According to a recent article by Ralph Becker, one of the most important aspects college admissions is looking for relates directly to “leadership.”
With the plethora of applications colleges receive, admissions officers have to analyze many items that have been submitted, including the applicant’s ACT and/or SAT scores, high school transcripts, letters of recommendation, extracurricular activities, and community service hours just to name a few.
But one thing that definitely sets an applicant apart from the rest is his or her leadership qualities.
Becker quoted a number of university admissions officers and they agree.
Former dean of undergraduate admissions at Yale, Jeffrey Brenzel, said, “We seek academic excellence, evidence of leadership, and integrity.”
A Harvard website says that the attributes for its desired candidate include, “maturity, character, leadership, self-confidence…grace under pressure.”
The admissions’ website at Princeton says, “We look for students who make a difference in their schools and communities, so tell us about your leadership activities, interests, special skills and other extracurricular activities.”
And, at Claremont McKenna College, the college’s motto is “preparing leaders.” Ronald Riggio, a Claremont McKenna College professor of leadership and organizational psychology explains that colleges are becoming obsessed with assessing the leadership potential evidenced in each application that they receive.
According to Becker’s article, this obsession with leaders suggests that these individuals are usually highly motivated and this motivation affects those around them. These leaders have specific goals in mind and possess the willpower to achieve these goals. In addition, it will often take a highly motivated leader to figure out how to take advantage of the resources a college has to offer.
Becker also mentions that currently, there are not enough leaders out there, and leadership is needed throughout all levels in society.
So how does a high school student capture this leadership skill? Becker states that a student can best show leadership through the quality of your extracurricular activities. The more involved you are, the better. The admission offices are looking for depth of involvement and an increase in responsibilities as you go through high school.
Leadership in these activities focuses on taking full advantage of what is offered. Becker suggests becoming an editor of the high school newspaper, heading up the chess club, or being the captain of one of the athletic teams at your school.
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