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Starting Your Own Blog in High School
College admissions committees have an almost impossible job. They have to comb through a pile of often highly qualified college applicants, making decisions about their futures based only on a few pieces of paper. It’s no secret that as they do so, they will sometimes use grades or standardized test scores to screen out students who are not academically qualified. Sometimes, they will review recommendations to find students who truly set themselves apart in the eyes of their teachers. And other times, they will look to extracurricular activities to get a feel for a student’s dedication, creativity, and ability to take initiative.
Extracurricular activities go far beyond the traditional sports teams and school clubs. Despite what students sometimes think, extracurricular activities can actually include anything that you participate in regularly, over an extended period, outside of your required coursework. Ideally, they are also something that you care about.
For some students, these activities are harder to quantify than for others, and finding an outlet for their creative energy or a way to showcase their independent work is a struggle. If it sounds like we’re talking about you, you may be interested to learn that starting your own blog in high school is a great way to highlight your work, funnel creative energy, and capture your commitment to a particular subject matter or experience.
Starting a blog might seem like an intimidating prospect at first, especially if you don’t have any experience designing websites, but in reality you don’t need to know much about web design or coding to get started. In fact, all you really need is a great idea and some basic word processing skills to get the ball rolling. If you’re interested in starting your own blog in high school, keep reading to learn why it’s a great idea and how you can get started.
Why Start a Blog?
Blogging is a great way to gain experience in writing, web design, and web marketing. If you think you might be interested in pursuing any of these studies in higher education, blogging is a good way to get your feet wet.
Beyond that, starting a blog can serve many different purposes. It can allow you to share your writing or other artwork with a broader audience. It may also give you a platform for documenting a process such as an independent study or journey towards personal change, or even allow you to publicize a business if you run one or help with one.
By starting your own blog, you will inevitably gain more experience in web design and learn more about web marketing. For example, you’ll likely gain some basic knowledge of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and the principles of writing good headlines.
Finally, starting a blog can be important evidence of your dedication and initiative. It can take a hobby or interest and turn it into a more concrete, serious pursuit. The public display of your work will serve as a testament to your commitment.
How to Start a Blog
1. Choose a Topic
It probably seems fairly obvious that before you start a blog, you should decide on the topic. In fact, a driving force behind the decision to start a blog is usually your dedication to the subject you intend to feature on your blog.
In general, blogs can serve one of several different purposes. Some blogs are essentially an online portfolio of your work. If you’re a creative writer or an artist, a blog can be a place for you to share and publish your completed projects. Many artists also include statements or reflections on their work on these types of blogs. If you are looking for a place to funnel your creative energy and document your work, a blog is a great place to do so.
Other blogs serve more as business websites. If you have started a small business during high school, a blog can serve as your landing page and a source for updates and information about your services. On this type of blog, you might highlight current projects or progress being made in your business. If you don’t have your own business but work for a small company without a website, you might offer to create a small blog for them if you’re looking to gain some experience in web design.
Another popular blogging purpose is to document a process or project. If you are undertaking an independent study, pursuing a significant personal change, or working on another type of project, like building a boat or starting a community garden, a blog is a great place for documenting the entire process from beginning to end. Not only will it serve as a great record of all you’ve accomplished, but also it will allow others to follow along as you go.
Finally, the most popular form of blog is a platform for sharing perspective or knowledge in a particular subject area. These blogs generally are a mix of information and reflection, almost like a public journal. Some blogs are about TV series. Others are about music, current events, or historical research. You can choose any niche interest and publish anything you want about it, ranging from random thoughts to serious research.
While blogs can take many forms, one question to consider before you start any kind of blog is, will people want to read this? If the answer is no, you might want to keep your musings about the quality of contestants on this season’s The Bachelor to yourself. But if the answer is yes, by all means, full-steam ahead.
2. Choose a Blogging Platform To Use
Now that the most difficult part is out of the way, you can get down to the finer details. One detail that you’ll need to take care of on the earlier side is selecting a blogging platform to use. There are many different blogging platforms to choose from. Some provide hosting, others require that you host the site elsewhere.
If you’re just getting started with blogging, you will probably have fairly basic needs that can be fulfilled for the most part through free blogging sites. Some popular options include Blogger and WordPress.com. These sites and others like them generally host blogs for free and provide many different templates to choose from. If you want a custom domain name, more customization options, or the capacity for heavy traffic and a larger server, you’ll probably need to upgrade to a paid plan.
