If you are looking for ways to increase your extracurricular involvement and demonstrate leadership skills, joining student government may be just the ticket. Typically, student government is comprised of elected positions that are responsible for specific sets of leadership tasks within a high school. Different high schools may conduct student government in different ways, but they generally follow similar structures. Usually, there is a class board (or class officers) that serves a single class, as well as a student government or student council that serves the entire high school student body. There may be several different terms, positions, and duties. If you are interested in getting involved with the student government at your school, read on to find out about the different roles within a class board and student government and learn about what they entail.

Similarities Between Class Officers and Student Government 

Typically, both class officers and student government officers are elected annually and are voted into office by other students. Their essential duties are to represent the needs and interests of the entire student body or a specific grade as a whole. Exact responsibilities and positions may vary from school to school, as does the amount of actual power these positions actually wield in student affairs. For instance, some high schools may allow elected student representatives to discipline other students, while others do not.

Elected positions may give you the opportunities to initiate or get involved with projects that can have a strong impact on your and your classmates’ high school experiences. For instance, you might initiate new activities to encourage class or school bonding. You might also have the chance to influence the surrounding community as well through encouraging participation in community service and suggesting community projects (which, while not required for acceptance to most colleges, can positively contribute to your extracurricular profile, as we describe in this community service guide).

Class Officers

However, there are some differences between the two sets of government. Class officers are specific to a single class, and only members of that class participate in their election (i.e. the freshman class president is elected by other freshmen). Often, the class board focuses on community service and other activities for the class to do as a group. These activities might include class fundraisers, dances and prom, school spirit functions, and other class bonding activities. In senior year, class officers may organize senior events, and the class president might speak at the ceremony (although that depends on the procedures in place at specific high schools). At some schools, former class officers might be in charge of organizing alumni events and reunions.

Student Government

On the other hand, the high school-wide student government covers the entire student body. There are generally officer positions, but they may be less specific, depending on the school. Generally, the officers are elected by the entire student body as opposed to one class, although this may work differently according to the high school. The student government usually works on issues that affect the whole school, as opposed to a single class, such as dress code, funding allocation for clubs, and events that include the entire student body.

Which Type of Government Is a Better Fit?

Ultimately, neither the class board nor student government is “better,” and there is a certain amount of overlap in the skills used, but the different types of structures may appeal to and be better suited to different types of students.

If you enjoy planning events and encouraging community building, but are less interested in policy matters or politics, the class board might be a better fit.

If you want to have a hand in shaping or changing school policies, would like to experience being part of a larger governing body, enjoy debating, or are looking into a career or major in law, politics, or public policy, try student government. (You should also be sure to check out our guide to securing internships, since there may be relevant positions in local government available.)

How to Get Involved

Student government is a great activity to join in high school, since it uses a variety of skills and demonstrates leadership. It may be particularly appealing to ninth graders who are looking to get involved in extracurricular activities but aren’t sure exactly where to start, since it is a more general kind of activity that uses a range of skills, rather than one that appeals to one set of interests or talents. Additionally, it is an opportunity to demonstrate leadership early on and gain skills that will benefit you later. (For more information on finding clubs to join as a freshman, check out CollegeVine’s guide.)

There may be procedures for elections in place already, but if you are unsure of how to run for an office in your high school, check with a teacher, your guidance counselor, or an older student. You may also want to ask older students about what the various offices and positions are and which responsibilities are involved in each one, because they can vary a lot from school to school. If possible, try to attend an open meeting to get a better sense of how your student government functions.

Looking for more ways to get involved with your school and develop a strong extracurricular profile? Check out some of CollegeVine’s posts on leadership and extracurricular activities below.

Your Comprehensive Guide to Extracurriculars

Your Resume Revamped: Securing Leadership Positions and Perfecting Your Extracurricular Profile

How to Determine Which Clubs to Join: A Guide for Freshmen

How Much to Extracurricular Activities Matter in College Admissions

How to Effectively Balance Your Time in High School

The Ins and Outs of Pre-College Internships

What You Should Be Thinking About as a Junior: Part II—Extracurriculars and Summer Activities

The Dos and Don’ts of Joining Extracurriculars Your Senior Year

Do I Need Community Service for My College Applications?

Laura Berlinsky-Schine

Laura Berlinsky-Schine

Senior Blogger at CollegeVine
Laura Berlinsky-Schine is a graduate of Johns Hopkins University, where she majored in Creative Writing and minored in History. She lives in Brooklyn, New York, and works in publishing. She also writes, dreams of owning a dog, and routinely brags about the health of her orchid.
Laura Berlinsky-Schine

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