How to Get Leadership Experience in High School

July 2, 2024
3 min read
Expert Reviewed


Reviewed by:

Mary Banks

Former Admissions Committee Member, Columbia University

Reviewed: 7/1/24

If you’re wondering how to get leadership experience in high school to boost your college application profile, you’ve come to the right place!  

As a high school student, it can be challenging to know where to start when it comes to gaining leadership experience in high school. Taking on additional roles and tasks on top of your extracurriculars, coursework, and other day-to-day obligations can also be a lot to take on. 

However, finding the best ways to get leadership experience for you can highly benefit you during the college application process and help you gain future work opportunities, as well as transferable skills you can use in your daily life. 

If you’re trying to figure out what exactly is considered leadership experience and the best ways to gain leadership experience as a high school student, you’re in luck! Here we cover different types of leadership experience, how you can engage in them to build your college profile in high school, and more!

Let’s get started!

What Is Considered Leadership Experience?

First and foremost, it’s essential to cover what exactly constitutes meaningful leadership experience and why it matters so much. 

While the term leadership experience can feel vague, it simply refers to your experiences in being a leader in various settings. Something as simple as being a leader of a group project or helping organize community events gives you meaningful and valuable leadership experience. 

Remember that having leadership experience doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to take on a formal leadership role. While most leadership roles will naturally give you experience as a leader, you can gain the same skills and experience without a title. 

Overall, meaningful leadership experience will help you develop problem-solving skills, integrity, firmness, empathy, resilience, effective communication, follow-through, and many more. All of these valuable skills will serve you well during college applications, interviews, and beyond. 

10 Ways to Get Leadership Experience in High School

Now that we’ve discussed what is considered leadership experiences, we’ll cover ten ways you can get leadership experience as a high school student. 

1. Volunteering 

Volunteering is an incredibly valuable and rewarding leadership experience for high school students. Giving back to your community allows you to develop essential skills that make a great leader. You’ll learn how to communicate and collaborate, solve problems, make decisions, and practice empathy and compassion. 

Even if you don’t take on a formal leadership role where you volunteer, you’ll have numerous opportunities to develop leadership skills and take initiative, all while making a positive impact on your community. 

2. Tutoring and Mentoring 

Tutoring and mentoring can provide worthwhile leadership experiences for high school students in many ways. As a tutor or mentor, you’ll learn how to communicate effectively, develop your listening skills, and empathize with others on their journey—all of which are essential to being a good leader.

You’ll ultimately contribute to someone’s growth, positively impact their academic progress, and help them set and achieve their goals along the way. 

3. Joining or Starting a Club 

Joining or starting a club in high school can give you many opportunities to take on leadership roles and gain experience. You’ll be able to step up and help organize events, all while learning how to collaborate effectively with others. 

Starting a club also allows you to support other students, giving you the opportunity to engage in leadership experiences. 

4. Take On a Passion Project 

Taking on a passion project is also a great way to gain leadership experience while diving deep into something you truly care about. By starting a passion project, you can practice your ability to take ownership and initiative–identifying a problem, cause, or interest that you want to address. 

Pioneering a project you’re passionate about will allow you to gain experience in setting goals, project planning and coordination, team building, and exercising resourcefulness. As an added bonus, you’ll also be making a positive impact and contributing to a cause that matters to you!

5. Working as a Camp Counselor 

Becoming a camp counselor can give you access to many opportunities for leadership and growth. 

You will be tasked with supervising younger children and acting as a leader, communicating with your team members and supervisors, solving problems, and adapting to changes within your work environment. 

6. Organizing a Fundraiser 

Organizing a fundraiser is another great way to gain leadership experience as a high school student. You’ll have a key role that directly influences an area that you’re passionate about. 

Just like many others on this list, organizing a fundraiser will allow you to develop leadership skills such as resource management, building teams, management, and more. 

7. Paid Work Experiences 

Paid work experiences, such as internships or summer jobs, offer valuable opportunities to develop leadership skills and acquire essential qualities like responsibility, accountability, teamwork and collaboration, adaptability, and time management.

Paid work experiences will allow you to demonstrate your capacity for leadership in a real-world setting and ultimately benefit your future professional and personal growth. 

8. Joining Student Government 

Running for your high school’s student government is a great way to get solid leadership experience. Your position recognizes you with a formal title as a student representative, but remember this title comes with great responsibility. 

As a member of the student government, you’ll be expected to advocate for your fellow students, pushing you to listen and understand the issues they’re facing. Within this position, you’ll collaborate with the student body and other members of student government, planning and organization, and many more. 

9. Take Part in Extracurriculars 

Actively engaging in extracurriculars both inside and outside of school is an excellent way to gain leadership experience as a high school student. 

Joining extracurricular activities will give you the opportunity to show your strengths as a leader and a team player, collaborate with your peers, and take the initiative to take on leadership roles. 

10. Showing Initiative to Lead in Your Everyday Activities

While the final way to gain leadership experience in high school isn’t an official position or role, it is undoubtedly the best way to gain leadership experience. 

Showing initiative to lead and learn in your day-to-day activities puts you a step above the rest. Whether it be helping a fellow student with course material or volunteering your time to help your teachers and classmates, It demonstrates that you have the inherent drive to learn and develop leadership skills.

How Important Is Leadership Experience for College Admissions?

With the college application process becoming more and more holistic, colleges aren’t only looking for students who present academic excellence. They look for students with well-rounded experiences who can contribute to their overall college culture and improve the student community. 

Having the opportunity and taking the initiative to develop your leadership skills is essential to your viability and competitiveness as a college applicant. This is why gaining the best leadership experiences in high school is of utmost importance!

FAQs: How to Gain Leadership Experience in High School

Now that we’ve covered everything you need to know about how to get leadership experience in high school, we’ll answer some FAQs!

1. What are Some Examples of Leadership Activities in High School?

Some examples of leadership activities in high school are joining student government, volunteering, starting or joining clubs, and taking on a passion project.

2. What Counts as Leadership in High School?

Leadership experience in high school can range from acquiring a formal leadership position to taking the initiative to take on leadership roles. Regardless of which route you choose, leadership experience must help you develop essential leadership skills such as accountability, empathy, problem-solving, and communication!

3. How Do You Develop Leadership Skills in School?

To develop leadership skills, it’s essential to take initiative and engage in activities that allow you to thrive as a leader. The activities mentioned above can help you–but remember that these are only a few things that can help you thrive as a leader. 

Other ways you can develop leadership skills are to simply practice them. Learn how to communicate, collaborate, and strengthen your voice while advocating for others in everyday life. There’s no shortage of opportunities to develop these skills, so keep an open mind!

Final Thoughts

While there are countless ways you can gain leadership experience in high school, it’s essential to remember that taking initiative is key to developing the skills you need to become a great leader. 

With this list, our aim is to help you discover how to gain leadership experience in high school. Remember to think outside the box. Your opportunities are endless! 

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