Launch Global Education
Sparks blog: Supporting your Child’s Independent Project

by Dr. Ann Wagner

Developing an independent project can be one of many ways that students can distinguish themselves as a college applicant.  It can also be an amazing learning experience. The best projects are the ones that students are passionate about; some can even kickstart careers.

What is an independent project?

Broadly, an independent project can be any project that a student pursues outside or beyond the classroom.  Some independent projects are linked to school, but a significant portion of the work is completed by the student outside of class time.  A familiar example is a science project.  Many students will complete the project within the scope of the classroom; however, some students are much more ambitious and conduct research studies that go to local or national competitions and are sometimes even linked to colleges and universities.

Other examples of an independent project could be developing an art portfolio, starting a non-profit organization, creating an app, or developing a small business.  There is a multitude of ways a student can turn their interests and passions into an independent project.

student developing an idea

How to assist…and not

As a parent or guardian, it is important to remember that it is not your project! Too often, in our enthusiasm to support our kids, we blur the lines between what is theirs and what is ours.  Sure, it is ok to provide some seed money, but our child should provide you with a budget and be accountable for how the money is spent.  And your child will likely make mistakes along the way.  Take caution with jumping in too quickly, learning from failure is an important skill to develop.

ATM machine

The benefit in the college application process

Coupled with community service, sports participation, club participation, leadership opportunities, additional classes, and other extracurricular activities, an independent project can be a terrific addition to a college application.  However, the drive to pursue an independent project should not be to improve a student’s chances of college acceptance.  There must be student interest and sensemaking behind the project itself.  And while it can make sense to pursue a project in alignment with one’s chosen major in college, there are many skills that are learned within the process that can be woven into a student’s story, no matter the project’s emphasis.

lightbulb illuminates hand

Remember, at the end of the day, your role within your child’s independent project is a supportive one. Given encouragement and the freedom to pursue their passions, kids can and will do some amazing things.

Dr. Ann Wagner

Ann Wagner, EdD is a founder and the Vision Engineer for Launch Education.  Dr. Wagner has led international schools around the world and currently teaches at the university level, working with educators earning their master's degrees.