Leadership Tips for College Students

Mar 22, 2023 5 Min Read

Photo by Alexander Mils

"Being a leader is about setting your ego aside and working toward the greater good."

The college years are a great time to develop leadership skills. There are so many opportunities to join various organisations and take part in projects that allow you to step into this kind of role. You'll also be exposed to many kinds of people, a valuable experience that prepares you well for life after college when you will continue to come into contact with people from a variety of backgrounds. The suggestions below will help you make the most of these years.

Think About Meaning

What does leadership mean to you? It's important to consider this question, and it's also important to allow yourself to be flexible in how you interpret it over the years. Your definition may change over the years that you're in college and then in the years that follow that, but there are a few important principles to keep in mind. 

This may interest you: A Student Guide: The importance of Leadership

woman placing sticky notes on wall

Above all, being a leader is not about glorifying your own accomplishments. Instead, it's about setting your ego aside and working toward the greater good. You need to have the ability to inspire others and be adaptable enough to change when new information or ideas come your way. Reading some books about great leaders can help you clarify your definition and give you a foundation to build on.

Paying For Your Degree

For some, being able to go to college at all can seem like a big hurdle because of the cost. However, one of the first things you should learn as a future leader is how to approach challenges without getting discouraged. When it comes to the costs of getting a degree, there are many ways to pay for it, including federal aid, grants, scholarships and savings. 

Explore: 10 Degrees For Future Leaders

man wearing academic gown

You can also take out Earnest private student loans, which may not have the same limits on them as federal loans and can help make your education possible. Working while you're in school can also offer you a great opportunity to develop your leadership skills. It's a bonus if you can get a job in the industry you hope to work in one day, but even if that's not the case, learning more about working as part of a team and what motivates people will serve you well in the future.

Group Projects

Even in the dynamic of online learning vs in person learning at least one of your classes if not several will include the requirement to work on a group project. Some people dread these because if you aren't careful, these end up being situations where one or two people do all the work. However, what this represents is an opportunity.

people sitting down near table with assorted laptop computers

Rather than taking on too much of the workload and doing all or most of it yourself, what if you delegate? How can you get people excited about doing their portion of the project? Figuring out the answers to these questions and putting them into practice can teach you a great deal that will be valuable in both life and work in the years ahead.

Be sure to not miss this: How Student Leadership Programs Can Help You Build a Career

Student Organisations

Various student organisations also provide excellent leadership opportunities. Some of these will be organisations related to various professions while others will be service based, centred around a hobby or largely social in nature. Join the ones that appeal to you most and then push yourself a little to join one that's outside of your comfort zone. Embracing new experiences like this can improve your empathy for others who are in situations where they don't feel entirely comfortable and build your confidence. In the ones where you are more comfortable, you can become president or take an important role in some other capacity.

Read more: How to Ensure Your College Years Are Put To Good Use

Campus Jobs

There are probably also paid opportunities at your school to take on roles that allow you to act as a kind of mentor or advisor to younger students. As a resident advisor, you would live in a dorm and be responsible for the younger students who also live there, coordinating social activities and acting as a mediator when conflicts arise. Another position might be as an orientation leader, someone who works with rising freshmen during the summer when they come for short visits to help them prepare for the school year ahead. These types of jobs will help improve your general interpersonal and communication skills.

Supplementary reading: The Skills Needed to Future Proof Your Career

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Jenna is a corporate relations specialist with over ten years of experience in employee relations and brand development roles. She is a dedicated volunteer within the disability advocacy space and loves to bake and run marathons.



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