How to Campaign for Student Council
If you’re a high school student thinking about college admissions, you’ve probably already done a bit of research into the factors that are weighed on your college application. You also probably know you’ll need to list your extracurricular activities and achievements. But have you considered how these activities and achievements will be weighed?
As college admissions committees evaluate the quality of your extracurricular experiences, they will look largely for signs of dedication and signs of leadership skills. If you’re involved in student government, this is good news, since student government requires both dedication and leadership skills from its participants. Achieving a leadership position in student government is even more convincing evidence of your dedication and commitment, so it can be a great boon on your college applications.
Often, these student leadership positions require that you take part in an election. Running for any office isn’t easy since you have to put yourself out there to be judged by your peers, but doing so is a great way to gain leadership experience. If you’re thinking about campaigning for a position in the student government, this is the post for you. In this article, we will outline how to plan and run a successful campaign for student body elections.
Here are seven essential steps to successful campaigning in the student body election.
1. Lay the Groundwork Early
While it’s certainly possible to come seemingly out of the blue and take an election by storm, that’s more common on the big screen than it is in real life. You’re better off laying a solid foundation early on if you intend to make a serious bid for a leadership position.
You can show that you’re serious about serving your school community by getting involved during your earlier years of high school and sticking with it over time. Gradually build up your experience so that a leadership position is the next logical step in your involvement. You will gain not only valuable experience and insight into how student government runs, but also connections with the peers and faculty with whom you’ll be working.
Laying the groundwork early also means being friendly and personable to your peers not only in the months leading up to the election, but also in the years prior. If you want to be a leader and a voice for your classmates, you’ll need to establish yourself as trustworthy and relatable. Your peers need to feel like they can communicate with you about their desires and needs at school. To create this level of comfort, you’ll need to start building your reputation early. The trust you establish over time can’t be faked in just a few months.
You’ll also need to learn about prerequisites for running for student council. Some schools have stringent standards that must be met including minimum GPAs, lack of disciplinary infractions, or provision of teacher recommendations. Be sure that you can meet these requirements before you put any serious effort into moving forward.
2. Set a Budget
It’s most likely that you’ll have to pay for your campaign out of your own pocket, so it’s best to set a budget in advance to ensure that you control costs. Even small expenses can add up to surprising sums over time.
Consider how much supplies will cost for posters, buttons, stickers, or any other campaign materials that you might hand out. Price out different options to ensure that you’re getting a good deal or solicit donations of office supplies from local stores to help control costs.
Also think about setting some money aside to thank your volunteers. Treating them to some donuts or even a few pizzas at the end of the campaign is a great way to express your appreciation.
3. Create a Mission
You can’t run a campaign without a clear vision of what you stand for and intend to accomplish as a student leader. Create your own mission statement early on and return to it throughout your campaign to stay true and accountable to your beliefs.
In order to create a mission statement, consider what you will do as a leader that is unique. Think critically about what issues matter most to you and what changes you will make. Discuss with various student groups which areas they perceive as being most in need of change and weigh that input also.
Think carefully about the difference you will make as a leader and use those goals as the platform for your campaign. Make these ideas to central to any and all campaign materials and communications.
4. Build a Team of Volunteers to Help
The nature of student elections is very social, so it makes sense that you won’t be able to conduct a successful campaign by yourself. You’ll need a whole team of helpers to spread your message, lend a hand, and donate their time and energy towards your cause.
Compile a group of friends and like-minded peers to help with your campaign. Try to get students involved from broad social groups so that you can have many voices to draw on and a broad audience for them.
Your team can help with everything from posting about your campaign on social media, to creating posters, to spreading the word verbally. Expanding your reach so that as many students as possible know about your campaign and the mission behind it should be a primary goal. You’re bound to attract more voters if they know what your campaign is all about.
5. Use Social Media to Your Advantage
Gone are the days of limiting your efforts to plastering posters all over the school and handing out cupcakes. The social media age has made it easier than ever to connect with your peers, and you need to capitalize on this as much as possible.
Create a Facebook page for your campaign where you can clearly outline your objectives and the reasons you’re running. Use it to interact with potential voters, answering any questions that might arise. Post messages, photos, and videos to align with your mission.
Also publicize important events on your Facebook page. Keep users engaged by posting general information that readers might find helpful, even if it isn’t specifically related to the election. Occasionally posting information about SAT registration deadlines, school dances, or upcoming sport or theater events might be of interest to your audience. If your site can be a valuable resource, you will find that more students interact with it.
Also consider creating an Instagram account that is linked to your Facebook account. This may garner an even broader reach. Make up your own hashtag and encourage others to use it too. Increase your visibility online by interacting with other student groups and pages.
6. Run a Positive Campaign
The current political climate in our country can sometimes get a little nasty, but you’re best off keeping your campaign positive. In general, and particularly at the high school level, negative campaigns have a tendency to turn people off. They are uncomfortable, give off a bad vibe, and can even make you appear mean or untrustworthy.
Instead, avoid slander and negative campaign techniques by focusing your efforts on building yourself up, rather than putting others down. Come up with a catchy campaign slogan that captures some of the positive things you intend to do in office. Build trust by running a mature and clean campaign.
If another candidate tries to slander you, rise above it. You can either ignore it completely, or acknowledge the concerns in a factual and brief statement before moving on. Don’t linger on negativity and don’t fall into the trap of lowering yourself to those standards, either. Build a campaign based on your own strengths and positive traits, not on the deficiencies of others.
7. Spread Your Word
The most effective way to gather voting support is by making sure that as many people as possible hear your message. By using some of the techniques above, like building a diverse campaign team and using social media, you’ll be able to get your message out there. But there are plenty of other ways to accomplish this, too.
Consider making posters to hang up around campus or flyers to hand out. Make buttons that supporters can wear or put on their backpacks. Create stickers featuring your campaign slogan or make a video outlining your mission. Make sure that every piece of campaign material clearly contains your name and the office that you’re running for—you don’t want there to be any confusion when voters are filling out their ballots.
Another idea for spreading the word about your mission is to organize and host a Meet the Candidate event. Get permission from your school to hold an informal gathering in a public space, like the library or an empty classroom. Schedule it for a time when students are generally available, either right after or just before school. Make yourself available to answer questions from any potential voters and hand out campaign materials, like stickers or buttons. Though it’s not entirely necessary, students will be more likely to attend if you are handing out some kind of freebie.
Alternatively, social media makes it possible to host these kinds of Q&As virtually. You can do a Facebook Live video to stream your answers, or simply respond in real time by typing your responses.
Running for any type of office can be a little intimidating. You are basically asking your peers to judge your ability to serve them. Don’t let it get to you, though. Student council elections can sometimes turn into petty popularity contests, but this isn’t their intention. By running a positive, well-planned, mature campaign, you will communicate that you are both ready and eager to stand up for your classmates and do the job to the best of your abilities.
If you’re thinking about running for student council, but aren’t sure if you have what it takes or are just feeling a little nervous about putting yourself out there, consider the benefits of the CollegeVine Near Peer Mentorship Program, which provides access to practical advice on topics from college admissions to career aspirations, all from successful college students.
For more about student government and developing your leadership skills, see these CollegeVine posts:
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