United Nations building surrounded by many flagpoles with national flags

Why Model UN Is the Perfect High School Extracurricular

What is Model UN, why should you participate, and how can it help prepare you for college? Find all the answers to these questions and more now!

Throughout your high school career, you’ll encounter a multitude of extracurricular activities, but one of the most significant is Model UN. As the Public Relations Officer for my school’s Model UN Club, I may be biased in saying this, but Model UN is the perfect extracurricular no matter your college or career goals. But what exactly is Model UN, and why should you join? Read on to find out more about this organization, how to start a club at your school, and why it looks great on college applications.

What is Model UN?

Model UN is an opportunity for students to simulate the UN General Assembly at school. It’s like a form of debate, but rather than arguing about niche topics, Model UN focuses on coming up with solutions to real-life problems the world faces. United Nations Association of the United States of America puts it best: in Model UN, you will “prepare draft resolutions, plot strategy, negotiate with supporters and adversaries, resolve conflicts, and navigate the UN's Rules of Procedure—all in the interest of mobilizing ‘international cooperation’ to resolve problems that affect almost every country on Earth.” You can visit unausa.org/model-un for more information.

What do you do in Model UN?

Model UN chapters have the opportunity to participate in national conferences, which have committees for all interests. There’s GA3 for beginners, UNEP for environmental delegates, CCPCJ for pre-law, WHO for pre-med, and so much more. Depending on the length of the conference, each committee generally tackles one to three pressing issues our world is facing. Each student is a delegate, representing a country and giving speeches on that country’s stance on a topic: what the country’s policies are, what they’re currently doing to fix it, and what their future plans are.

By the end of the conference, delegates will have worked together within blocs—countries with similar ideals to each other—to come up with resolution papers for each topic. The resolution paper is a result of hours of compromising all the bloc’s countries’ interests, beliefs, and future plans. In between these intense sessions of debating, compromising, and solving world peace, you get the opportunity to be with your friends or make new friends with students from all over the country—and in some cases, all over the world.

Related: 3 Ways to Pursue Your Passions in High School 

Why should I join Model UN?

If solving world peace with a hypothetical resolution isn’t enough of a reason for you, here are some other reasons to join this extracurricular. Model UN teaches life skills that you can apply to any major or career goal. By participating in Model UN, you will:

  • Improve your research skills as you explore your country’s stance on a topic;
  • Nurture your creativity as you come up with resolutions;
  • Foster your leadership skills as you lead a discussion
  • Develop your interpersonal skills as you compromise with others;
  • Strengthen your public speaking skills as you present your research; and
  • Learn more about current events as you gain more insight into the issues our world is facing.

Opportunities for leadership

Model UN also has endless opportunities for leadership roles to put on your résumé. Not only are there club positions, but most conferences are student run and backed by a nonprofit. Students have the opportunity to apply for prestigious secretariat roles or staffing positions. Secretariats are a nine-person team who essentially run the whole conference, taking care of logistics, finances, media, and other aspects. Staffers are the “Dias” in committees, meaning they run each session and make sure the committee is following UN Rules of Procedure.

It’s fun!

On the nonacademic side, Model UN is a fun chance to spend more time with your friends outside of school while doing a productive activity. During conferences (in non-COVID times), you can stay with your friends in a hotel and spend the weekend debating serious world issues, hanging out, and pulling all-nighters together.

Related: 5 Tips for Choosing Your Extracurriculars 

How will Model UN help me get into college?

Model UN looks great on your high school résumé and college applications. If you’re a delegate, you may have won a few awards, which show off your ability to communicate well in writing, compromise with others, and speak eloquently. If you’re on staff, it indicates strong leadership skills, responsibility, and maturity. Both will show eagerness to learn about current events and dedication to solving current global issues.

Something for every interest

For students interested in international relations or political science, Model UN will be a great extracurricular for you. It’s hands-on experience in the world of politics, and since Model UN follows the same rules as the real UN, it’s as close to the real thing as you can get. Still, whatever you plan to major in, Model UN has a committee for you. There are STEM topics like sustainable space mining, what to do with nuclear waste, or reducing maternal mortality. For future Business majors, there are committees specialized to economics; for Art majors, there are topics on repatriation of art works. The point is, there are topics to fit all types of interests. Model UN gives you exposure to the very global issues you’re going to college to solve.

Boost your college applications

Beyond that, most larger Model UN conferences hold a college workshop, which is a great networking event to meet local admission officers. When writing your college applications, you can detail your experiences in Model UN and what you’ve learned from it. Admission officers are looking for quality over quantity in your extracurricular involvement, and Model UN is an activity with a lot of possibility for quality, allowing you to learn, lead, and develop as a student.

Related: How Extracurriculars Benefit Your College Applications 

My school doesn’t have Model UN—how do I start a program?

Most Model UN programs are school-affiliated clubs, but a lot of successful teams can be independent. To start a school-affiliated program, you should follow the normal procedure at your school to start a club. If you need a club advisor, I’d recommend a history or English teacher—someone who is generally interested in current events and helping start this type of club. For independent programs, you’ll just need a group of people who are interested in Model UN and willing to pay the conference fees.

Tips for a successful club

After you’ve started the program and recruited members, I recommend splitting them into two groups: ones that are complete beginners and ones that have some experience. The most intimidating part of Model UN is the Rules of Procedure, which are tedious and have a bit of a learning curve. During meetings, you should focus on teaching Rules of Procedure and having mini committee sessions with the more beginner members. For the more experienced members, try mimicking a real conference and going through an entire topic from a first speakers list to the resolution paper.

Related: Top 10 Reasons to Do Model United Nations (MUN) in College 

Model UN is a vital extracurricular activity that any student can participate in. It fosters skills that are applicable to all majors and careers and is an amazing opportunity to discuss solutions to current global issues with fellow students. Furthermore, it offers endless opportunities for leadership roles and looks impressive on your résumé. No matter your goal, Model UN will be able to help you in some way, and I hope you consider participating!

Learn about more great extracurricular options that can strengthen your résumé by clicking the “extracurricular activities” tag

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About Hannah Chen

Hannah Chen

Hannah Chen goes to a STEM-oriented high school. She hopes to major in Biomedical Engineering on a Pre-med track and eventually become a doctor. Hannah has a multitude of interests and currently holds leadership positions in HOSA, Key Club, and MUN. She also volunteers and works as a tutor, teaching English or Java. Outside of school, Hannah enjoys all things creative, like painting, crocheting, and keeping up with the latest fashion trends. She's currently busy binge-watching Gilmore Girls for the third time.


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