What Counts as “Leadership Experience” on College Apps?

If you’re applying to college (or a job, for that matter), there is a section on your application that will ask you whether you have any leadership experience. In addition to qualities like responsibility, time management, dedication, and hard work, leadership is one of those key elements that college admissions officers look for in applicants as well as qualities like resiliency, time management, and commitment. Putting “Leadership” in the title of your application is a buzzword to grab the attention of any applicant looking through the application.

What are the reasons for this, and how do you go about gaining leadership experience? Listed below are answers to both of those questions as well as a few other questions.

Why is leadership experience so important?

Among the main goals of colleges is not only to provide their students with a quality education and a diploma, but also to guide them in becoming leaders in their respective fields. Colleges are looking for those students who have already demonstrated leadership qualities in order to foster the next generation of leaders.

A student who is a leader in high school possesses multiple qualities, including not only motivation and passion, but he or she is also reliable, proactive, and isn’t afraid to try something new when the opportunity arises. They have also shown that they are capable of leading their peers as well as their co-workers, solving problems, and working well with others. The emotional intelligence of leaders is also higher than that of followers!

These are all valuable skills that can be applied in a variety of educational and professional environments. It is important to remember that they can make a big difference in grades, getting hired, and getting promoted. The most important thing to keep in mind is that being a leader does not always mean you need to be outgoing. You can be a leader even if you are an introvert!

How Can You Get Leadership Experience?

Having the title of student class president does not necessarily entitle you to claim experience in the field of education. It may not be known to many students, but there are a lot of students who have leadership experience already. The definition of leadership may be clear cut in some cases, but in others, it may require a bit of creative thinking in order to qualify as such.

Here are some of the opportunities you may already be aware of which can allow you to gain leadership experience and experience that can benefit your career. It’s important to keep in mind, however, that you’re not limited to these examples alone! It is important to note that these examples are just springboards. You are likely to have your own experiences that do not neatly fall into these categories.

1. At School

There are plenty of opportunities for leadership experience when it comes to schoolwork, clubs, sports, and organizations. You definitely demonstrated the ability to be a leader, regardless of whether you took the lead on a major science project in your class or served on the student council.

A few other experiences that qualify include:

  • Section leader in marching band
  • Tutoring
  • Mentoring
  • Club leader
  • Spearheading a school campaign
  • Working on the high school yearbook staff
  • Working on the school newspaper
  • Sport team captain
  • National Honor Society project

2. At Work

Are you a self-starter at work? Do you like to take the initiative? If you have some experiences that qualify as leadership, you may have a few to share! You can use these examples as a starting point for your brainstorming:

  • Camp counselor over the summer
  • Babysitting
  • Training your peers and other employees
  • Work in management

3. In Your Community

Volunteer work and community involvement make a great first impression on college applications – add a bit of leadership experience to that and you’re on your way to becoming an excellent student!

  • Organize a fundraiser
  • Display community activism
  • Get more involved in community service
  • Train other volunteers
  • Plan a volunteering event, organize it, or help on the day of the event

4. In your Free Time

The things you do in your free time may also qualify as leadership experience if you do them in a way that is fun and rewarding at the same time.

  • Boy Scouts/Girl Scouts/Eagle Scout
  • Be a leader as a Dungeon Master or the player in Dungeons & Dragons
  • Regularly lead groups of people in video games
  • Organize a club, fandom, or other passion outside of school
  • Sell online or locally and showcase your entrepreneur skills

This list is intended to get the ball rolling and hopefully it will prompt you to think about similar experiences you’ve had before or things you’ve done that would qualify on this list! The best thing you can do if you’re having trouble might be to brainstorm with family, friends, and teachers – you probably have some experiences that fit into the category of leadership that you’re simply not thinking about.

What If You Don’t Have Any Leadership Experience?

When you brainstorm, and you talk to your guidance counselor, and you come to the conclusion that you lack leadership experience, it’s okay if you think you don’t have any, after brainstorming and talking to your guidance counselor. The fact that you won’t be able to have some does not necessarily indicate that your application won’t be successful, but it does mean that you won’t be rejected. It is likely that there are other qualities that you have which can make your application stand out from the crowd!

However, if you are aware of this problem before you begin the college application process, it is important that you try to figure out ways of gaining leadership experience as soon as possible, in order to give yourself the best chance of admission. Get involved in volunteer work, join a club, or use your passion to make a difference in the world. Having the time to gain some experience may just be what you need to get your foot in the door!

In order to demonstrate leadership, we are able to do so in a multitude of ways. They are not all flashy or come with an official title. Please take the time to write down any times when you have been a leader of an event or held a delegating position! It is likely that you will find a few examples from your past involvement in your school and community, which will count as leadership experience, which maybe you did not consider as leadership experience before. Also, if you have a school counselor at your school, you might want to have a conversation about what type of things should be highlighted on your college application so that you can get the most out of it.

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