Opportunities for Leadership in College

Taking on a New Role Can Teach You Some Lifelong Skills

Student presenting project on tablet, to group
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College is a time to learn and grow -- both in and out of the classroom. And the longer you spend on campus, the more inclined you might become to try new things. Taking on a college leadership role can, plain and simply, be one of the best ways to challenge yourself and learn some valuable skills that you can use both during and after your college years.

Fortunately, there's no shortage of leadership opportunities in college.

  1. Be a Resident Adviser in your residence hall. While there are lots of pros and cons with this gig, being a resident adviser (RA) can be a great way to build up your leadership skills. You'll learn how to work with a team, mediate conflicts, build community, help people in need, and generally be a resource for your friends and neighbors. All, of course, while having your own room and earning some extra cash.
  2. Run for student government. You don't have to run for student body president to make a difference on your campus -- or to learn some important leadership skills. Consider running for something smaller, like a representative for your Greek house, residence hall, or cultural organization. Even if you're the shy type, you'll have the opportunity to watch leadership in action (including the good, the bad, and the ugly) during meetings.
  3. Run for a leadership role in a club or organization you're involved with. Sometimes, the smaller jobs can often help you learn the most. If you'd like to get some college leadership experience but don't want to do something campus-wide, consider running for a leadership role in a club you're involved with. You can take your ideas for what the club should be like, turn them into reality, and get some great leadership experience in the process.
  1. Take a position with your student newspaper. Writing for the student newspaper may not sound like a traditional leadership role, but it has all the tenets of good leadership skills: time management, communication skills, taking a position and standing by it, working as part of a team, and working under pressure.
  1. Run for a leadership role in your Greek organization. "Going Greek" may have been one of the best decisions of your time in college. So why not give back a little and assume some kind of leadership role within your Greek house? Think about your strengths, what you'd like to contribute, and what you'd like to learn -- and then talk with your brothers and/or sisters about how best to do so.
  2. Chair, start, or help organize a community service project. You may not have the time to assume a leadership role for the entirety of the academic year. That doesn't mean, of course, that you can't do anything! Consider organizing some kind of community service project that is a one-time gig, perhaps in honor of a holiday (like Martin Luther King Jr. Day). You'll get the experience of planning, organizing, and implementing a major event without having it take over your entire semester.
  3. Take a leadership role on a sports team or in the athletic department. Sports may be a big part of your college life, which also means that you don't have time for much else. In that case, incorporate your athletic involvement with your desire for some leadership experience. Is there a leadership role you can take on your team? Or is there something in the athletic department you can do that can help you build up your skill set?
  1. Find a good on-campus job that helps with student leadership. Are you interested in student leadership but want to learn more about it from the sidelines? Consider working on campus in an office that promotes student leadership, like the Residence Life office or the Department of Student Activities. Working with the full-time staff there can help you see what leadership looks like behind the scenes as well as how to develop leaders in a formal, structured way.
  2. Be an Orientation Leader. Being an Orientation Leader is intense. It's a lot of work in a short period of time -- but it's often an amazing experience. You'll make some great friends, really learn about leadership from the ground up, and make a difference in the lives of your campus's new students. What's not to like?
  3. Work with a professor. Working with a professor may not be the first thing that pops into your mind when you think of "college leadership," but doing work with a professor can be an amazing opportunity. You'll demonstrate that you're an intellectual leader who is interested in pursuing new things while learning important skills that you can use after graduation (like how to research and how to follow through on a major project). Leading the way toward the discovery and exploration of new ideas counts as leadership, too.
  1. Work in the campus admissions office. You may not have thought much of the campus admissions office since you were accepted, but they often offer a lot of leadership roles for current students. See if they're hiring for student bloggers, tour guides, or hosts. Having a role with the campus admissions office shows that you're a responsible, respectable person on campus who can communicate well with others.
  2. Take a leadership course! Chances are, your campus offers some kind of leadership class. It may not be for credit or it may be a 4-credit class through, say, the business school. You just might find that learning about leadership in the classroom inspires you to take on more leadership outside of it!