Best Senior Project Ideas for High School Students + 42 Real Student Examples

16/03/202415 minute read
Best Senior Project Ideas for High School Students + 42 Real Student Examples

A senior project is one of the best ways you can make your application stand out to top schools like Harvard and Stanford. It can tell your story beyond academics. It can demonstrate leadership, ambition, initiative and impact. And it can make an impact on the world. 

Choosing the right senior project can be tough. As a Former Johns Hopkins Admissions Officer and a Senior Strategist at Crimson, I’ve helped hundreds of students do it. In this post, I’ll show you my process for choosing a topic for your senior project. I’ll also show you real examples of senior projects that helped students get accepted to the Ivy League, Stanford, MIT, Duke, and more.

What is a Senior Project?

A senior project is also known as a “capstone project.” It’s a long-term project in which you can explore a topic that interests you outside the classroom. It can take many different forms, including:

  • A detailed research paper
  • An art exhibition
  • A tech invention
  • A business or startup
  • A community service project
  • A social media channel or podcast 

It's all about picking something that resonates with you and showcases your abilities.

The impact of a well-done senior project extends beyond the classroom. It can enhance your college applications by showing your commitment and skills. It can set you apart in an application pool with thousands of academically qualified students. 

Finally, the experience and skills you gain from your senior project can be valuable in future careers.

What are the Benefits of a Senior Project?

Most students applying to Top 20 universities have strong grades and test scores. Academics are important, but they only get your foot in the door. To make your application stand out, you need impactful extracurriculars. This is where a senior project comes in. 

If you’re like most students applying, you won't already have a clear area of excellence in your application, like a national or international accolade. You’ll have to show your excellence in terms of the time and commitment you’ve given to their community. Senior projects are a great way to do this.

With a successful senior project, you can:

  • Showcase personal qualities. Since a senior project is entirely yours, it showcases your ability to own and execute a unique project from start to finish. This shows leadership, initiative, and intellectual curiosity — qualities that admissions officers are looking for. A senior project can also show that you’re service-oriented, a creative thinker, looking for a challenge, and can overcome barriers.
  • Demonstrate passion and dedication. A senior project shows that you’re passionate about a specific field and can commit to a long-term vision.
  • Develop transferable skills. You’ll inevitably learn skills like time management, research, collaboration, or technical skills.
  • Become an expert in the subject matter. By going deep into a topic, you’ll develop expertise that you might not get through passive learning.

Remember: Your senior project speaks volumes about who you are and why you deserve a place on campus!

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Best Senior Project Ideas

The best senior project ideas are long-term, unique to you, and measurably impactful. I’ll show you some specific examples of senior projects by students who were admitted to top schools. But first, here are some general ideas to get you thinking.

  1. Design and implement a community garden, teaching sustainable agriculture practices and providing fresh produce to local food banks.
  2. Start a state-wide traveling library that reaches underserved communities.
  3. Develop a series of workshops for senior citizens or underprivileged youth to teach them basic computer skills, internet safety, and how to use essential software.
  4. Create a campaign to promote environmental awareness and conservation efforts in your community, focusing on recycling, reducing plastic use, or conserving local wildlife habitats.
  5. Establish a mentorship program pairing high school students with elementary or middle school students to provide academic support, life advice, and positive role models.
  6. Organize a cultural awareness event that celebrates diversity through music, dance, food, and educational workshops, fostering a more inclusive community.
  7. Launch a mental health awareness campaign that includes workshops, guest speakers, and resources to destigmatize mental health issues among teenagers.
  8. Research and implement a small-scale renewable energy project, such as installing solar panels for a community center or designing a wind turbine model for school use.
  9. Conduct and record interviews with community elders or veterans to preserve local history, culminating in a public presentation or digital archive.
  10. Develop an art therapy program for children in hospitals or shelters, providing an outlet for expression and emotional healing through creative activities.
  11. Create a series of workshops for your community focusing on fitness, nutrition, and healthy lifestyle choices, including sessions on exercise and cooking.
  12. Design and lead a financial literacy course for high school students, covering budgeting, saving, investing, and understanding credit.
  13. Research and write a book or guide on the history of your town or a specific aspect of it, such as architectural landmarks, founding families, or significant events.
  14. Start a coding club for elementary or middle school students, teaching them the basics of programming through fun and interactive projects.
  15. Organize public speaking workshops for students, helping them build confidence and communication skills through practice and feedback.
  16. Coordinate a STEM fair to encourage girls in elementary and middle school to explore science, technology, engineering, and math through hands-on activities and demonstrations.
  17. Produce a documentary film that explores a social issue relevant to your community, such as homelessness, addiction, or education inequality.
  18. Lead a project to refurbish a local playground. Fundraise, design, and collaborate with city officials to provide a safe and enjoyable space for children.
  19. Set up an ESL (English as a Second Language) tutoring program for immigrants and refugees in your community to help them improve their English skills and better integrate into society.
  20. Design and implement an anti-bullying campaign for your school or community, including awareness activities, support resources, and strategies for prevention.
  21. Organize a sustainable fashion show that promotes eco-friendly fashion choices, upcycling, and local designers, raising awareness about the environmental impact of the fashion industry.
  22. Start a podcast, blog, Youtube channel, or social media channel about a topic that interests you. Aim to reach a national or international audience.
  23. Start a club at your school and build its impact beyond your own school ecosystem.
  24. Start a campaign around an issue you care about and create change at your school, like “Meatless Mondays.”
  25. Create a competition for innovative startups
  26. Develop a product or service and sell it online. Create a business plan, marketing materials, and a way to track your progress.
  27. Fundraise for an existing charity or nonprofit.
  28. Found a new charity or nonprofit.
  29. Create or raise money for a scholarship fund.
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Successful Real Senior Project Examples

