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How to Gain Leadership Experience in High School

As you begin to consider college applications, “leadership” is one of those keywords that you see and hear a lot of. But how can you gain experience in leadership? Is it as straightforward as seeking position in the student government? What happens if you aren’t enthusiastic about student government? And if you’re timid? What if you’re stuck for ideas?

The good news is that leadership expertise comes in a variety of forms. To be a leader, you don’t have to be extroverted, well-liked, or talented. Everyone can find something here!

Continue reading for our advice on how to gain leadership experience and lead smoothly!

How to Gain Leadership Experience
How to Gain Leadership Experience in High School

What Qualifies as Leadership Experience?

Any position of responsibility you have, whether public or private, official or unofficial, in your professional or personal life, counts as leadership experience. It is any situation in which you lead others, bring about a change, or influence events that might not have happened otherwise.

Examples of formal leadership experiences include:

  • Holding a position in the student government
  • Being a school newspaper editor
  • Being the team’s captain in sports

Examples of informal leadership experiences include:

  • Organizing a neighborhood cleanup event with your close friends
  • Mentoring a young elementary school friend of the family
  • Being admired and regarded at a career after school

Although you can bend and expand the notion of leadership, if you push it too far, it can also break. Consider the ensuing questions as you list your leadership experiences:

  • Did I collaborate with others and lead them in the right direction?
  • Without my participation, how would this project/initiative have changed?
  • I had any influence?

Also Read: Types of Associate Degrees and Features: Which Should You Opt for?

How Do Colleges Assess Extracurricular Activities?

Students with impressive extracurricular histories get admitted to universities. It’s crucial that you comprehend the Four Tiers of Extracurricular Activities in order to visualize this. Colleges and universities categorize extracurricular activities into four groups in order to swiftly assess the caliber and breadth of each applicant’s extracurricular activities.

The levels:

  1. Tier 1: The actions with the greatest impact are in Tier 1. These are uncommon and exhibit outstanding achievement and leadership, such as winning a prominent national tournament or receiving national acclaim in athletics.
  2. Tier 2: Tier 2 activities are more prevalent than Tier 1 activities, yet they still demonstrate outstanding achievement and leadership. These accomplishments can include being recognized for your athletic ability at the state level, taking first place in a regional contest, or serving as club president.
  3. Tier 3: Although they show your interests, tier 3 extracurriculars don’t have the same impact as those in the levels above. Taking part in varsity sports or having a minor leadership role in a reputable group, for instance.
  4. Tier 4: The least noteworthy and significant activities, including participating in a sport or club, are included in Tier 4.

A few Tier 3–4 tasks should be added to the student’s one or two Tier 1-2 activities that demonstrate their work ethic and leadership abilities. Keep in mind that a busy schedule is not necessarily a good thing. Instead, focus on fewer pursuits that you’ve given a lot of time and energy to.

Consider which of your extracurricular activities will best demonstrate to admissions officers your capacity for leadership and work ethic.

Also Read: Student Journey Mapping: Purpose and Advantages

How to Gain Leadership Experience
How to Gain Leadership Experience in High School

How to Gain Leadership Experience in High School

1. Take Part in Student Government

Joining student government, also known as student council, student union, associated student body, or student parliament, is a clear approach to develop leadership experience in high school. Students that are outgoing, popular, and want to make a name for themselves should go for this option.

Running for student government is similar to running for office in the real world. It might be fiercely competitive. Campaigning, speeches, and credentials are significant.

It is advantageous to have past leadership experience when it comes to credentials. This may manifest as a few minor positions in other clubs or the rapport you have built with your classmates over time.

Building a solid team during a campaign entails developing a plan to win the election. Students interested in pursuing careers in politics, diplomacy, or public affairs will find student government to be especially beneficial because of this feature. Being a part of a campaign team is a unique experience that will help you advance your communication, negotiation, and collaboration skills—even if you decide not to run for student government yourself.

One brief point: Regrettably, in some schools, being successful in student government is correlated with social standing or popularity. For instance, students who promote their candidacy with items like t-shirts, buttons, stickers, or candies may do better at the polls.

