As you start to think about college applications and consider the weight that extracurriculars will have on yours, you are probably beginning to wonder what exactly colleges look for in terms of extracurricular activities. In general, college admissions committees want to see candidates who have shown great dedication by sticking with activities over a prolonged period and candidates who have shown significant accomplishment within their activities, whether by successfully competing, gaining recognition, or achieving leadership positions.

There’s no doubt that extracurricular activities play an important part in college admissions, and becoming the president of your extracurricular club will give you a leg up on other similar candidates. Not only does being the club president serve as a testament to your dedication and your ability to take on real responsibility, but also it speaks to your success through the eyes of your peers.

But how do you go from being a regular member of the club one year to the club president the next? Is it even possible if you haven’t had a leadership position in the past?

In this post we’ll outline how you can demonstrate your leadership skills, gather support from your peers, and lead a strong campaign for club president. We’ll also offer some alternatives for those who either aren’t elected or appointed to a president or other top leadership position or who choose not to run/submit their names for consideration.

Read on to learn more about being elected club president.

Building Leadership

Your first step to becoming club president is establishing trust in your leadership among the other members of your club. You should conduct yourself in a respectable and mature manner as soon as you join the club. Even if you never think you might someday want to be a leader in your club, there’s really no excuse for not taking it as seriously as other members do.

As long as you’ve served as a good role model and consistently taken care to complete the work asked of you, there’s no reason for anyone not to trust you. But this trust isn’t built overnight. If you have never taken much interest in leading anything in your club, or worse, if you’ve been a poor role model, it’s going to be much more difficult to convince others that you are taking this role seriously and are genuinely capable of it.

To build on the trust you’ve established, start to take on more responsibilities within the club. Volunteer for work that needs doing and try to lead the way in making boring or mundane tasks interesting and fun. People will remember if you can turn a neutral or even negative experience into a positive one.

Think of any boring or undesirable responsibilities of your club and turn them upside down by incorporating new or unique elements. For example, if your drama club is responsible for moving all of the chairs and tables out of the cafeteria before you can use the space to practice, crank up some music and turn it into a dance contest. Who can do the best shimmy and shake while carrying a chair? Making a dreary task like this fun can create lasting, positive memories and foster a sense of community.   

Getting to Know Club Members

If you’ve been in the club for a while, you probably already know many of its members. Start by reaching out to your friends in the club and letting them know that you’re interested in becoming the club president. Ask for their feedback about issues that they see as important to the club. Start to compile a mental (or written) list of these things.

Once you get a little more comfortable discussing it, move past your friends to other club members who you may not know as well. Ask how they see the club, where they see areas for improvement, what they like about it, or about anything else they seem eager to discuss. It’s important that club members know you are taking their opinions into consideration and that you value what they have to say.

Similarly, make sure you also build a strong relationship with the club’s faculty adviser. There are often outside factors that will affect your ability to make decisions or effect change, and your faculty adviser will have valuable insights about these. Sometimes, the faculty adviser has sole responsibility for appointing the club’s president, so in these cases your relationship with this mentor becomes even more important.

Learning the Club’s Election Procedures

This is another topic you should discuss with your club’s faculty adviser, since these procedures can vary widely. For example, in some clubs you will need a friend or other member to formally nominate you if you want to be eligible to run for president. Other clubs might allow you to nominate yourself, and in others, there is no formal nomination process and candidates simply announce at some point that they’re interested.

In some clubs, there is no official election process and instead, club leadership is appointed by the faculty adviser or the current club leadership. In this case, the process for becoming the club president relies more heavily on the relationships you’ve built with these leaders and the responsibility and leadership you’ve already exhibited. There is not a ton that you can do to campaign for a position if your club does not hold elections. Instead, you’ll need to focus on building your relationship with the decision-makers, and expressing your honest desire to serve the club.

Whatever the case is for your club, be sure that you know the formal procedure so that you can prepare ahead of time and not be surprised by any red tape that might exist.

If you do need to be elected president and you require someone else to nominate you for president, be sure to specifically ask a friend in advance if he or she would be willing to do so for you. You should be prepared just in case to give a quick summary of why you want to be the club president and what issues you view as most important.

Writing a Meaningful Speech

Many clubs will have some kind of formal campaign speech that is delivered by presidential candidates sometime before a vote is taken.

You should take this speech very seriously. It might be the only chance that you get to address the club as a whole in the days leading up to the election. Plan carefully and practice. You will want to make sure that you sound natural and confident, rather than forced and nervous.

When writing your speech, try to be as genuine as possible. Most people can tell when you are simply saying what you think they want to hear. Instead, speak from your heart.

Open your speech with a specific example of a time that this club helped you to learn, grow, or achieve. Then expand your example to discuss why this club is so important to you, and how you view it as important to others as well.

Use the body of your speech to discuss the issues that are most important to you, and base this section off of the conversations you’ve had with group members. You can even cite specific issues brought to you by group members, and how you plan to address them. Detail any changes you intend to pursue and talk about why you believe you’re qualified to do this.      

Conclude your speech with a vision for the club’s future. This should usually be consistent with the club’s current direction and mission, and should show your ability to pinpoint areas in need of change or improvement. Be sure to thank everyone for their time and for their input. Let them know that you are interested in hearing from each and every one of them.

Campaigning

This might start before speeches or may primarily take place afterwards, depending on the timing of your election.

The purpose of your campaign should be to let others know that you are running for president, and briefly why you are running. Basically, you need to communicate why the club is important to you and how you hope to improve it. Aim to do so in very few words. This is where thinking of a catchy campaign slogan comes in handy.

You can advertise your campaign with posters around the school, ads in the school newspaper, or announcements during school meetings or on the school’s PA. Be sure to keep your school’s election climate in mind as you plan your strategy. If club elections are generally very low key, you don’t want to be plastering the entire school in posters. Try not to overdo it, as this can turn people off.

Another good way to campaign is to enlist the help of friends. Ask your friends to reach out to other friends. Give them a quick summary of points they can make to support your campaign. This is one case in which the power of peer pressure can be used positively. 

What If You Don’t Become Club President?

If you lose, do so graciously. No one likes a poor loser, and just because you have not been elected president does not mean that you are without options to become a leader in your club. If you can lose with dignity and respect, you leave doors open.

It’s likely that other opportunities exist for leadership. Instead of being the club president, you might become the treasurer or secretary. If those aren’t official roles, you can offer to take them on as a volunteer.

Alternatively, create your own unofficial  leadership position. Offer to plan fundraisers or a fun, new field trip or other activity that your club has never done before.

While the position of club president looks impressive on your college applications, it is not the be-all and end-all that some make it out to be. Other leadership roles are just as important, and you may even be able to show extra initiative if you are able to create a niche for your leadership skills where none previously existed.

If you’re interested in taking on more leadership positions in school but need some more direction getting starting, CollegeVine’s Mentorship Program is a great way to figure out your passions, decide which leadership roles are the best fit for you, and how to pursue them strategically.

To learn more about extracurriculars in general, check out these great CollegeVine posts:

To learn more about student leadership, take a look at these CollegeVine posts:

Kate Sundquist

Kate Sundquist

Senior Blogger at CollegeVine
Kate Koch-Sundquist is a graduate of Pomona College where she studied sociology, psychology, and writing before going on to receive an M.Ed. from Lesley University. After a few forays into living abroad and afloat (sometimes at the same time), she now makes her home north of Boston where she works as a content writer and, with her husband, raises two young sons who both inspire her and challenge her on a daily basis.
Kate Sundquist