To help you get a clear picture of what your senior project could look like, I’m going to share some actual senior projects that Crimson students have done. Below are 13 real examples of senior projects by students who were accepted to top universities like MIT, Stanford the Ivy League, Johns Hopkins, and UC Berkeley.

Business & Finance 

Student accepted to MIT

Impact: Local

This student trained 24 unique groups (120+ people) to create innovative startups for 3 competitions. They also created a 15-lesson curriculum and online team-matching algorithm for the competitions.

Student accepted to Stanford

Impact: International

This student founded an organization to educate K–8 students on social entrepreneurship. It grew to 32 chapters with 12,453 members in 4 continents. It was endorsed by the UN, LinkedIn, and InnovateX.

Student accepted to UC Berkeley and USC

Impact: Local

Inspired by a college business case competition, this student focused his senior project on creating a business competition for high school students. He invited students from 8 local high schools and had 500 participants. He also arranged judges from a widely-known bank and a university. To leave a lasting impact, he created an executive board within his high school so this event will continue after he graduates.

Social & Political Sciences

Student accepted to Harvard

Impact: Local

This student created a 501(c)(3) nonprofit for equitable public speaking resources. They also held a public speaking-themed summer camp for 70+ students and raised $2,000 for a local speech center.

Student accepted to Yale

Impact: Statewide

This student coalesced over 15 assault prevention organizations to develop two bills for the 2023 Oregon legislative session. Their effort instituted a $20 million education grant program and youth network.

Medicine & Healthcare

Student accepted to Brown

Impact: National

This student produced and edited 140+ mental health articles to uplift youth. The articles got over 12,000 reads. The student also hosted a podcast interviewing women leaders with over 40 episodes.

Student accepted to Carnegie Mellon

Impact: Local and National

This student built a COVID outbreak detection platform with ML. It got over 10,000 views. They also prototyped a compact translation tool with Michigan hospitals for non-native English speakers.

Student accepted to MIT

Impact: Local and National

This student designed a chemotherapy symptom-tracking app to improve treatment. They then pitched it to industry experts and won Best Elevator Pitch of over 70 teams.

Student accepted to Cornell and Johns Hopkins

Impact: Local

This student knew she wanted to major in biomedical engineering. She created a children’s medical book series called “My Little Doctor” to teach young kids how to address emergencies, wounds, and household medications. The books included personal illustrations, which also showcased her artistic talent. The books were sold by 150 doctor’s offices throughout NYC.

Math & Computer Science

Student accepted to Columbia

Impact: International

This student programmed AI to patrol an endangered turtle nesting site using drones. They partnered with a resort, launched an open source platform, and expanded the project internationally.

Student accepted to Dartmouth

Impact: National

This student worked on the solidity development of crypto currencies, NFTs, DAOs, DApps. They were responsible for project, client, and social media management. They also supervised 3 employees.


Student accepted to Yale

Impact: Local

This student created a virtual musical theater camp for kids ages 6-12 during the COVID-19 pandemic. They managed the camp’s Instagram, website, and Facebook. They taught 25 kids and produced 5 shows.

Student accepted to Harvard and Brown

Impact: International

This student founded an organization to make music education accessible. It included a lead team of 35 members. It grew to 9 branches in 7 countries, impacted 15,000 students online, taught 1.6k lessons, and saved parents $40K. It raises $10k annually. This student was a TD Scholarship Finalist, YODA, and SHAD Fellow.

What are the criteria for a successful senior project?

