Preparing for College

What Qualifies as "Leadership" on College Applications

Question: What exactly is required for the leadership portion of the application? Is everyone expected to be an officer in a club, etc?

Admission officials don’t expect everyone to be a club officer or to hold any sort of elected position in or out of school, but they do want to give applicants a chance to point out that others (fellow students, teachers, administrators, etc.) have deemed them responsible and worthy of being in charge.


Students who have never headed a school group or who never captained a sports team may feel that they have no “leadership” posts to include on their applications. But, for college admission committees, leadership can take diverse forms – and not just the most obvious ones. For instance, I have advised students who have:

-been appointed managers, shift supervisors, etc. at their weekend, after-school, or summer jobs

-served as camp counselors or counselors-in-training

-spearheaded campaign efforts for a school, community, state, or even national election

-worked as babysitters in private homes, at their church or synagogue, etc.

-volunteered as peer mediators or mentors

-taught math, music, etc. to younger children

All of these duties require a form of “leadership.” You don’t have to be a student body president or Spanish Club secretary to qualify as a leader. Granted, some applicants really can’t come up with any leadership roles at all, and there’s no reason to force the issue. But, before leaving that section totally blank, all seniors should think hard about what they’ve accomplished and about those times when, perhaps almost unwittingly, they may have served as a leader, organizer, or role model for others.

(posted 11/04/10)