the slightest way, and these accomplishments are the ones that will truly make you stand out in the college admissions process.

Overall, the book emphasizes the importance of having an enjoyable high school experience, rather than exhausting years that drain the life and spark out of you. One of the key takeaways from the book is the idea that being “interesting” is more important than being well-rounded. It’s crucial for you to find a balance between school, extracurricular activities, personal time, and pursuing deep interests. The college admissions process is about much more than just grades and extracurricular activities – it’s about finding unique perspectives and meaningful experiences that showcase who you are as a person. Pursuing deep interests is the best way to cultivate these qualities. This doesn’t mean that you should neglect your academics or extracurricular activities – it simply means that you should prioritize your passions and pursue them in a meaningful way.

Ultimately, there is no better advice in the world than to be the best version of yourself, rather than trying to fit into a mold of what you think colleges want. Pursuing deep interests, having free time, and cultivating unique experiences are the keys to standing out in the college admissions process, and in life. You do you!

Why Discovery of Passion is Deeply Linked to Teenage Years

how teenagers can find passion

Did you know a 16-year-old invented a pancreatic cancer detector, and a 19-year-old has launched a massive Ocean cleanup project? Stories of teen creators and thought leaders are aplenty. This begs the question – are teens more passionate than the world gives them credit for?

While most associate teenage years with being lazy and clicking selfies, in reality, GenZ is full of creativity and resilience.

Take for example Swedish teen Greta Thunberg, who organized the “Fridays for Future” school strike for climate and got the world to start talking about the looming threat of climate change. The teenager admits to being ‘painfully shy’, and yet she sparked a global movement with her determination!

Inside the Mind of a Teenager

For several years, the teenage mind has fascinated researchers. Many studies have shown that adolescence is a time when the propensity for taking risks is the highest. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, given that it pushes the boundaries of creativity and divergent thinking.

While many adults are conditioned by their environment to think in one pattern, adolescents seldom have such mental blockers. You’ll often find grown-ups focusing on things they cannot achieve or what cannot be done. To a teenage mind, however, every problem can be solved!

That’s why one sees so many teens today at the forefront of social movements, leading entrepreneurial projects and injecting energy and new ideas into public life.

According to scientists, the teenage brain is at a unique neurological stage. It retains the creativity of childhood years and at the same time, also starts gaining the adult ability to make social connections, and discover interests.

Their mind adapts quickly and has immense potential for learning. It’s a golden time to explore and figure out a passion!

The Road to Self Discovery

It’s a time when you start noticing your natural abilities and things that interest you. Take this opportunity to figure out who you are as an individual, separate from the family tribe, and as a person with a unique personality.

Self-discovery is a constant learning journey. It means finding your purpose in life (it takes time but we all get there!), it means digging deep and understanding the experiences and ideas that shape you. It means realizing what your values and beliefs are and living by them.

This road to self-discovery includes happiness, self-awareness, clarity and sometimes even enlightenment!

Think about what excites you and start exploring your interests. It will even help you answer the age-old question: ‘What am I passionate about?’

While some teens may be naturally inclined to think about life’s big questions, others may need a little encouragement. Start by asking yourself these questions:

  • What am I good at?
  • Which activities bring me happiness?
  • What are my personal characteristics?
  • Who do I aspire to be like?

While not everything in your teenage years is linked to self-discovery and figuring out a passion, being mindful of how you spend your time and being open to experiences can shape your future like nothing else can!

Start with small passion projects. If dancing, singing or performing arts excite you, go ahead and learn them. In case making and editing videos are your forte, open a YouTube channel. If writing brings you joy, start with a blog.

Try out new hobbies, join a class and do things that make you happy. Amid all this, you are sure to find your Ikigai – your raison d’etre!