“Leadership” is a major buzzword in college admissions. In scope, the word impacts applications, essay supplements, work experience, and extracurricular activities. But what do admissions officers really want to see? Furthermore, how can a student translate leadership in college applications?
Why Leadership Matters
On a scale of 1-4, with 4 being of most important value, schools like Princeton, Yale, Stanford, MIT, and University of Pennsylvania gave personal character a 4/4 in terms of importance in college applications. This specific data is derived from Empowerly‘s research. In fact, we have data that allows one to search for other factors influencing an application such as talent/ability, work experience, and extracurricular activities.
Specifically, Yale and Stanford are the top two schools focused on character AND extracurricular involvement, giving both a 4/4 in terms of importance.
This data reveals that leadership is one of the best and most impactful ways to show character and exceptional extracurricular involvement, especially for Top 50 schools. Admissions officers from these colleges want to find students who are visionary, entrepreneurial, thoughtful, inquisitive, and exemplary. In other words, students who are capable of great leadership.
What Admissions Officers Want to See
Next, these are direct excerpts from the Undergraduate Admissions websites of several Top 50 colleges. Specifically, note the similarities:
“We want to see the impact you have had on that club, in your school, or in the larger community, and we want to learn of the impact that experience has had on you.”Stanford University
“We seek to identify students who will be the best educators of one another and their professors—individuals who will inspire those around them during their college years and beyond.”Harvard University
“Decade after decade, Yalies have set out to make our world better. We are looking for students we can help to become the leaders of their generation in whatever they wish to pursue.”Yale University
“The Admissions Committee is interested in knowing the duration of your commitments as this gives us insight into the depth of your involvement and a sense of the impact you’ve made in your community. Note leadership roles and/or specific responsibilities. These details highlight your initiative and developed capacity as a leader, role model, and doer.”University of Pennsylvania
We definitely notice a common theme here. Looking closely, you can see words like “impact” and “inspire,” which highlight why “leadership” has become hot this application cycle. This is because admissions officers across Ivies, Stanford, UC’s, and other Top 50 schools ask themselves these type of questions while reviewing applications:
- How has this student made lasting change to their activity through leadership?
- Where has he inspired others with his attitude?
- How can this student bring that spirit to my university’s campus?
Moving forward: next steps
In summary, see this Empowerly blog post for more specific details on how to deepen extracurricular involvement. Evidence shows that leadership in college applications is a must for competitive schools. Admissions officers will read the applications of thousands of club presidents, captains, and elected officials. Therefore, it is not enough just to have a position. Instead, look for ways to better evolve your club or team. And finally, don’t be afraid to make changes for the better.
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