Jesuit alum founds organization, shares importance of a passion project
Emmet Halm arrived at Harvard for his freshman year and discovered something unexpected.
Like many high schoolers, he had operated on the belief that the key to attending a top university was a relentless devotion to test scores, extracurricular activities, and grades. However, once in college, the 2019 Jesuit Dallas graduate realized most of his peers had done the opposite.
“Instead, they did something completely independent of their school that really showcased their passions and interests,” he said.
By conducting a randomized research study of fellow Harvard undergrads, Halm discovered that just over 75% of those surveyed had completed a “passion project” during high school, with examples ranging from starting nonprofits to self-publishing novels or short stories.
These “overwhelmingly high” numbers sparked a fire inside him, and he knew he wanted to bring his findings to high school students.
With Harvard off-campus due to COVID-19, he took a leave of absence and founded Acceptitas, a college consulting program run entirely by Harvard students.
We just want to reach more people and show them they can have a more fulfilling high school experience.Emmet Halm
The program begins with a mentor matching process, pairing high school students with Harvard undergrads who share similar backgrounds or experiences. Students and mentors work together to think of ideas for passion projects, meeting once a week for an hour at a time and setting action steps in between to avoid procrastination.
“The main thing about coming up with a project is discovering what a student is really interested in, whether that’s a topic, an issue, or an activity, combining that with something else they like, and then finding a way to make that both fun and give back in some tangible way,” Halm said.
After the student has finalized an idea, the mentor aids in creating a “business plan” for implementation.
Finally, once the project is complete, the last step of the Acceptitas process is publicity: Mentors aid in social media growth, outreach, and sending out press releases to make sure students receive the recognition they deserve.
Since its founding in August 2020, Acceptitas has grown from just Halm to more than 20 Harvard students working for the program in various ways, from social media management to mentorship.
This past year, students were admitted to seven of the eight Ivy League schools, Stanford, Georgetown, and all the University of California schools, among others.
In the future, Halm hopes to expand mentorship to students from other top universities and continue to grow on social media platforms like TikTok and Instagram.
“We’ve definitely struck a chord with some people, and students are realizing that there’s a better way to do this,” Halm said. “In the future, we just want to reach more people and show them they can have a more fulfilling high school experience.”