How To Get Leadership Experience For College Application

May 13, 2024
4 min read
Expert Reviewed


Reviewed by:

Mary Banks

Former Admissions Committee Member, Columbia University

Reviewed: 5/13/24

Learn how to get leadership experience here. We look at the importance of leadership experience in college applications and ways that you can become a leader.

Are you applying to college and wondering how to get leadership experience? There are plenty of ways to go about it. Let’s discuss. 

When it comes to securing your spot at the college of your dreams, it's not just about your grades and test scores. Admissions committees are on the lookout for well-rounded individuals who bring more to the table than academic excellence. One surefire way to make your application shine is by showcasing leadership experience. 

But how do you go about gaining those coveted leadership roles that colleges love to see? In this guide, we'll walk you through practical steps and insights on how to obtain valuable leadership experience that will make your college application stand out from the crowd. It's time to take that first step on the road to your future success.

Importance of Leadership Experience in College Applications

Leadership experience matters in college applications for several clear reasons. First, it shows that you're proactive and willing to take on responsibilities. Second, it proves you can handle challenges and solve problems effectively. Third, it demonstrates your ability to work well with others in a team. 

Plus, holding leadership roles for a while indicates your commitment. If your leadership made a positive impact, that's a big bonus. It also shows you're open to personal growth and community involvement. 

Overall, leadership experience makes you a strong candidate for college because it shows you're proactive, can solve problems, work well with others, and are committed to making a positive impact and growing personally.

Why Is Leadership Experience So Important?

Leadership experience is incredibly valuable for personal and professional growth. Here are three essential truths about it:

Leaders Are Developed, Not Innate

Leadership is a skill that can be learned and improved over time. To become a better leader, you need to step out of your comfort zone and face challenges that will help you grow. It may not always be easy, but with effort, you can become a strong leader.

When we think about great leaders, we often wonder if they were born with leadership qualities or if they learned them. Some believe that certain people are naturally born leaders because they have qualities like honesty, a strong moral compass, compassion, and care. This idea is known as the Great Man Theory.

On the other hand, many organizations invest a lot of time and money in teaching people how to be leaders. They believe that leadership is a skill that can be taught and developed. 

In the United States, companies spend billions of dollars each year on leadership training, and universities offer degree programs in leadership. This shows that leadership is something you can learn and improve through training and practice.

Diverse Experiences Matter

Not all leadership experiences are the same. Everyone has their own unique leadership journey, and each experience teaches distinct lessons. The quality, quantity, and variety of your leadership experiences are crucial. 

So, leadership development extends beyond what you put on your resume. Experiences from family, volunteering, personal hardships, and aspects of life outside of work can also enhance your leadership skills.

Continuous Growth

Leadership experience is not limited to the past; it encompasses the past, present, and future. You can revisit and reflect on past experiences to gain new insights. 

Past experiences can help you navigate current challenges, and your present experiences may prompt you to re-evaluate past ones for fresh lessons. You can actively shape your future experiences by seeking opportunities for ongoing leadership growth.

How Can You Get Leadership Experience?

Let's explore how you can gain leadership experience by offering a few tips and leadership examples for students. 

Consider Opportunities at School

When you're in school or college, there are several ways to dive into leadership roles. Joining clubs and organizations is a great start. These groups often have positions like club president or treasurer that allow you to lead and make decisions. 

You can also get involved in student government by running for elected roles, like class president or student council member. Don't forget about volunteering for committees or task forces within your school; they often need leaders for specific projects.

Seek Out Opportunities at Work

At your job, there are often chances to showcase your leadership skills as well. Look for project leadership opportunities; if there's a project that requires teamwork and coordination, volunteering to lead it can be a great way to gain experience. 

Many workplaces offer mentorship or training programs as well, which can be a valuable resource for developing your leadership abilities. Additionally, taking the initiative to organize workshops or training sessions for your colleagues can demonstrate your leadership potential.

Look for Opportunities in Your Community

Outside of school and work, your local community offers numerous opportunities to get involved. Consider volunteering for nonprofit organizations; they often appreciate individuals who can manage events, fundraising efforts, or projects. 

You can also join community boards or committees that focus on issues you care about. These positions often come with decision-making and leadership responsibilities. If you're passionate about a particular cause, take the lead in organizing community projects or initiatives.

Participate in Opportunities in Your Free Time

Even during your leisure time, you can develop leadership skills. If you're into sports or recreational activities, think about captaining a sports team or leading group outings with friends. In online communities or forums related to your interests, consider taking on a moderating role or heading collaborative projects. 

And don't underestimate the power of your hobbies and interests; you can offer to lead workshops or groups related to your passions, enhancing your leadership abilities.

Benefits of Leadership Experience in College Applications

When it comes to college applications, let's talk about how leadership examples for students can make a real difference.

1. Demonstrating Responsibility

Leadership roles inherently come with responsibilities. Whether you're leading a club, a sports team, or a community project, taking on a leadership position demonstrates your ability to shoulder these responsibilities effectively. This quality is highly valued by colleges, as it indicates your reliability and trustworthiness.