Before you select a blogging platform, browse through the various options that are available from each. Have a look at the templates they provide, review choices for landing pages, and think about any customization options you’ll want available. You can find a comprehensive overview comparing various blogging platforms at Start Blogging Online.
3. Write the Content For Your Landing Page
When readers visit your blog, they will arrive at your landing page, sometimes referred to as a homepage. This page might have menus that include sections such as “About Me”, “Why I Started This Blog”, and “This Blog’s Mission”. You will need to create this content before you can get started on the rest of your blog.
First, visualize what you want the landing page to look like. Will there be a menu? Which options will it include? Start writing down everything that will be included on your landing page. Save all of the text and image files in a separate folder on your computer to keep everything organized. Once you have the content developed for your landing page, you can begin to set it up.
4. Choose a Template
With a basic concept for your landing page, you’ll be able to browse templates and make an informed decision about which works best for you. Some blogging platforms will even allow you to enter simple headings, subheadings, and images and then toggle between templates to get an idea of how each will look on your page.
Keep in mind when selecting a template that you want something that will appear clean and user-friendly. Including too much information or overlaying too many images will make your content harder to consume, and readers will be less likely to stick with it. Instead, choose something simple and aesthetically pleasing.
5. Set Up Your Landing Page
Now that you have a template selected, you can begin to set up your landing page. Take text straight from the files you’ve already created and input it into the relevant fields.
While you are still learning, it’s best to do all of your editing and writing in separate word processing files and then copy and paste from them into the template. This way, if you accidentally delete something or need to start over again, you don’t need to rewrite anything and all of your changes will still be saved to your computer. It also means that should anything ever happen to your blog, you will have back ups of all the content on your computer.
6. Begin Posting Content
It’s tempting to let all your friends and family know about your blog right away, but you’re better off posting a few pieces of quality content to your blog before you start assembling an audience. This way, people will find some worthwhile content when they visit your page and will be more likely to subscribe, or return for more another time.
When you’re getting started, it’s a big help to set a target number of posts per month. For example, you might aim for weekly posts or semiweekly. At a minimum you should aim for posting at least once a week, even if it’s just a short update. If you go too long between posts, your audience will lose interest.
7. Publicize Your Blog
Once you have a few pieces of quality content up on the blog, you can begin to gather an audience. Start with friends and family. Email family members who are further away and be sure to let your teachers or other mentors know about it too. You can also share blog posts on social media to be sure that your contacts know about it.
Another option is to start a Facebook page or twitter account dedicated to your blog. Here, you can share blog posts and other related content, keeping your audience engaged even when they aren’t on your actual website.
8. Keep Writing
It can be helpful to outline a month or two worth of content ahead of time to keep your forward momentum going. These don’t need to be in-depth, detailed outlines. Even a topic or title will help to keep you on track.
If you find that it’s getting difficult to keep up with creating content, you can try to motivate yourself by giving yourself small rewards each time you post. For example, tell yourself that you can’t check social media or watch your favorite show until you’ve posted something.
Alternatively, if you get jaded, ask a friend or mentor if they’d be interested in guest-posting. Having someone else write a piece of content for your blog provides fresh perspective and many times people are excited to see their work in print.
How to Present Your Blog On Your College Application
Your blog fits best under the Activities section on your college application. Here, you can outline the topic, the frequency with which you posted, and the specific skills you learned or developed through creating the blog.
Be sure to emphasize your commitment to the subject matter and the initiative you took in creating the blog on your own time, outside of school. You can quantify your blog’s success with the number of posts you’ve published, the number of visitors you’ve had, or the number of views your top post received.
Finally, include a link to the blog landing page. This is critical to ensuring that the admissions committee has access to viewing the product of all your hard work, but it also comes with additional responsibility. You can never be certain when or even if the admissions committee will view your blog, so you’ll need to stay on top of it. Keep posting quality content to ensure that it is maintained and current when/if the admissions committee does check it. Don’t slack now!
If you’re interested in starting a blog to highlight your work on a project, document your creative process, or simply reflect on a topic that’s important or interesting to you, don’t be deterred by the amount of work it initially entails. By taking advantage of a user-friendly blogging platform, you’ll be able to guide yourself through the process and produce a polished, clean, and, most importantly, functional final product.
Not sure where to start on creating your new blog or still want a little more guidance before you begin? Consider the benefits of the CollegeVine Near Peer Mentorship Program, which provides access to practical advice on topics from college admissions to career aspirations, all from successful college students.
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