Quick Advice for Taking on Student Leadership Positions

Taking on leadership positions in high school can be so rewarding for self-growth and your college applications. Here's how to earn them and excel in any role.

When it comes to standing out on college applications, becoming an officer or leader of a club is a great way to do just that. Thousands of students every year ace the other parts of college applications with their high SAT scores or GPA—but involvement and leadership in extracurriculars can truly secure admission to many schools. Colleges prefer quality over quantity, so it’s better to be an officer of one or two clubs than to be just a member of five clubs or more. Colleges want to see that you’re passionate, dedicated, and immersed in the activities that interest you. You can gain leadership positions with academic teams, art groups, athletic teams, volunteering, tutoring, and other student clubs. Getting involved in one of these roles will make you stand out during the college admission process. Here’s how to get started. 

How to work toward a leadership position

Your first step toward reaching a leadership position is to join a club you’re passionate about. And the earlier you join, the more time you have to be involved! Once you become a member, try to go above and beyond. Ask current officers what you can do to help out, whether that’s helping set up or clean up for meetings, lending your artistic talents for posters, or something else. Other ways to go the extra mile in your club include:

  • Coming up with good ideas to better the club.
  • Increasing participation (and future votes) by bringing your friends.
  • Getting to know other members and helping establish a friendly, welcoming environment.
  • Getting to know the faculty advisor and making a good impression with them by showcasing your commitment to the club.
  • Setting a good example and helping out other members of the club. (When it comes time to run for a position, people will remember your character.) 

Understanding your strengths and weaknesses

An important part of taking on a leadership position is understanding what your strengths and weaknesses are. Are you good at organization? Math? Being assertive? Delegation? Understanding your best qualities as a leader will help you choose the right position for you. Acting as president or vice president is a big responsibility that’ll take a lot of time, maturity, and energy. You need to be able to delegate and communicate effectively with other members, advisors, and school faculty. Being secretary requires you to be extremely organized and neat to complete the job. Treasurers should be good with math and financial strategy, whereas historians should be able to keep a clear and consistent record of the club's activities. Choose the role that will play best to your strengths, not just the most prestigious one. Being a great treasurer will look better to colleges than being a bad president. 

Related: How to Start Your Own Great Club in High School 

Running for a position

Most school clubs offer the positions of president, vice president, secretary, treasurer, historian, and/or parliamentarian. When it comes time to run, there are many things you can do to better your chances of being elected to the leadership position of your choice:

  • First, you should understand the actual election process, as it can vary from club to club. See what other officers have done in the past to campaign.
  • Consider making posters and enlisting a supportive fellow club member to help you.
  • If you have the opportunity to give a speech, make sure it’s meaningful and details the contributions you plan on making to the club.
  • Be sure to follow all the rules! 

And remember: Even if you don’t win, you can still make a difference in your club and exert your leadership qualities in different ways outside of an official position.  

How to excel in leadership positions

  • Network with club chapter officers at other schools. Most national-affiliated clubs have some sort of method of communication with other schools. This can help officers get more ideas and share resources to improve their clubs.
  • Create a timeline for the school year and detail your goals. Having clearly defined goals and milestones for the year will keep you and your club on track.  
  • Work well with other officers. Communication is key to a good club. You could try planning officer retreats and socials to create a friendly environment and build trust. 

Related: Leadership in High School: What Does It Mean? 

Colleges tend to admire leadership qualities. Being a club leader shows your dedication, commitment, and involvement. It demonstrates that you’re willing and confident enough to take on big responsibilities. And it proves that your fellow club members trust you well enough to guide them. If you excel in your leadership position and make a difference, it’ll indicate to schools that you’re a natural leader who will do the same in college and beyond.  

Pair your burgeoning leadership skills with maturity skills by reading our article Why High School Students Should Learn to Adult.

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