Welcome to College Confidential!

The leading college-bound community on the web

Sign Up For Free

Join for FREE, and start talking with other members, weighing in on community discussions, and more.

Also, by registering and logging in you'll see fewer ads and pesky welcome messages (like this one!)

As a CC member, you can:

  • Reply to threads, and start your own.
  • Post reviews of your campus visits.
  • Find hundreds of pages of informative articles.
  • Search from over 3 million scholarships.
Please take a moment to read our updated TOS, Privacy Policy, and Forum Rules.

College admissions define ‘leadership’

Dave_BerryDave_Berry CC Admissions Expert Posts: 2,351 Senior Member
"... In many ways leadership is a misnomer; it has become a throw-away term, and we easily default to a “leader of the pack” mentality where the alpha dog rules the day. It can elicit images of a drill sergeant marching his soldiers around or the captain of a ship barking out commands. But what is a leader really and how do we determine leadership potential? This is a dilemma that has stumped college admission officers and intimidated prospective applicants for ages." ...


Replies to: College admissions define ‘leadership’

  • sunnyschoolsunnyschool Registered User Posts: 605 Member
    The book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain
    explores this:

    At least one-third of the people we know are introverts. They are the ones who prefer listening to speaking, reading to partying; who innovate and create but dislike self-promotion; who favor working on their own over brainstorming in teams. Although they are often labeled "quiet," it is to introverts that we owe many of the great contributions to society--from van Gogh’s sunflowers to the invention of the personal computer.

  • FarridFarrid Registered User Posts: 3 New Member
    The comment by Sunnyschool, at 8 am Mon, Feb 20 mentions a key book. Quiet is far from just a "study of introversion". I gave this book to my introvert child for Christmas, and it affirmed that kid's sense of our American values which lean toward extroversion. But the numbers show the Quiet tendency is far from a "fringe" or slim minority. It is THOUSANDS of college kids, creators, inspiring leaders, and basically, pillars of our world, our society.
  • sunnyschoolsunnyschool Registered User Posts: 605 Member
    I totally agree @Mandalorian and @Farrid , but colleges have always been looking for "leadership". I think the article nails it because there are all kinds of leadership, not just "team captains". I think the movement from Susan Cain's book is building awareness and momentum. There are all kinds of leaders, and some leaders aren't the "look at me" self-promoting types.

    I hope colleges are factoring this in now.
  • otoribashiotoribashi Registered User Posts: 505 Member
    this reminds me of another thing..why do colleges seem to only want people who create things? someone who tinkers in their garage or made a new method of doing something..start a new club, an organization, ect. i see it all the time.. but not everyone is a creator..what if we've never created anything before?
  • dutchovendutchoven Registered User Posts: 22 New Member
    Why do colleges only seem to look for creative minds? They always look for innovative members of society, while there are people that are not as creative that are just as academically adept and suitable to the institution.
  • UndercrackersUndercrackers Registered User Posts: 429 Member
    While my D has leadership qualities (great speaker, can organize and motivate people), she has never really been comfortable in the leadership role. She usually prefers working on own her unless she trusts the person/people she's working with; group projects were a typical source of angst and frustration in HS. She has been very good about finding quiet places on campus now to recharge her batteries; the constant human interaction in classes, study groups, dorm rooms, etc., is exhausting for an introvert.

    As a parent, you want your kid to stand out and shine, especially when crafting those college apps that are so "leadership" focused. It's good to remember that not everyone was born to round up and rally the troops. Sometimes, "leadership" means showing up when you are supposed to, doing your job, and doing it well.
  • augustuscaesar27augustuscaesar27 Registered User Posts: 69 Junior Member
    To be honest, I dislike the way "leadership" has become a catch-all for every good quality. I was at a retreat for school earlier this year where the program runners scolded kids who showed up a couple minutes late to breakfast because it wasn't good "leadership". Why can't we just admit that it's great to be a leader, and it's also great to have other virtues, like timeliness? (and empathy, and the ability to listen, and a strong work ethic, and...)
  • malvernvarnamalvernvarna Registered User Posts: 172 Junior Member
    @dutchoven I expect that colleges look for these people because they will be the most valuable to the college. Colleges want students who will reflect well on the college and ultimately bring in more money, either directly or by increasing the college's reputation. They're actively looking for these "creative minds" and kids with "leadership potential" because they might be future Rhodes & Fulbright Scholars, Nobel Prize winners, CEOs, politicians, athletic stars, etc.

