There is More to Demonstrating Leadership in College Applications Than Just Empty Titles

All throughout high school, parents and students fret over their activity schedules and resumes. Extracurricular activities are, after grades and standardized test scores, perhaps the most important element of American college applications. Not only do colleges gauge students on the basis of their activities, but those same activities offer the grist for students’ essays mills once the summer between junior and senior year comes along. One particular aspect of activities, especially among more ambitious students, is not simply participating but demonstrating leadership. Leadership is a huge buzzword thrown around in the field of college admissions, but what does it actually mean? How do colleges want to see students demonstrate leadership?

Nothing Like a Title to demonstrate Leadership in College Applications

The first and most obvious way to show leadership is through titles! Whether through club elections, recognition from adult advisors, or founding their own organization from scratch, students in their last two years of high school (and even before) clamor for titles that reflect their leadership. The problem, however, is that these titles are really only that on their own. As many disgruntled parents of athletes and mathletes will tell you, these titles are just as often left to the whims of politics, popularity, and influence, not actual service. If families know this, colleges know this too.

…Except for Real Achievement 

So how can students really stand out in their activities? By making a demonstrable impact in their activities. Student Council President is nice; Student Council President who created a speaker series, secured a delayed start, and fought for open campus privileges is even better. These accomplishments play even better when they can be tied to quantitative measures in their descriptions. Doubling club membership, raising tens of thousands of dollars, expanding services by 400%; all these measures conclusively demonstrate that a student has earned the title they’ve listed on their application and used the associated responsibility to make a difference. That is real leadership.

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Tags: Higher Education, College, College Counseling, College Admissions, College Applications, Activities, Extracurricular Activities, Leadership, Community Service, Internships, Research, Summer Planning