How much do you know about student government? Perhaps you’ve been told participating in student government looks good on your résumé and you’re curious to learn more about it, or maybe you haven’t given it much thought at all because it didn’t seem like your kind of thing. Either way, student government is an important part of your school’s culture that offers great ways to get involved in the foundation of your school. In both high school and college, student government allows students to interact with the real leaders of their school while gaining leadership experience and an understanding of the inner workings of their high school or university. Here are the answers to three common questions about student government and how to get involved.
1. What is student government?
At its core, student government is a governing body of students at a high school or college who act as the voice of the overall student body in planning, budgeting for, and supporting student life. As elected representatives of their respective cohort, student government members advocate for their classmates while also promoting positive school spirit and community involvement through the planning and overseeing of student events. Student government is a vital part of shaping the student experience on campus and creating positive change for the future of the school.
2. What does student government do?
The exact responsibilities of your student government depend on your school—and whether it’s high school or college. Typically, college student governments have a higher level of responsibility, but both college and high school student governments tackle a few universal key duties. Student governments are known for:
- Organizing and promoting events like Spirit Week, dances, or formals
- Generally building up student involvement through various activities
- Hosting annual community service projects or fundraisers
- Overseeing the budgeting of funds for clubs and student activities (although, college students will likely have a bit more financial control over budgeting than most high school students)
Essentially, student government oversees the student life component of your school and supervises other groups participating in that mission such as additional clubs and schoolwide events, but that’s not even your most important role.
A voice for your peers
As previously mentioned, a critical function of student government is to be the voice of the larger student body by listening to and addressing student feedback. You’re responsible for advocating for your peers, and therefore, being open to suggestions and concerns is crucial to that role. Student government representatives attend regular meetings to carry out these duties. Between planning events and addressing student concerns, meetings are frequently held with school administrators and fellow student representatives. Oftentimes, schools need policy or structural change, whether it’s adding lighting to a dark area on campus or starting a more comprehensive procedure to prevent bullying, and change can originate with student government representatives taking the concerns of their peers seriously and working to find solutions. For this reason, representatives must understand the importance of their positions and strive to be positive role models for their school community. There’s a lot of responsibility that comes with being in a student government leadership position.
3. How can I get involved?
If student government sounds like something you’d like to participate in to challenge yourself as a leader and become a representative for your school, it’s time to get serious and apply! Most student body representatives are elected by their peers either at the beginning of the school year or at the end of the year in preparation for the next year. Check with your school for more information on dates, but it’s common to fill out a form expressing your interest, possibly attend an interest meeting, and carry out a campaign prior to the election. Your campaign might be as simple as your picture and bio sent out to all students prior to the vote, or it may be a more in-depth marketing campaign complete with a video and slogan. After the campaigning period, the election will determine whether or not you’ll be a student government representative for the upcoming year. If you end up losing, remember that most people don’t win elections on their first try! Even the very act of running for student government takes a lot of courage and shows your dedication to the present and future health of your school.
Whether you plan to run for student government or not, understanding its function in your school is important. Take the next step by finding out who your current student government representatives are, and be sure to contact them with any feedback or concerns you may have as well as thank them for the hard work they’re putting in to make your school the best place it can be.
Did you know some schools offer Leadership as a major? Check out this list of Excellent College Programs to Train Future Leaders.