College admissions officers are now looking beyond grade point averages and test scores when considering students for admission. More than ever, students seeking entry to college have to make special efforts in order to distinguish themselves as highly qualified applicants. Establishing yourself as a strong leader can add tremendous value to your college application, helping you to stand out even in the most competitive applicant pool and giving you tools for success in your college career.

Speak With Your Guidance Counselor

Finding a leadership position on your own can be challenging if you don't know where to look. Your school guidance counselor is one of your most valuable resources as you begin to think about the transition into college after high school. Guidance counselors are trained to assist students in individualized areas like career planning and the exploration of personal strengths. Utilizing your guidance counselor as a go-to source will give you an ally and thought partner when determining the best leadership assignment for you. Oftentimes, a school's counselors act as liaisons with community partners and businesses looking for ways to help students maximize their potential. Having a discussion with your guidance counselor about your leadership goals can give you the opportunity to tap into these resources.

Extracurricular Activities

College admissions officers are looking for your level of commitment and genuine contribution to your extracurricular activities. Instead of spreading yourself thin over dozens of activities, focus on a few that mean something to you. Being involved with a school organization over time helps to build your skills from year to year, and gives you the opportunity to set leadership goals. Elective classes such as band, choir, journalism, athletics or dance give students the chance to try out, perform or produce products, allowing them to stand out from others taking the course. These built-in opportunities are great places to look when seeking a leadership role. Work with your coaches or teachers to establish realistic leadership goals in your extracurricular activities. Ask for their input on how to meet and exceed expectations as you work to become a successful leader.

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Volunteer Organizations

According to a study conducted by, a social change non-profit organization for youth, and, a website about preparing for college, 70 percent of admissions officers prefer that students commit to one cause or organization while completing their volunteer hours. Becoming invested in a particular volunteer organization can provide you with opportunities to take the lead on projects that come along throughout the year. Make sure that your volunteer coordinator or supervisor knows about your interests in leadership. Show your supervisor that you have what it takes to lead by writing a proposal outlining your potential leadership plans within the organization. This impressive move will allow your volunteer organization to see your high level of commitment, and it makes you an attractive candidate for leadership as opportunities arise.

Be an Entrepreneur

You don't have to wait until you have graduated from college to become an entrepreneur. Creating your own opportunity for leadership is an exciting way to learn how to lead and get the attention of admissions committees simultaneously. With organizations such as Junior Achievement teaching students of all ages work-readiness and entrepreneurship, thousands of high school students have tapped into their business savvy to start their own businesses and in turn, create leadership experience for themselves. Take inventory of your strengths and interests and don't be afraid to start something new. Whether you are organizing a team of friends to tutor elementary students or leading family members on an initiative to coordinate a recycling program in your neighborhood, being an entrepreneur and creating your own opportunities for leadership is sure to enhance your college application.

About the Author

Based in Houston, C.P. Brown is a writer with experience in children's fiction, poetry, the arts and education. Her work has appeared in the "Houston Chronicle" and various poetry publications. Brown is the founder of a nonprofit organization that promotes fine arts and a former charter school administrator. She holds a Master of Education from Harvard University.