2. Turn into a Club Officer.

You can become an officer of a club that caters to your interests if student government doesn’t sound like something you’d be interested in. Clubs frequently organize internal elections in which ordinary members compete for positions such as:

  • President
  • Deputy President
  • Community Chair
  • The Public Relations Director
  • Philanthropy Lead

Although the voter pool is smaller and there may be less competition, you will still need to run for these seats.

Students who are certain of their future job path should find taking on a leadership role within a club to be especially intriguing. You can use this kind of leadership experience to demonstrate to admissions committee members that you are thinking ahead.

A student who has chosen English literature as their major, for instance, might run for president of the literary society. If mechanical engineering is chosen as the student’s major, they might run for club president. You can utilize these experiences to demonstrate your dedication to your field when you apply to institutions.

Conversely, if you are unsure about your job route or are involved in a club unrelated to your career path, you can still run for a leadership role. However, you should be careful about the position you choose.

Consider running for Head of Public Relations for the Spanish Club if you love Spanish and are interested in communications, public relations, or journalism. Run for Philanthropy Lead if you enjoy cooking and are interested in working for a nonprofit organization, and utilize your position as an opportunity to collaborate with nearby shelters and kitchens to get knowledge of how NGOs operate on the ground level. By showcasing your distinctive interests and the talents you’ve acquired via those hobbies, these experiences might help you personalize yourself in your college essays.

Keep in mind that some clubs have different titles for the leadership roles. Being the editor of your school’s newspaper, the star witness for the mock trial squad, or the project manager for the maker club are all examples of leadership responsibilities. You will have the chance to include them as leadership experiences and describe your position in your organizations when you apply to institutions.

3. Be a Leader by Example.

One of our most distinctive methods for developing leadership skills is through leadership by example. What students put into this type of leadership experience is what they get back.

Leadership by example entails enhancing an already successful after-school activity at your school. The ideal method to do this is to propose a significant expansion or enhancement to a club and then request authorization to direct its growth.

Several instances include:

  • Organizing a history club field trip to a significant location
  • Building a community service club’s onboarding process
  • Locating a less expensive vendor for a gardening group
  • Launching a community engagement program for an environmental club
  • Establishing a debating club’s online research library
  • Arranging a cultural club’s heritage celebration night

Even if your effort doesn’t result in a formal leadership position within the firm, you can still note it in the Activities area of your Common Application or write a compelling essay about your capacity to take the initiative and look for growth opportunities.

For creative kids who dislike traditional roles or systems, leadership by example is a good option. If you opt for this method of gaining leadership experience, you must be able to motivate and hold yourself accountable for your actions.

Making the best of a club election defeat can also be done through leadership by example.

Also Read: 5 Lucrative Careers in Organizational Leadership

4. Become a Mentor or Tutor.

You should think about mentoring those who are younger than you even though the majority of the chances on this list include guiding people who are your own age. Tutoring and mentoring are two methods for achieving this.

There are formal and informal ways to tutor or mentor. The majority of high schools formally support initiatives that let high school students manage after-school activities in nearby elementary and middle schools. You might eventually assume a bigger role in these programs, scheduling additional tutors and securing locations.

Informally, you can gradually assume a bigger position in the lives of a relative, a sibling, or a sibling’s acquaintance. For instance, if you are really interested in computer science and coding and notice that your little brother’s best buddy shares your enthusiasm, you may gradually start introducing them to more advanced ideas.

5. Organize a Group or Publication

Take the chance to start a club if there isn’t one at your school that interests you. Since you founded the club, you’ll inevitably assume a leadership role. However, starting your own club will take a lot of time and effort, so be sure you’re ready to put in the time and effort before you begin.

Remember that you can form a club that is dedicated to a particular area of your interest even if your school already has clubs that are relevant to it.

For instance, there might be an engineering club at your school but not a racing car club. Although there may not be a Sexual Wellness Club at your school, there may be a Women’s Studies Club. Find your subtle emphasis and try something unique from the existing clubs.

Finding a faculty adviser, creating a budget, making your club known, and assigning roles and responsibilities are all important elements in the procedure.

Also Read: 10 Best Free Online Forestry Courses

6. Become the Team’s Captain in a Sport

The route that led to this leadership experience is rather obvious. If you have showed promise in a certain sport, work hard to earn the position of team captain.

