Leadership for College Admissions
Thomas Paine once said: “Lead, follow, or get out of the way.” General George S. Patton describes it further: “We herd sheep, we drive cattle, we lead people. Lead me, follow me, or get out of my way.” When it comes to college admissions, schools are looking for neither sheep nor cattle but leaders, and while not every student can be President of the Student Government Association, there are other ways for the college applicant to engage in activities that help develop leadership experience.
“Leadership is a matter of intelligence, trustworthiness, humaneness, courage, and discipline . . . Reliance on intelligence alone results in rebelliousness. Exercise of humaneness alone results in weakness. Fixation on trust results in folly. Dependence on the strength of courage results in violence. Excessive discipline and sternness in command result in cruelty. When one has all five virtues together, each appropriate to its function, then one can be a leader.”
Whether you participate in the A/V Club, the theater department, Glee club, or other activities that are creative in nature, there are opportunities within that structure for you to lead. Whether you write and perform a one-act play, film a documentary about a topic that interest you, organize a charity event, develop a new dance routine, there are countless ways you can lead.
“The task of the leader is to get his people from where they are to where they have not been.”
You don’t have to be the most popular person to get involved with high school politics or even the real-world politics of your city or town. High school is a great place to run for Secretary, Treasurer, Chairperson, etc. It’s important to remember that colleges are impressed by students who get re-elected and show consistency, so try to hold the same position or be involved with the same organization for three or four years. If you belong to a private academy, consider joining the Honor Board where you will enforce violations of the honor code, such as plagiarism. Outside your school you can consider getting involved with candidates running for office for the local or state level. Politicians love volunteers who visit voters, stuff envelopes, place signs, make phone calls, attend rallies and provide free help to their campaigns.
In 2002, Fraser Doherty was only 14 and using her grandmother’s recipes to make jam. People loved them so much that eventually she had to rent a a food-processing factory several times a month to keep out with all the orders. In 2009, SuperJam made $750,000 in sales. If you prefer the online world, consider the story of teen millionaire Ashley Qualls, she “started her Internet business in 2004, at the age of 14. As a graphic designer and programmer, she put together MySpace layouts for free download on the internet. Teens loved her layouts, and shared them with others. Now, her small business, WhateverLife.com, averages over 1 million hits a month, according to Alexa.com. Also, Quantcast has rated this teen’s business site higher than Oprah’s sites, CBS and FoxNews. According to a CBS interview, her Internet business income is over a million dollars a year. She bought a house for her family and paid cash, moving them out of the 1 bedroom apartment they were living in. Not bad for an initial investment of under $10.”
While it’s true that most teenagers won’t become millionaires by starting a business, colleges will admire your entrepreneurial spirit whether you work as a babysitter, landscaper, shovel snow, develop a blog, sell stuff on eBay, among many other possibilities. Consider these 10 business ideas for the young entrepreneur: http://www.youngentrepreneur.com/blog/10-business-ideas-for-the-teen-entrepreneur/
“Contrary to the opinion of many people, leaders are not born. Leaders are made, and they are made by effort and hard work.”
In Florida all students are supposed to volunteer during their high school years in order to graduate. This kind of mandatory volunteering does not impress colleges; what will impress them are candidates that have been volunteers for organizations such as Habitat for Humanity for a few years out of their own free will. So whether you have a passion for saving the whales, fighting poverty, working against global warming, leading religious missionary groups, etc, exercising that passion early will give you a chance to get to know that organization and maybe have a chance at leading new volunteers, programs, training, etc. You can also fundraise for worthy causes, such as an undersupplied library, a local class that lacks enough materials, even an animal shelter that needs more water bowls.
“Leadership: The art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.”
Dwight D. Eisenhower
It seems obvious, but if you participate in sports you are developing qualities that the great majority of universities love. Let’s face it, everyone loves an athlete, ask the high school quarterback where would he be without his coveted position? Or consider athletes without the highest GPA’s and SAT scores that otherwise might not have impressive profiles for admissions but thanks to their athletic abilities are getting offered full scholarships. Even if you don’t play a sport that helps colleges make a lot of money, your abilities and individual achievements in such sport can still be interesting for adcoms.
“To have long term success as a coach or in any position of leadership, you have to be obsessed in some way.”
Nothing teaches leadership like the military, and if you join the Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (JROTC) during high school you can develop self-reliance, patriotism, physical fitness, and achieve a higher rank if you decide to pursue a military career after graduation (as long as you participate in JROTC for 2 to 4 years). Many cadets participate in activities such as drill, color guard, rocketry or orienteering while at least two-thirds enjoy rifle marksmanship programs. If you don’t live in the United States, consider that countries like the United Kingdom, Australia and Canada have similar programs.
The very essence of leadership is its purpose. And the purpose of leadership is to accomplish a task. That is what leadership does–and what it does is more important than what it is or how it works.
~Colonel Dandridge M. Malone
In the end, in order to show leadership it is better to excel in one or two activities than to be mediocre in several activities. Remember the words of James Miller, director of admissions at Brown University: “It’s most important to do something with enthusiasm, passion and commitment.” When planning extra-curricular occupations and think of leadership opportunities, be true to yourself, find things to do that you feel passionate about and everything will come together – leadership, continuance, success in college admission and in life.