    Just my guess on why. I'm not saying I agree with this admission method :/
  • James2795James2795 Registered User Posts: 3 New Member
    If you are in-charge, or mentor anybody, then you are a leader. But leaders can also be followers to greater leaders. There's also the difference between a natural leader and a trained leader. I am not a natural leader, but I made it to the top rank in the Boy Scouts, I'm the oldest sibling in my family, active with several non-profits in high school and in the high school itself, not to mention Valedictorian.

    Granted, it took till I was almost 18 to be an Eagle Scout, I only have one sister, the non-profits I was with for were small and required people to wear many hats, my high school only had 120 kids K-12 and my Valedictorian distinction was earned with a GPA of 3.42, 2nd place was a 2.8. Basically, I don't want to brag on my accomplishments because many, many people would have done the same or better in my shoes. However, college was a different story. There was no course that taught such qualities, or even anything strategic or useful to being anything other than a computer drone at an Engineering firm.

    Of course, I would not be completing my argument without noting that the paths to becoming an Engineer and a politician are two very different paths, so it's different for everybody.

    Hopefully I'll have better luck on round two in the humanities.
  • Sam-I-AmSam-I-Am Registered User Posts: 544 Member
    edited February 25
    A leader is just a good follower that sticks with something (club, sport, community service, or academic subject) and is ready to step up and take a more pronounced or active role as a junior or senior. Sometimes the opportunity presents itself and can be taken . . . and sometimes not. But if a student is not continually active in something specific, or does not seek out a community to be a part of, then the opportunities to show the leadership desired by colleges will be few. My feeling is that it is best to try to find some activities that a student can pursue for all 4 years of high school. At the end of that time, hopefully there has been a chance to show leadership. If not, there has at least been the opportunity to show commitment to something. And commitment is probably as sought after by colleges as "leadership."

    At first it may seem that leadership is connoted by titles like "captain" or "president." This can be frustrating, if you are not athletic or "popular" enough to be voted into a more public leadership role. But leadership can be shown by becoming a math tutor at your school or in your community by organizing meals to be delivered to needy families through a church. One of my kids has studied Latin in high school and has gone to pretty geeky Latin festivals, but just by participating in such events has almost accidentally become a leader/tribune for her class. And Latin is pretty much known for introverts. So there are opportunities out there for all kids.

    I would avoid the negative comments about club presidents doing very little. On occasion, I have known of officers of misc. clubs being asked to tutor struggling students before or after school or coaching a school's academic team before an interscholastic competition. This is often done quietly and without publicity or fanfare. Also, I have known team captains that have organized summer practices and who have had to address questions of drinking or worst among their peers. Often these leaders are people that the high school administration relies upon in unseen ways. Just encourage your kids to be involved in school and/or community activities and they will find their own ways to demonstrate leadership when you least expect it. :D
  • sunnyschoolsunnyschool Registered User Posts: 605 Member
    ^^ Agree but there are many examples of quiet leaders too. And quiet leaders often are not looking for fame, but doing the right thing when no one is looking.
  • Sam-I-AmSam-I-Am Registered User Posts: 544 Member
    @sunnyschool, you are correct in that leaders can be quiet leaders. A person doing the "right thing when no one is looking" is a good person . . . and may also have leadership qualities. But the demonstrated leader is the person that does the right thing and also teaches others "to do the right thing."
  • mundanewarriormundanewarrior Registered User Posts: 283 Junior Member
    edited February 25
    Sam-I-Am wrote:
    A person doing the "right thing when no one is looking" is a good person . . . and may also have leadership qualities. But the demonstrated leader is the person that does the right thing and also teaches others "to do the right thing."
    Not everyone is preachy. Some just prefer to do their own thing. If someone happens to be observing and learning from them, then that's a different thing. But there are people who just don't care about the show, and do the right thing regardless of who's watching. It's all about preferences.

    As has been said above and by Susan Cain, one in every three is an introvert. Yet if you ask around, less than 20% will admit to being an introvert. What does that tell you? It's not easy being an introvert in an extroverted world. And it is definitely not easy to demonstrate leadership as an introvert on your college app. I hope admission officers look as deep as that article says.
    Titles like President for clubs means almost nothing. Those titles are given out in what is basically a popularity contest, no matter how much of a leader you are-- people want to vote for their friends!
    One hundred percent agree. Experienced this recently.
    What would a student body made up entirely of "leaders" look like?
This discussion has been closed.