How to Be a Better Student Leader

Macmillan Employee
Macmillan Employee
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How to bring work to school.


It’s the end of freshman year and you’re starting to feel like you belong in certain parts of your college. Maybe you’re in a sorority, a musical group, or on a sports team. When the year starts coming to a close, the leadership roles in those groups (presidents, secretaries, treasurers, etc.) are going to be searching for replacements – and they’re looking for you! Here are five great tips to being the best student leader you can be:

Plan Ahead

If your group plans events like retreats, fundraisers, homecomings, or anything of the like, you need to make sure to plan ahead. On a college campus, you’re more likely to run into a conflict than to luckily find a day that is completely free, so start to weigh your options well enough in advance that you can choose the best date and location! For example, you probably wouldn’t want to plan a charity benefit concert the same night as the homecoming game, but you could plan the same concert for the next day to appeal to the same crowd without a time conflict! This way, you can allow for more people to come to your event, and still allow yourself to make it to other big events on campus or in the community!

Know Your Peers

On my college’s campus alone, we have over 300 student organizations – that’s a LOT of student leaders to get to know. You’ll start to recognize certain campus organizations and their leaders as the year goes on; get to know them! Peers like the student body president, sorority and fraternity presidents, or even student workers at the campus coffee shop are not only great to learn from, they’re great people to get to know in life. Chances are, if someone takes time out of their college experience to be a student leader, they’ll be great assets to you in your post-college career, too! College is the time to forge relationships that will last forever, and it’s a great way to start networking for post-graduation life!

Meet the Community!

Now that you know the students, faculty, and staff on your campus, you need to get out into the community! This is probably the most underrated step – community is EVERYTHING. Getting out into the community and meeting the town locals, politicians, and business-owners through networking events and volunteering is a great way to get to know people that can and will help you out. A side tip here: When in doubt, reach out! Nothing bad ever has ever come from someone sending a quick email or letter to a leader in the community asking to get lunch or get involved with what they’re working on. Then, you’ve grown your audience and your support network, plus you’ll have made some great connections for yourself later on in your career.

Be a Leader First and a Friend Second

It’s tough to be a peer leader. You have this constant internal conflict of wanting to do what’s right and wanting to do what your friends may want you to do. In almost all cases, you should be a leader first. I’ve learned that it’s best to periodically remind members of your organization that it is literally your job to do what’s best. For example, if one of your organization’s members is frequently late, it can be tough to be stern with them about your attendance policies because you don’t want to hurt their feelings or come off badly. Remind them that someone has to maintain the order in the organization -- it just happens to be you!

Dress to Impress

This seems like a silly tip, but you’ve heard it a million times. Sometimes the difference between you and someone less qualified than you for a leadership position or a ‘real’ job is how you are both dressed. If you are dressed as a young professional, i.e., ‘business casual’, you’ll be treated as a young professional – it’s as easy as that! Take the extra couple minutes in your morning routine to wear something that you feel good in! Not only will you be impressing your colleagues and mentors, but you’ll also have more self-confidence to perform well during the day!

In the end, if you want to be a student leader on your campus or in your community, you absolutely can be! As the old saying goes, ‘you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take’, so get involved and apply for those leadership positions!


Briar Douglas
Syracuse University

Briar is a senior Administrative Management major at Missouri State University. This summer, he is working as an Operations Intern for SkyFactor in Springfield, MO. Originally from Hannibal, MO, he loves to sing, travel, and spend time with people that he loves. He is also the President of The Beartones, MSU’s all-male a cappella group - you should check out their newest album, Odyssey, available for streaming everywhere!