If there’s one thing you should take away from reading our previous blog posts on extracurriculars, it’s that the quality of your activities should trump quantity. But what exactly defines a “quality” extracurricular? And what steps can you take to turn a low-commitment extracurricular into a stunning addition to your resume? Check out our guide to cinching leadership roles in your extracurriculars that will take your application to the next level.


In this blog post, we’ll talk specifically about how to improve your application by advancing to leadership positions in activities in which you’re already involved to some degree. For example, if you’re  part of your school’s debate team, but don’t always make it to the practices or competitions, your participation likely won’t make a very valuable addition to your application. However, a  leadership role on the team can make a big difference. It shows dedication, commitment, talent, and those indefinable leadership skills that colleges always claim they’re seeking in applicants.


If you have a few extracurriculars in which you’re involved, but not particularly dedicated, your application won’t be the best it can be. Read on for tips on how to turn these activities into impressive leadership roles that will catch the attention of admissions committees.


Show up! This seems like a no-brainer, but can be a little tricky to execute. In order to really be successful in an extracurricular activity, you need to make it a priority. If you’re not fully committed to an activity, it’ll be first on the chopping block when your schedule fills up: with your science project due Thursday, and big soccer game on Saturday, it looks like you’ll need to skip Science Olympiad this week. That’s all well and good if you’re just looking for a participation award, but if you want to excel or add a leadership position to your application, you need to put the activity on the same level as your other commitments, your social life, and even academics in some cases.


Of course, you should only prioritize activities within reason; we’re not advising you to abandon all your homework assignments and social engagements to dedicate yourself to writing the best expository speech in Earth’s history for your speech team. However, if you want to succeed, the activity has to be more than an after-school time filler.


Take initiative. If you want to demonstrate to your coach, team captain, or club advisor that you’re really interested in a leadership role, you need to do more than just show up. Going above and beyond by organizing meetings, extra practices, or new projects can show you have the passion and capability to be an effective leader.


Though it can feel awkward to set up an extra practice or propose a fundraising project if you’re not already in a leadership role, chances are those in charge will see your initiative as a sign of promise, not as an imposition.


Network. If the team captain, club president, or staff advisor is directly responsible for selecting students for leadership positions, don’t be afraid to introduce yourself (if you aren’t already acquainted) and let them know you’re interested in a leadership position. You can also ask those already in leadership positions about their responsibilities and experiences in the role. Doing so will demonstrate that you’re genuinely interested in the position on its own merit, and not just as an addition to your resume. In general, it doesn’t hurt to establish a relationship with the person in charge of appointing leaders; they’re more likely to go with someone they know than someone who hasn’t even taken the time to introduce themselves.


If leadership positions are elected, rather than appointed, make an effort to get to know your electorate. Don’t just hang back during meetings or practices and hope people will come to you. Establish yourself as a friendly, outgoing individual that your peers can approach for help, feedback, or even just a chat. Developing a rapport with your teammates or fellow club members can make a big difference come elections season  – years of political science studies tell us people vote with their guts, not their brains, and being well-liked is often the key to success.


It’s common knowledge that colleges aren’t just looking for sharp students: they want the best and brightest minds that will go on to be pioneers of their fields, and a big part of being successful is having leadership skills. Rising through the ranks of your academic or athletic team, club, or service organization will not only help you develop the social skills that will enable you to be successful in college and beyond, but also allow you to clearly and effectively demonstrate these skills to admissions committees. Acquiring leadership positions can take your application from good to great – follow our guide, and you’ll be on top in no time!

Anamaria Lopez

Anamaria Lopez

Managing Editor at CollegeVine Blog
Anamaria is an Economics major at Columbia University who's passionate about sharing her knowledge of admissions with students facing the applications process. When she's not writing for the CollegeVine blog, she's studying Russian literature and testing the limits of how much coffee one single person can consume in a day.
Anamaria Lopez