How To Display Leadership To Your Admission Officers

In the competitive world of college admissions, students don’t just need good grades and test scores. When navigating the college admissions process, showcasing leadership skills is a crucial aspect that admission officers value and is a key factor that can ensure a student’s success in college.

In this article, we will explore what “leadership” means and the various areas of life where students can exhibit their leadership skills. By highlighting these aspects, you can present a well-rounded profile to admission officers and increase your chances of success.

Discover effective strategies to showcase your leadership skills & impress admission officers. Learn how to stand out and secure your spot with our expert tips.

What is Leadership Experience

Leadership experience is any activity or role that involves taking responsibility, making decisions, solving problems, motivating others, and achieving a common goal. This can range from taking on leadership roles within a club or organization, to organizing a community service project, to serving as a role model for younger students. Leadership experience can be formal or informal, academic or extracurricular, individual or group-based. Some examples of leadership experience are:

  • Being a team captain, club president, or student government officer
  • Organizing a fundraiser, community service project, or event
  • Mentoring a younger student, peer, or employee
  • Leading a research project, presentation, or debate
  • Participating in a model UN, mock trial, or academic competition

Why is Leadership Experience Important for College Admission?

Leadership experience is important for college admission because it shows that you have the skills and qualities that colleges value, such as:

  • Initiative: You are proactive and willing to take on challenges and opportunities
  • Creativity: You are innovative and able to think outside the box
  • Communication: You are articulate and able to express your ideas clearly and persuasively
  • Collaboration: You are cooperative and able to work well with others
  • Adaptability: You are flexible and able to cope with change and uncertainty
  • Resilience: You are persistent and able to overcome obstacles and failures

Leadership experience also shows that you have a passion and a purpose for what you do, and that you are committed to making a difference in the world. Colleges want to admit students who have a vision for their future and who can contribute to their campus and society.

How Can You Gain More Leadership Experience?

If you feel like you don’t have enough leadership experience, don’t worry. There are plenty of opportunities for high school students to gain leadership experience. Here are some ideas:

  1. Join a Club or Organization: This is a great way to gain leadership experience. You can start by being an active member and then work your way up to a leadership role.
  2. Volunteer for a Community Service Project: This not only gives you a chance to give back to your community but also provides opportunities for leadership experience.
  3. Start Your Own Club or Project: If you’re passionate about something that’s not already offered at your school, start your own club or project. This shows initiative and strong leadership.
  4. Take on Leadership Roles in Sports or Other Extracurricular Activities: Being a junior treasurer in the Boys Scouts, team captain or a club president are great ways to show leadership.
  5. Look for Internship Opportunities: Some organizations offer internships to high school students. This can be a great way to gain leadership experience and learn more about a potential career path.

Remember, colleges are looking for well-rounded applicants who can contribute positively to their community. So, take advantage of the many opportunities available to you and start building your leadership experience today!

How to Pursue Leadership Positions and Activities

If you want to show leadership experience in your college application, you need to pursue leadership roles and activities that match your interests, goals, and strengths. Here are some tips on how to find and pursue leadership opportunities:

Explore your interests

Think about what you enjoy doing, what you are good at, and what you want to learn more about. Then look for clubs, organizations, or programs that align with your interests.

For example, if you love sports, you could join a sports team or coach a youth league. If you love music, you could join a band or choir or start your own. If you love science, you could join a science club or participate in a science fair.

Seek out challenges

Look for opportunities that challenge you to grow and learn new skills. Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone and try something new.

For example, if you are shy, you could join a debate team or a drama club. If you are not good at math, you could join a math club or take an advanced math course. If you are not familiar with a culture, you could join a cultural club or study abroad.

Take initiative

Don’t wait for someone else to offer you a leadership role or activity. Instead, create your own opportunities by proposing new ideas, projects, or events. For example, if you notice a problem in your school or community, you could come up with a solution and organize a campaign or a petition.

If you have a passion for something that is not offered in your school or area, you could start your own club or organization. If you have a skill or talent that you want to share with others, you could teach a class or workshop.

Be consistent

Leadership experience is not something that you can achieve overnight. It takes time and effort to develop and demonstrate your leadership skills and qualities. Therefore, it is important to be consistent and committed to your leadership roles and activities.

Don’t just join something for the sake of putting it on your resume. Instead, choose something that you genuinely care about and stick with it for at least a year or longer. Show that you are reliable, responsible, and dedicated to your cause.

Ways to Show Leadership

Showing leadership can take many forms. It’s not just about being the president of a club, but also about how you delegate tasks, how you handle challenges, and how you inspire others.

Even if you’re a student who doesn’t fit the traditional “leadership” mold, there are many forms of leadership that colleges appreciate. Here are few facets of leadership to help you brainstorm:

1. Your Life

One way to display leadership is by making independent decisions in your life. Think about the choices you’ve made and the responsibilities you’ve taken on.

Whether it’s managing your time effectively, overcoming personal challenges, or pursuing your passions, explain how these decisions have shaped you as an individual and demonstrate your leadership qualities.

2. Your Family

Leadership doesn’t have to be limited to school or extracurricular activities. Your family life can provide opportunities to exhibit your leadership abilities. Do you take a leadership role in caring for older siblings or grandparents?

Describe your responsibilities and the impact you have on your family dynamics. This demonstrates your ability to take charge and support those around you.

3. Your Friends

Being a leader among friends can highlight your ability to organize and motivate others. Are you the friend who takes the initiative to plan outings, try new activities, or participate in group projects?

