The One Word That Can Make a Big Difference

Leadership is the action of leading others. When underclass high school students ask me the ways in which they can make their college application stronger, one consistent piece of advice I offer is to display leadership.


Why it’s important:

Colleges look for students who display leadership experience and potential for a simple reason: if students were leaders in high school, they are likely to be leaders in college, and then, ideally leaders in their profession and community, which reflects well back on the college. Remember that colleges are always taking a risk when they accept students into their school. They can hedge their bets by accepting students who have exhibited leadership potential.

The role it plays:

Nearly all colleges still cite grades and test scores as the two top factors in the admission decision, but for many schools, there are several other criteria that play a fairly important role as well. Most colleges mention a student’s extra curricular activities as an important consideration. In this previous blog, we talk about what makes a strong resume, but one major thing is leadership experience. Again, being a leader shouldn’t take the place of good grades, but think of it as an enhancer to your application.

How to:

There are many ways to demonstrate leadership, and it’s great to get creative. If there is a club or group that you already belong to, look into taking on a leadership position within the group. But if there aren’t leadership opportunities that already exist… create one!

Here are some suggestions…

  • create a new club at your school
  • start a new organization in your town
  • lead a new community service group or effort
  • start a company or business
  • ask teachers if you can tutor or help after school


The most important part of taking on a leadership role is that you do something you enjoy! Don’t do it just for the sake of having it look good to colleges. Find friends with similar interests and create something new together. The more fun you have, the more likely you are to stick with it and make it truly something special. That is what will impress colleges.

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