If you only take away one thing from this article, let it be this: The best senior projects are personal to you and have a measurable impact. When you are contemplating a senior project idea, ask yourself:

  • “Am I interested in this topic?” As in, interested enough to spend the next year thinking a LOT about it.
  • “Can I show a measurable impact with this project, preferably at the local, national, or international level?”

Let’s use tutoring as an example. Tons of students include tutoring on their applications as one of their extracurriculars. Does tutoring pass the test if we ask our two questions?

  • Am I interested in the topic? If you’re tutoring in a subject you love, the answer could be a yes.
  • “Can I show a measurable impact with this project?” This one is tricky. Of course, tutoring one or even a few students makes an impact on the lives of those students. But is the impact local, national, or international? Not exactly.

So instead of tutoring a few students on your own, maybe you can create a tutoring club with 30 tutors supporting 100 students at your school. If you want to expand your impact, you can bring your tutoring services into an elementary school or into other schools in your community. You can even create a charter and get your tutoring club into high schools throughout the country, world, or online.

By thinking bigger, you can turn most conventional extracurricular ideas into an impactful, standout senior project idea.

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How to Choose a Topic for Your Senior Project

I’ve helped hundreds of students develop successful senior projects. This is the process we use:

  1. Make a list of your major interests. These could be academics, hobbies, anything! 
  2. Now write down problems or areas of exploration that relate to those interests.
  3. Narrow down your choices to one or two that are academically relevant, relevant to your interests and goals,  interesting enough for you to explore, and have enough published data.
  4. Identify a problem that you can address in this area with a solution that you identify. This will be the subject of your senior project!

Let’s walk through these steps using a hypothetical student as an example.

Senior Project Topic Brainstorm Example

  1. List interests. 

Maya is a junior with dreams of attending an Ivy League school. She's always been fascinated by environmental science, particularly renewable energy sources. She also enjoys coding and app development. Outside of academics, Maya volunteers at a local animal shelter and is an avid runner.

  1. List problems or areas of exploration related to those interests. 

For environmental science, Maya is concerned about the inefficiency of current solar panels in low-light conditions. 

In coding, she notes the lack of user-friendly apps that promote environmental awareness among teens. 

Her volunteering experiences make her wonder how technology can assist animal shelters in improving animal adoption rates.

  1. Narrow down the choices.

After considering her list, Maya decides to focus on environmental science and coding, as these are her academic interests and she sees herself pursuing them in the future. She finds the intersection of these fields particularly interesting and ripe for exploration. Plus, she discovers ample published data on renewable energy technologies and app development, confirming the feasibility of her project idea.

4. Identify a Problem and Solution

Maya identifies a specific problem: the gap in environmental awareness among her peers and the lack of engaging tools to educate and encourage sustainable practices. She decides to address this by developing a mobile app that gamifies environmental education and sustainability practices, targeting high school students.

Senior Project: EcoChallenge App Development

Maya's senior project, the "EcoChallenge" app, aims to make learning about environmental science fun and actionable. The app includes quizzes on environmental topics, challenges to reduce carbon footprints, and a feature to track and share progress on social media, encouraging collective action among users.

Project Execution

Over the course of her junior year, Maya dedicates herself to researching environmental science principles, studying app development, and designing an engaging user interface. She reaches out to her environmental science teacher and a local app developer for mentorship, receiving valuable feedback to refine her project.

Outcome and Impact

Maya presents her completed app at her school's science fair, receiving accolades for its innovation, educational value, and potential to make a real-world impact. She submits the EcoChallenge app as a central piece of her college applications, including a detailed report on her research, development process, and user feedback.

The Bottom Line

Your senior project can be one of the most important pieces of your college application. It can also make a difference in the world. 

As you shape your senior project, see how many of these elements you can apply to it:

  • Makes measurable impact. What does success look like, and how will you measure it?
  • Presents an innovative solution to an existing issue. Is this solving a problem?
  • Is oriented to the community. Is this making my community/country/the world a better place?
  • Is interdisciplinary. Can I blend more than one of my interests? Can I get professionals from other fields to collaborate on this project?
  • Is related to your field of study. Will this make my academic interests clear?

Basically, think about something you care about. Take it beyond something standard and ask, “What can I do that would allow me to help my community and leave a greater impact?”

Even after reading all these examples, I know that choosing an idea for your own senior project can be tough. If you need help choosing and executing a standout senior project, book a free consultation with one of our academic advisers. Crimson’s extracurricular mentors can help you combine your interests into an impactful senior project that makes you stand out to top college admissions officers.

Building The Perfect Application

Passion projects and extracurriculars are just one piece of the puzzle. It could be difficult to navigate the ins and outs of the college admission process, but you don’t have to go through it alone.

Working with an expert strategist is a surefire way to perfect your application. Students working with our strategists are 7x more likely to gain admission into their dream university.

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