2. Skill Development

Leadership experiences provide an excellent opportunity for skill development. As a leader, you'll need to communicate effectively, collaborate with diverse groups, solve problems, and manage your time efficiently. These skills are not only valuable for college life but also for your future career.

3. Enhanced Personal Growth

Stepping into a leadership role often pushes you out of your comfort zone. It requires you to face challenges, make decisions, and adapt to unexpected situations. Over time, these experiences contribute to personal growth, increased self-confidence, and the ability to handle high-pressure situations.

It demonstrates that you can adapt, improve yourself, and handle pressure, all of which are qualities college admissions are looking for in applicants.

4. Impact and Influence

Effective leaders have the capacity to inspire and influence others positively. This ability to make a difference aligns with what many colleges are looking for in their applicants. Whether you're leading a volunteer group, a sports team, or a school club, your actions as a leader can leave a lasting impact on your peers and community.

5. Networking Opportunities

Leadership positions often offer opportunities to connect with a variety of people, including peers, professors, and alumni. These connections can be beneficial for your future academic and career pursuits. Networking can lead to internships, mentorship, and job opportunities down the road.

6. Demonstrated Commitment

Colleges appreciate applicants who are not solely focused on academics but also show commitment to causes and activities outside of the classroom. Holding a leadership role over an extended period demonstrates your dedication and passion for specific interests.

Let's say you were the president of a local environmental conservation group for two years. This extended commitment showcases your unwavering dedication to environmental advocacy. It signifies to colleges that you are not only academically driven but also deeply invested in making a positive impact in areas you are passionate about.

7. Problem-Solving Abilities

In leadership roles, you'll often face challenges and obstacles. However, these situations aren't setbacks; they're opportunities to sharpen your problem-solving and decision-making skills. These skills are essential tools that will help you not only in college but also in your future career.

Imagine leading a community project and running into unexpected problems, like a shortage of resources or logistical issues. As a leader, you have to think on your feet, evaluate different solutions, and make smart choices.

These experiences teach you how to stay calm under pressure, find creative solutions, and adapt to changing circumstances. These skills aren't just valuable for college, where you'll face academic and personal challenges, but also for your future job, where you'll tackle complex issues and make important decisions. 

8. Shows That You Care

Being a leader often means getting involved in activities that help your community. This involvement shows that you care about others and are committed to making society better. Colleges view this as a reflection of your character and values.

For example, let’s say led a tutoring program for students who may not have had access to the same educational opportunities as others. Your leadership didn't just boost their grades—it also played a part in reducing educational inequalities in your area. 

This kind of community engagement highlights your sense of responsibility and your commitment to making the world a fairer place. It's a quality that many colleges highly appreciate.

9. Helps You Stand Out

Having leadership experience can help you stand out in a competitive college application process. It indicates that you are not just academically strong but also actively involved and committed beyond your coursework.

Admissions committees review applications from hundreds of academically accomplished students. Your leadership experiences will help to catch their attention and make you a memorable candidate. It shows that you’re well-rounded, which can contribute positively to the campus community.

10. Elevates Your College Essay

Lastly, leadership experience can provide a meaningful topic for your college application essay. Reflecting on your growth, experiences, and the lessons learned from your leadership journey can create a compelling narrative that showcases your character and potential contributions to the college community.

Incorporating leadership experience into your college application can be a strategic way to demonstrate your readiness for the academic and social challenges of college life. It signals that you possess qualities and skills that colleges value in their students. 

If you have the opportunity to take on leadership roles in high school, consider embracing them; they can make a significant difference in how you present yourself to colleges. Ultimately, your leadership experiences showcase your potential to not only excel academically but also thrive as a responsible, impactful, and committed member of the college community.


Let’s take a look at some common questions about how to get leadership experience and how it can boost your college application. 

1. How Do You Demonstrate Leadership in University Applications?

To demonstrate leadership in a university application, highlight specific instances where you took the lead and made a positive impact, whether it's in a school club, internship, volunteer work, or other activities.

2. What Is the Best Example of a Leadership Experience?

The best example of a leadership experience is one where you faced challenges, made important decisions, and inspired others to achieve a common goal, showcasing your leadership skills and personal growth.

3. How Do I Write About My Leadership Experience?

When writing about your leadership experience, focus on the actions you took, the skills you developed, and the results you achieved. Use concrete leadership experience examples

and highlight how they shaped your character and abilities.

4. What Is Leadership Experience in College?

Leadership experience in college refers to the roles and responsibilities you take on within your college or university, such as leading student organizations, managing projects, or taking initiative in various campus activities. It's a valuable aspect of personal and professional growth during your academic journey.


In short, leadership experience in college is a big plus. It helps you grow, gain confidence, and learn important skills. Whether you lead in student groups, at work, or in your community, it boosts your college application and prepares you for the future. 

It's not just about leadership experience on your resume; it's about what you learn and how you make a difference. So, go ahead, take the lead, and let your leadership journey shine on your college application and in your life beyond college.

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