It’s crucial to remember that not always the best player on a team is chosen as captain, even though becoming team captain is, at least in part, talent-related (whether the captain is chosen by the other players or the coach). In particular, if the best player creates strife among the team, has trouble speaking out and inspiring others, or has a negative attitude toward authority, they may miss out on the chance to be captain.

If you want to lead your sports team as captain, be sure to:

  • Be regarded and admired by your team.
  • Possess effective public speaking abilities.
  • Be growth-oriented
  • Attend team meetings and practices on time.
  • Respect superiors and other people in positions of power.
  • Not get involved in a fight or drama
  • Participate in conversations with your teammates and the broader community.
  • Not to brag or be arrogant

7. Become a Volunteer, Launch an Outreach Initiative, or Plan a Fundraising or Community Push

Students who aren’t as outgoing or vocal can develop their leadership skills by volunteering. This is due to the more informal nature of volunteering, which doesn’t require manufacturing posters, giving speeches, or running for office.

Among the possibilities you could take part in are:

  • Launching a periodical to increase local understanding of environmental issues
  • Coordinating a clothing, toy, or food drive
  • Organizing environmental preservation projects, beach clean-ups, or park cleanups
  • Establishing a kids club to teach young people about social justice
  • Constructing a community library, garden, or refrigerator
  • Generating money for a cause that is important to you.

Your volunteer position’s exact functions and responsibilities will be less visible to the public than running for office in a particular club. In actuality, administrative or logistical tasks are frequently associated with volunteering.

For instance, if you decide to launch a publication, you will demonstrate leadership by publishing calls for submissions, developing your publication’s website, and selecting the content. If you decide to start a kids club, you can demonstrate leadership by contacting nearby companies to secure a place for weekly meetings, contacting school administrators to encourage attendance, and planning your presenters.

Your volunteer project will probably expand in scope and appeal over time. It matters what you do with this expansion. You may, for instance, broaden your effort to include schools all around your state or diversify it to include social action, environmentalism, or racial fairness.

Admissions officers will be impressed by your ability to seize an opportunity while you apply to colleges.

8. Take a Job

Admissions officers adore mature pupils with a strong aptitude for success in the workplace. The only surefire approach to win over admissions officers in high school is to work steadily there.

For high school students, typical jobs include:

  • Retail
  • food delivery
  • Camp director
  • Barista
  • Lifeguard
  • Chef’s prep
  • Babysitter
How to Gain Leadership Experience
How to Gain Leadership Experience in High School

Why is Leadership Experience Important to Colleges?

Colleges want to enroll students who will enhance their reputation in 20, 30, and even 50 years. They want their graduates to promote their university favorably.

As a result, they choose which students to accept depending on their chances of success. Success can be predicted by leadership. It indicates that others close to you—friends, peers, professors, and mentors—have chosen to place their trust in you as a result of their observation of your abilities. Colleges are more inclined to follow suit as a result.

Additionally, universities look at traits like dependability, initiative, efficiency, management, problem-solving, and teamwork that help students gain leadership experience in high school.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does leadership experience look like?

One excellent way to gain leadership experience is to take the lead on a school project. Leadership would be demonstrated if you assigned responsibilities, decided on the project's general plan, or did anything similar. Leading a team presentation is another example of leadership.

When you don’t have any leadership experience, what do you put?

Talk about situations when you stepped in to solve a problem before being asked. Mention a moment when you offered to take on an extra task to aid the team's success. Leadership may be demonstrated by even very simple actions like booking a conference space or creating a coffee fund.

What makes a good leader?

Self-awareness, credibility, relationship-building, a bias for action, humility, empowerment of others, authenticity, presenting themselves as constant and consistent, becoming role models, and being completely present are all qualities of good leaders.

What is a leadership trait that is frequently underrated?

Self-Awareness. Self-awareness is another beneficial leadership trait that is frequently disregarded. Self-awareness may not be a factor in day-to-day business operations, but it will be crucial in determining how well a leader gets along with people who report to them.


You need to assume leadership responsibilities within your job in addition to having a job. Creating a new station structure that improves kitchen efficiency, for instance, could impress the head chef if you work as a prep chef. Over time, if you work as a barista and are dedicated to your profession, you might be assigned some supervising manager shifts.

These kinds of encounters will finally result in a fantastic humanizing essay for college applications! Additionally, keeping a job throughout high school will enable you to save money that you can use to pay for college.



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