Share examples of how you encourage your friends to step out of their comfort zones and foster a positive group dynamic. This not only demonstrates your leadership skills but also shows your ability to collaborate and inspire others.

4. Your Classroom

Within your academic environment, there are opportunities to exhibit leadership skills as well. Have you taken on leadership roles such as being a class president, coordinating group projects, or leading class discussions?

Provide insights into how you effectively guide your peers and contribute to the learning environment. These experiences highlight your ability to take charge in academic settings and display your leadership potential.

5. Your School

Leadership at school can extend beyond formal leadership positions. Get involved by organizing events, volunteering for tutoring sessions, or contributing to the school community in other ways.

Such initiatives demonstrate your proactive nature, organizational skills, and commitment to making a difference. These experiences also exhibit your ability to work collaboratively with others towards a common goal.

6. Your Community

Engaging in activities that benefit your local community is another avenue to display leadership skills. Whether it’s volunteering as a tutor or organizing fundraising events for a local organization, these experiences exhibit your sense of responsibility and dedication to improving the lives of others.

Highlight the impact you’ve made and the challenges you’ve overcome while demonstrating your leadership development.

7. Your Job

Even if your job may seem ordinary, it can still serve as a platform to demonstrate leadership. Explain how you approach your job with a willingness to learn, work effectively with a team, and tackle tasks efficiently.

Highlight your ability to take ownership, contribute to the success of the organization, and manage responsibilities. This not only displays your work ethic but also demonstrates your commitment to personal and financial growth.

Where Can You Showcase your leadership in Your College Application

Once you have pursued some leadership positions and activities, you need to demonstrate them in your college application in a way that highlights your achievements and impact. Here are some tips on how to display your leadership experience in different parts of your application:

Extracurricular Activities and Resume:

The Common App & Coalition App have dedicated sections where you list all of your academic achievements, activities, awards, and honors. When listing your leadership positions and activities (in the dedicated “Extracurricular Activities” section), make sure to include the name of the organization, your position, the dates of your involvement, and a brief description of your responsibilities and accomplishments.

Use action verbs and numbers to quantify your impact. For example, instead of saying “Led a club”, say “Founded and led a club with 20 members that raised $5,000 for charity”.


Your essay (your personal statement on your Common Application) is where you tell your personal story and show your personality and voice. When writing about your leadership experience, make sure to provide specific examples that validate your leadership skills and qualities.

Explain what motivated you to pursue the leadership position or activity, where you’ve had to allocate resources, what challenges you faced, what actions you took, what results you achieved, and what you learned from the experience.

Use anecdotes and details to make your essay vivid and memorable. For example, instead of saying “I was a team captain”, say “As a team captain, I had to motivate my teammates to practice hard, communicate effectively, and overcome our differences. One time, we had a crucial game against our rival school, and we were losing by 10 points at halftime. I gave a pep talk to my team and reminded them of our goals and strengths. We came back in the second half and won by 2 points”.


Your interview is where you have a conversation with an admissions officer or alumni and show your interest and fit for the college. When talking about your leadership roles you’ve had, make sure to prepare some examples that display your leadership skills and qualities.

Use the STAR method to structure your answers: Situation (describe the context), Task (describe the goal), Action (describe what you did), and Result (describe what you achieved).

Be confident and enthusiastic about your leadership experience, but also be humble and acknowledge the contributions of others. For example, instead of saying “I organized a fundraiser”, say “I organized a fundraiser for a local animal shelter that was struggling due to the pandemic. I recruited 10 volunteers, contacted local businesses for donations, created flyers and social media posts, and set up a booth at the school fair. We raised $3,000 for the shelter and helped them buy food and supplies for the animals”.


Leadership experience is one of the most important factors that college admissions officers look for in applicants. It shows that you have the skills and qualities that colleges value, such as initiative, creativity, communication, collaboration, adaptability, and resilience. It also shows that you have a passion and a purpose for what you do, and that you can contribute to their campus and society.

To show leadership experience in your college application, you need to pursue leadership activities that match your interests, goals, and strengths. You also need to present them in your resume, essay, and interview in a way that highlights your achievements and impact.

Here are some key points to remember:

  • Explore your interests and look for clubs, organizations, or programs that align with them
  • Seek out challenges and try something new or difficult
  • Take initiative and create your own opportunities by proposing new ideas, projects, or events
  • Be consistent and committed to your leadership positions and activities
  • List your leadership positions and activities on your resume with action verbs and numbers
  • Write about your leadership experience in your essay with anecdotes and details
  • Talk about your leadership experience in your interview with the STAR method

And here are the key takeaways:

  • Leadership experience is crucial for college admission.
  • Holding a leadership position is about demonstrating qualities of a great leader, such as emotional intelligence, communication skills, and the ability to manage time effectively.
  • Your college application is the perfect platform to showcase your leadership experience.
  • Leadership is not just about holding an official title. It’s about making a difference, inspiring others, and leaving a positive impact.
  • There are plenty of opportunities for high school students to gain leadership experience.
  • Presenting your leadership experience can set you apart from other applicants and increase your chances of getting admitted to your dream college.

By following these tips, you will be able to show leadership experience in your college application and impress the admissions committee.

Remember, leadership is not just about positions, it’s about taking initiative, inspiring others, and making a positive impact in the world around you.
Also see: The Best Verbs to Use for Resumes and Leadership Essays

Share the knowledge