Every year, millions of applications are sent to universities and colleges across the country. By 2017, the number of applicants had more than doubled to almost 10.2 million, according to Pew Research Center. With the application pool becoming more and more competitive, excellent grades and standardized test scores have become the standard across all applications, especially for top-ranking colleges and universities. In addition to grade requirements, students should aim for extracurricular involvement in clubs, athletics, or community organizations in order to make their application stand out. Those activities highlight students’ resumes and eventually set them apart in securing that acceptance letter.
Before jumping into different activities that can develop your leadership abilities, we will discuss the value and importance of participating in leadership positions.
1. Why should you aim for leadership positions during high school?
Learn to be passionate about what you do
Good leaders are especially passionate about the purpose of the group they are leading. Their passion and enthusiasm always shines through in the time and energy that they dedicate to the thriving of their group or organization. So, if you feel particularly drawn towards a certain subject, sport, or activity, that can be a great sign that you should aim for a leadership position in an existing group, or be inspired to found your own. Taking on the additional responsibilities that come with a leadership role will help you develop a stronger sense of responsibility and commitment to your passions, and even inform your future education or career goals. Furthermore, passionate people are very noticeable and influential to people through how they carry themselves and the conversation. Therefore, by showing your attitude and passion for the subject, team members may be inspired and follow in your footsteps.
Learn to be an effective communicator and self-starter
Leadership roles in any setting require a lot of initiative, as well as the ability to think on your feet and handle complex problems. Strong communication skills are essential for connecting with team members and establishing trust in your group. As your responsibilities increase, you will gain more experience navigating problem-resolution, making decisions with confidence, and being flexible to respond to changing situations. Dedication to clear communication and stepping up as an accountable leader will orient you towards success, and will help motivate yourself and those around you, leading to accomplishments that benefit everyone involved.
A booster for college applications
Another undeniable benefit of taking on leadership positions in high school is their positive impact on college applications. Having a significant leadership role and all of the achievements that go with it can make or break one’s possibility of receiving acceptance letters from top-ranking colleges and universities. Princeton’s Dean Janet Rapeleye stated in The New York Times, “We look for qualities that will help students become leaders in their fields and their communities.” Leaders are innovators, problem solvers who contribute ideas, take risks, and ultimately lead their team to success in various fields.
Potential for future’s success
Having several leadership positions in your pocket will inherently prepare you for success. If you had a leadership role during high school, you are more likely to pursue similar roles during college and then within the workplace. Research shows that people with leadership roles are more likely to hold managerial positions as adults, earning higher incomes due to their ability to build trust that leads to positive business outcomes, while fostering a sense of responsibility and purpose within the organization.
2. Where to find leadership positions in high school
So then, where can you find these significant leadership opportunities? The most accessible place is within your own high school. Examples include:
- Academic clubs (debate club, math team, robotics club, etc.)
- Performing Arts and Visual Arts (theater, choir, band, a capella choir, dance club, etc.)
- Athletics/Varsity Team/Junior Varsity Team (basketball, baseball, etc.)
- Community Service/Volunteering
- Publications (school newspaper, school magazine, yearbook, etc.)
- General Organizations (Model U.N, International Students Club, etc.)
- Residential Assistant at your Dorms
If you prefer not to be involved in student organizations at your school, you can also search for opportunities outside of school. Examples include:
- Internships at local businesses
- Volunteering at a local library/Starting a book club at the library
- Initiating a donation or community service group at your church
- Participating in professional organizations for high school students (DECA, etc.) – link the business organization article
Above are examples of finding ways to be involved in an organization, and committing more time and effort to develop it. So then, what should you do to get into these positions?
3. How to become a leader in high school
As a leader, it is essential to be proactive in identifying problems and taking initiative before others do. But, at the same time, it is important to remember that the answers aren’t always clear-cut and that not every problem has an immediate solution. To be a successful leader, you must also remember to take into account the needs and ideas of your teammates, while still driving forward positive changes. Good leadership means leading others with wisdom and understanding, so they can follow in your footsteps and accomplish their goals. Informed pro-activity is key for anyone looking to leave a mark in any club or organization.
Know your strengths and weaknesses
A common problem among students is handling so many responsibilities at once and not having enough time to complete them all to the best of their abilities. Leadership opportunities can be appealing, but they can also be dangerous if proper planning and prioritization are not in place. We recommend that you identify your strengths, how they amplify what you enjoy doing, and capitalize on them. There have been rising debates between being a jack-of-all-trades versus a master of one. While being a jack-of-all-trades gives you the ability to showcase the breadth of your involvement on your resume, while being a master of one helps you dive deeper into a field that you truly enjoy and show the depth of your passion. The college admissions committee can see whether an applicant spreads themselves too thinly across the board. They would prefer to see a profound and meaningful contribution in certain areas. And, the quality, not quantity of activities will help you formulate a better story for your personal statement!
Be a follower first before a leader
To become great leaders, students should learn how to be great followers or team members as leaders cannot accomplish anything without the collective effort and support of their followers. Students seeking a leadership position in an already-existing organization should strongly consider preparing themselves by first joining the group as a team member, especially as a freshman or sophomore. Not only will this give you a familiarity with the organization, it will also provide excellent experiences and training that will come in handy and inform your choices as a leader. You may need to commit more time and effort as a junior or senior in order to take on a leadership role, so plan accordingly.
Learn to communicate and influence other
A great leader requires strong interpersonal skills, such as being able to actively listen to others, and dealing with people of varying personalities and viewpoints. Though it’s impossible to please everyone, you can still earn their respect and trust, both professionally and personally, by communicating effectively and respectfully. Communication is essential, as effective communication can help to solve most of the problems or issues faced by the organization. In addition to communication, it is important to maintain a positive attitude; approaching situations with a constructive outlook will help to build your confidence and create a positive atmosphere amongst members.
One last thing: What you do matters more than what titles you bring
This applies to leadership in high school, college, the workplace, and beyond. Even if your title is not Vice President of Finance or Editor-in-Chief, you can still contribute significantly to an organization and be recognized. Apart from putting a leadership position on your résumé, you can always ask for a letter of recommendation from a faculty member that vouches for your dedication to and passion for the organization, as well as your ability to effectively manage assigned tasks and responsibilities. By demonstrating your proactive approach and successful completion of assigned tasks, you can further showcase your leadership potential and make a lasting impact within the organization.
Above are five ways to help you have a better idea of becoming a leader in high school. We believe that anyone can be an impactful leader with proper guidance and mentorship. Leadership during high school is a challenging yet rewarding experience, giving students valuable memories and preparation before college and professional life.