News & Blog

How Independent Passion Projects Are the New Secret for College Admissions

The Nov. 10 ESPO Meeting featured special guest speaker Matt Gibson, Co-Founder and Coach at DistinguishMe, who discussed why demonstrating passion and being interesting is how students can distinguish themselves for high school, college, and beyond. DistinguishMe coaches will be working with Emerson Middle School faculty, who will be helping students develop their own passion projects.
+ More information for Emerson School families is available at

How Independent Passion Projects Are the New Secret for College Admissions

Most students believe they need to be involved in tons of activities to impress great colleges. But the truth in college admissions today is that it’s better to have deep engagement in one or two activities than shallow participation in many. Quality over quantity.

But how do you define a quality activity that helps a student not only become a better college applicant, but also a better student? The answer: a passion project. A passion project is an applied demonstration of a passion outside of the classroom.

In this special talk, we will discuss the three critical components of a passion project – authentic passion, demonstrated action, and impactful goals – and how to guide your children through them. In addition, we will share insights into how the college admissions process has evolved and what it means for you and your kids today.


Matt Gibson, PhD
Matt is passionate about working with students and seeing them succeed. He has a unique background that combines education, engineering, business, and entrepreneurship. He is currently Director of Undergraduate Programs at the University of Michigan Center for Entrepreneurship. Previously, Matt served as the Vice President of Research and Development at Iontera, a startup focused on developing drug delivery and cosmetic products. Matt is also a patent agent with deep experience in intellectual property. Matt received his Engineering PhD at the University of Michigan.

Moses Lee
Moses has spent the past 10 years working with students to succeed. Moses is the cofounder of Seelio, an education technology company that partners with universities to help prepare students for meaningful careers. In 2014, Seelio was acquired by Keypath Education, a global education company with offices in the US, Canada, Europe, and Australia. Today, Moses is Group President at Keypath Education. Prior to Seelio, Moses directed TechArb, the University of Michigan entrepreneurship accelerator and taught the entrepreneurship practicum course and introduction to social entrepreneurship. Moses graduated with a BBA and MA from the Stephen M. Ross School of Business.

Brian K. Lee
Brian is a technology professional who works with youth and students in his spare time. He most recently led the iPhone and iPad teams for iHeartRadio and was responsible for millions of users. Prior to that he founded a social and mobile gaming company. He has worked with students from tutoring to mentoring and currently is leading youth at a local church. Brian graduated with a B.A. in Philosophy from Yale University.