By: Caroline Koppelman
You’re a leader even if you don’t know it yet. If you want to go to a highly competitive school, you already know how much your extracurriculars matter. But, it is the quality of those extracurriculars and your work within them that matters. Schools want leaders who are going to be excited about impacting their college community, not followers looking for a way to stuff their resume.
Becoming president of a club or any extracurricular activity takes discipline. These ten steps provide a roadmap of the best ways to get involved and ascend to a leadership position in something you care about. Remember, throughout the entire process networking is key. Oftentimes club leadership is picked democratically, with the entire group voting on a new president, but sometimes the outgoing heads will select their own replacements. Remember to always to stay organized in difficult times, be reliable, and demonstrate genuine interest in the work.
Step one: Diversify
During your freshman year, join all of the clubs that interest you. By the second or third month of school, you will likely have dropped a few, but the remaining ones will be those you are truly passionate about. You should get as involved as possible in these clubs.
Step two: Run for positions as early as possible
Even if the work is menial, having a title beyond just being a member is important.
Simply running shows interest to the upper classmen. You may not win your first time, but you still set a precedent and increase your exposure within the group. Additionally, getting leadership roles as early as possible is a major key to getting into top schools.
Step three: Show up early
We all know the people who sneak into club meetings at the end. This person is “in” the club “for college,” which essentially means that they don’t care about the club and are just using it to check boxes on their application. Showing up early to every meeting and event signals you care. Everyone is busy but you have made it a priority to get there. Being early also means you can help the higher ups with any preparation they need.
Step four: Do the jobs no one wants to do
Invariably there won’t be enough chairs, something will have to get copied, fliers will need to be hung up, or someone will have to take the 7am shift at the blood drive. These are jobs that no one wants to do, and you might even think they go unnoticed. You want to be that person who shows they are willing to do any work required. The leadership will take note of your hard work and effort even in the unglamorous, behind the scenes jobs.
Step five: Write everything down
The president of your club is likely extremely organized, but he or she is only human and can’t possibly remember everything. Get into the habit of taking notes during the club meeting. Club leaders will notice and because most people don’t take notes they’ll ask you to remind them of the small details they’ve forgotten. This will immediately build trust: they know they can rely on you.
Step six: Remember things other people forget
When you write things down and listen attentively, you will both remember details the president said and remember things other members of the club forgot. Perhaps the president had a creative idea for a fundraiser, or wanted to look into scheduling an additional practice on the weekend. Remember these things. It demonstrates your diligence in a way most other junior club members don’t even think about.
Step seven: Make the president’s life easier
When you are the president of a club, most members cause you stress. You can always get yourself in the president’s good graces by being the member who offers to take responsibilities off his or her shoulders.
Step eight: Be nice, but don’t be fake
A blind person can spot a suck-up. You want to be helpful, but you want to be genuine, too. Take the time to really get to know people. Not only will this help you better assess their needs, it will bring you closer to the other members of the club and develop a strong sense of community.
Step nine: Be extraordinarily organized
No one will appoint or trust a disorganized leader. In order to get into the good graces of the president, you need to be meticulous. And this is not just for the notes you will take during meetings; this goes for everything in your life. Learn to love your Google calendar or iCal, because it will be your best friend. Setting up an easy way for all the members of a club to communicate can be the best way to crowd-source decisions and get things done quickly.
Step ten: Prioritize
You can’t do everything, so you have to be intentional with your efforts. Becoming president or captain of every club you are in is possible, but only if you focus your efforts on those you truly love. If you spread yourself too thin, you risk imploding. Take freshmen and sophomore year to explore your interests and really narrow down what you’re looking for. Then, use these tips to get the leadership roles you need to shine on your college applications.