Getting Hands-on Experience in High School

Stephanie Hughes
Edited by: Angela Lapuz
Published on
February 8, 2023

Biology. Creative Writing. Math. Computer Science. Psychology. As you progress through high school, it is not unusual to discover a predominant interest in one or a few subjects. How do you know if that is what you want to spend your life doing, though?

Getting hands-on experience in high school is a great way to gain more exposure to a job field while also allowing you to stand out on college applications. There are numerous benefits; from gaining more certainty on your path in life into building relationships through networking. So, consider the options below as the spring and summer seasons near.


Volunteering satisfies the desire to contribute to one’s community while creating a space to pinpoint your core values, which may give you insight into what you want to do in life. For instance, if you enjoy working with local environmental organizations, majors like Environmental Engineering, Conservation Biology, or Marine Science might be a good fit. If your afternoons often consist of pen-palling or making cards for nursing homes or veterans, consider looking into Communications, Psychology, or Sociology majors. Perhaps you spend a lot of time volunteering at sporting events. Your major options could include Sports Management, Sports and Fitness Administration, and Kinesiology. Of course, this doesn’t mean you have to revolve your life around it. Just see if it is something you would want to keep on the side or dive deeper into. To find more volunteer opportunities, check in with your school counselor or simply look into your local volunteering events in the search engine.

Pre-College Programs

Pre-college programs allow you to get an idea of the academic environment provided by universities that offer your intended major. This not only helps you to refine your college list, but it also helps you decide whether that major is right for you. Different colleges may offer additional resources for courses of study, though the foundation of knowledge is the same. Colleges in your state may contact you via email with an application link. These links are also available on their website, which provides further details of each program in a list that may range from Forensic Science to Writing and Publishing. By doing pre-college programs, you are able to conduct your own research or build a portfolio to help you prepare before college application starts. Usually, some applications require short essay questions and they are due in spring. Then, the program occurs in the summer on their campus.


Local businesses and larger companies may offer internships to students in order to attract attention to their related fields, thereby ensuring that there will be workers to sustain it in the future. Your responsibilities will most likely include collaborating on projects with other team members, and learning how to use the given software or equipment to complete your work. These could be in-person or virtual, with a set of schedule for the days and times you work. Internships are designed to simulate a typical day in the workforce. You would gain more certainty about what you actually want to do in life. Perhaps you don’t want to work behind a desk, but do research instead. While businesses may advertise internship opportunities on their website, you can always reach out to them first.

Job Shadowing

If there’s a specific career you’re looking to pursue, job shadowing offers the most insight. It is when you reach out to a professional in your area whose job aligns with your interests, and ask if you can observe their work for a day. These professionals could be a dentist, an engineer, doctor, designer, or anyone with relevant experience in their field. Start with an email introducing yourself and your goals before asking if they would be willing to be shadowed. Here’s a great template from Baylor University, along with some tips. You can also reach out to the company’s Human Resources Department (HR) to find a mentor. Also, there are organizations and even some school systems that can assist you.

However, there might be age restrictions on shadowing some jobs, especially those that are highly interactive with patients or clients. In that case, you could schedule an interview via email or Zoom, if they are available. Being flexible and adaptable is essential to succeeding in job shadowing. Should you end up doing it, while it may be a longer and more rigorous day than you’re used to, the knowledge and relationship you will gain from the mentor will be irreplicable.

Even if you change your mind about your career path, these experiences will help you narrow down your potential major and career options. I guarantee that this would not be a waste of time. By practicing in a professional environment, you can acquire several universally-applicable skills, such as time management and active listening.

Find more free resources here!


see more

Blog Articles


Get updates on resources, scholarships, & more 👇

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.