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College admissions officers are dying to admit creative thinkers into their schools.

Why?

Because so few high school students have truly unlocked their creativity.

That’s because almost everyone is stuck in the obedient model of doing what their teachers tell them — and they’re NOT following what they think is interesting and exciting and world-changing.

Now, in no way is the point of this article to tell you to ignore your teachers.

The point is to get you to start seeing yourself as the incredibly creative and impactful individual that you are.

I know, I know. You think I’m not talking to you. After all, you spend most of your time studying and pouring yourself into time-intensive extracurriculars. How would you even have time to be creative and impactful?

Well, here’s the thing. We’ve been led to believe that there are two kinds of people in this world: creatives and non-creatives. Artists and workers.

But in today’s innovation era, that is simply no longer true. We don’t just think of creativity as using a paintbrush anymore. These days, we need creativity to make the most of any situation. It’s about solving a problem, presenting new ideas, taking a risk, or looking at the bright side.

While it’s easy to look at creativity something only a few are born with, the truth is that every single one of us is born with our own unique spark and creative juice. It’s just that once we’re past kindergarten, most of us forget that we ever had a creative bone in our body.

But really, creativity is like a muscle. The more you use it, the stronger it gets.

So to build your “creativity muscle,” let’s look at some ways to take action:

Notice a Problem

The world’s greatest problem-solvers, first, got good at picking out problems.

What’s a challenge that you notice around you? Is there anything that’s frustrating in your life right now? When you’re first starting out, you’ll have the greatest insights on the issues that are closest to you.

Do your friends get way too nervous for tests? Are you finding it hard to concentrate in class? Is it tricky for you and your classmates to keep track of assignments? Start by keeping your eyes open for just one challenge.

If you want to take it to the next level, start thinking of solutions. As designer Michael Bierut says, “The problem contains the solution.”

Begin by chatting about the problem with your friends and starting to brainstorm some ways of solving the issue. They don’t all have to be right or perfect. Most of the time, it takes developing a bunch of average ideas to get to an awesome one!

I worked with one student Sarah who noticed how stressed her friends were about their exams. She went on to create mindfulness classes for students at her school starting right before finals. This gave them relief at such a high-pressure time. And that all started with keeping an eye out for problems!

Follow Your Curiosity

When something sparks your interest, go deeper!

Maybe you came across an article about astronomy or you overheard a conversation about the music industry and it caught your attention. You’re always a Google search away from finding out more. There might be a local meetup group, an expert you could contact, or a Facebook group to join.

Colleges want to know that when you’re interested in something, you take action. Plus, you’ll be learning more about what topics are exciting to you!

Pick a Strength & Use It

What’s something you’re good at doing? Jot down a few of your strengths, or take a quick personality test online and pick out a few attributes from your results.

Now ask yourself, how could I use this? In what way could I help someone with this? If you find that you’re really friendly, you could help a new student at your school get acclimated. If you’re awesome at math, offer to tutor or study with a friend who needs some support.

Get started in small ways first. An 8th grader I worked with named Samantha started just by giving high fives in the hallway at school. As simple as it sounds, this positivity and friendliness helped her brighten people’s days and learn more about her strengths in the process.

Build Something

Any time you make something, you are flexing your creative muscle. Even if you bake a cake for your brother’s birthday or create a study guide for your final exam. There are decisions involved, and truth be told, these are creative decisions.

Ask yourself: What do I want to create? What would be fun/ adventurous/ interesting/ exciting to build? I guide students through this process in my program, The Dream School Project. They create incredible projects that excite them. And it works! Colleges are so eager to find students who are creating something they’re excited about.

When you’re figuring out what to build, do not be afraid to start small. The tiny project you finish is better than the big, ambitious one that you never actually start. Even if you just block out 30 minutes to an hour, just create something.

Making creative thinking part of your life helps you build this skill and makes you irresistible to your Dream School.

Every innovator takes these actions in some form or fashion. And actions speak louder than words. If you start with these steps, you won’t just have to tell colleges about you ingenuity. You’ll have something to show for it.