Student Council and Student Government 101

group photo of students
Madeleine Karydes
Madeleine Karydes

Madeleine attended UC Berkeley and double-majored in English and Media Studies. She is now an integral part of the Empowerly team.

For many high-achieving high school students, applying to student council seems like a natural addition to your schedule. As an officer, you can have a say in the event planning and development of your high school. Plus, it probably looks great for college apps… right? Well, it definitely can highlight your application strengths. However, there are a few key steps you need to take to make the most of your experiences. Don’t worry, Empowerly is here to help! Do you hold a position in student government at your school? Let’s review what colleges want to know about your activities.


Student government organizations go by many names. At my high school, for example, it was known as ASB: All Student Body. At other schools, it may be called Student Council, Student Government, or something else entirely. These organizations vary in their size and impact. The main point is that high school students elect their peers to represent the student population in decision-making. These elected representatives serve a variety of positions, including Class President, Co-President, Secretary, Treasurer, and more. Responsibilities may include leading campus announcements, planning events like Homecoming and Prom, and discussing potential changes to the school format.

Now that we understand what the activity consists of, let’s make it count for college apps! Here, we discuss the pros and cons of adding student government to your schedule in high school. With every extracurricular activity, you’ll want to weigh your options to understand if you’re spending your time wisely. The same goes for holding a position in student government.

Is Student Government Good for College Apps?

The strong aspects of holding a position in student government include: 

  • Demonstrating leadership, through election by your peers
  • Taking initiative above and beyond to participate in your campus community
  • Building strong relationships with your supervising teachers
  • Serving your peers, taking responsibility for outcomes 
  • Practice coordinating logistics and collaborating with other officers
  • Demonstrating interest in public service and operations on an institutional level

Each of these elements can demonstrate desirable characteristics in your application. Even better, you can probably ask a teacher you worked with for a letter of recommendation, since they know how you work outside the classroom! 

Finally, student government is a great addition to a humanities or social science focused application. For those of you looking at majors like public policy or political science, this can be a strong way to expand your interests and experiences.

Is Student Government a Waste of Time?

On the other hand, there are reasons why someone might choose to not participate in student government. Some colleges view student government positions as not important, depending on the kind of work you’re able to do. For this reason, participation in student government just to have another title (or coasting by, and not leading any initiatives) can be easily dismissed as unimportant.

We don’t recommend spending all of your extracurricular time on student government at the expense of other activities. This is even more true for students who are not following a humanities or social sciences path. For those students, spending your after-school time on more relevant subjects is a better move. Nonetheless, this extracurricular can pay off if it’s meaningful to you.

How Can I Make the Most of My Student Government Position?

Still unsure if student government is right for you? Of course, feel free to discuss with an expert college counselor whether this activity fits your goals. If participating does make sense for you, great! This activity can bring students focus and purpose. Here are tips on how to get the most bang for your buck:

  • Quantify your projects (take note of student attendees, total money raised, or any tangible impacts on the school).
  • Keep your personal reasons in mind; if you’re there to gain or practice certain skills, be sure to volunteer for projects that will help you along.
  • Take initiative for “owning” and leading a few projects that you can talk about in-depth in an interview.
  • Use every opportunity to demonstrate your strengths & talents so you can connect your personal narrative cohesively in your applications.
  • Remember specific instances where you grew or made an impact on someone; that would be a great essay topic!

To Review

All in all, student government is a great way to gain hands-on experience with humanities and social sciences in action. It’s a strong way to build up your extracurricular profile, and can demonstrate great leadership characteristics. However, make sure you are being intentional with your time in order to make the most of your experiences! 

Remember, Empowerly is a fantastic resource to help you make these kinds of decisions and weigh your options. Our college counselors are experts in the college admissions process. We would love to tell you more about our program and how it could work for you. Book a conversation below to get the details!

Questions? Let us know!