This week we’re talking about a more mysterious quality admissions committees look for: leadership. What exactly counts as leadership? There are some obvious examples, such as serving as an officer of a school club. An officer is part of a group in an organization that makes decisions for the group, and common positions include president, vice president, treasurer, and so on. These positions entail more responsibility and usually are selected through either an election or application process to ensure quality candidates.
If one plans to be a officer of a club, it’s important, as always, to plan ahead. Become a member of the club beforehand, preferably a semester to a year prior, to get to know their structure, goals and events, as well as the other members. Be proactive, and take on responsibility whenever possible, as long as you are sure you can handle it. Such behavior shows that you care about the club and its mission, and it will help you during either the election or application process, as it gives you concrete examples to demonstrate how you would benefit the club.
However, there are other ways to show leadership as a high school student, and they can and should be used to supplement any official leadership experience you accumulate. One way is to show academic leadership, by stepping up and organizing others during group projects. Go above and beyond, and show creativity in the final project.
The advantages of this are many. First, the extra work you do will inevitably lead to greater retention of the material. Second, this will impress your teacher, which is especially beneficial if you plan on asking them for a recommendation letter later on.
It’s important to begin thinking early on about which teacher(s) you’d like to ask for a recommendation. Individual universities might have their own requirements, but usually they will ask for two letters, one from a teacher in the subject you wish to major in. So, for example, if you wish to major in Biology, you should make sure your Biology teacher knows you well enough to write positively about you; anyone interested in writing should get to know their English teachers.
Third, taking the lead on group projects is excellent preparation for college work. There are still classes that require group work, particularly in the sciences, where lab group projects are common.
Furthermore, you should show leadership in any jobs or volunteering you do, by taking on tasks you can manage both in terms of skill and time. Again, this is especially important if you are thinking of asking your supervisors for recommendation letters and if your work or volunteering is related to what you want to study, because taking on responsibility will give you more to talk about on interviews and application essays.
Showing leadership in varied situations greatly enhances a college application and should be something all college-minded students strive for.