College is about far more than attending classes and earning a degree; it’s also about developing the leadership skills needed to be successful in the workforce, and in life.
- One of these skills is leadership, and there are numerous opportunities to become a stronger, more effective leader in college.
Many of the skills of a great leader, such as confidence, communication, teamwork, and problem-solving, can be practiced extensively in college.
If you want to graduate ready to lead confidently and effectively, here are seven ways to boost leadership skills in college.
1. Volunteer in the community.
In college, opportunities to volunteer and participate in community service projects are endless.
- There are clubs exclusively devoted to fundraising or working for specific charities, and giving back to the community is a cornerstone of most sororities and fraternities.
Many classes also require community service or offer students opportunities to volunteer for extra credit.
- Even if none of these opportunities are presented to you, you can easily ask around and find a variety of ways to help around the community.
These projects can include raising money for disaster relief, volunteering in high needs schools, hosting events designed to fundraise for children’s hospitals or other organizations, gathering canned goods or clothing for children in need, building houses in the community, and much more.
- By volunteering in the community, you will network and interact with people from diverse experiences and backgrounds, a skill that is necessary for any effective leader.
You can also take on a leadership role within the volunteer experience if possible, or simply take the initiative to go above and beyond what’s expected.
Working hard, developing compassion and a positive attitude, and communicating effectively with diverse groups of people will all contribute to making you a better leader.
2. Take classes related to leadership.
Most colleges and universities offer classes directly related to leadership skills, management, and/or communication.
Any of these classes can help you sharpen your leadership abilities.
- For example, the University of Florida offers a Leadership minor with courses such as Working with People: Interpersonal Leadership Skills, Leadership for Personal and Organizational Change, Communication and Leadership in Groups or Teams, and Global Leadership, as well as electives related to ethics and communications.
Some leadership classes aren’t offered for credit, but this can be a good option if you already have a full-time course load and are looking for an opportunity to fine-tune leadership skills.
Taking leadership courses is probably the easiest, most direct way to brush up on leadership skills.
You can also take related courses, such as public speaking, to address other abilities essential to solid leadership.
3. Become a resident advisor.
Being a Resident Advisor (more commonly known as an RA) is a difficult job, but there are perks such as an individual dorm room, some extra cash, and the fact that the RA life is an excellent crash course in leadership abilities.
Resident Advisors are essentially student leaders in the dorms.
- Each RA typically oversees one floor of younger students in a dorm building. They are responsible for planning and coordinating events, mediating conflicts, enforcing dorm rules, and working with a team.
Naturally, all of these responsibilities will help you build strong leadership skills.
You’ll have to communicate with your residents, help solve problems, project authority, run meetings, and more—all skills that will certainly come in handy in later leadership roles.
4. Participate in extracurricular activities and/or Greek life.
Extracurricular activities and Greek life (sororities and fraternities) also offer the chance to take on important leadership roles on campus.
You can be the president or another officer of a club or organization, the captain of a sports team, or an officer or event coordinator in a sorority or fraternity.
- If you are feeling more ambitious, you can consider running for student government.
These roles will require you to organize, communicate, coordinate, and cooperate in order to do your job effectively.
They will also give you the opportunity to interact with other leaders and watch strong leadership in action.
5. Participate in group projects.
Whether you want to or not, college will likely involve several group projects. You can use these as opportunities to practice excellent leadership skills.
- While working on the group project, you can help designate roles, organize meetings or exchanges of contact information, take the lead on brainstorming and planning, etc.
The more you communicate with others, take initiative, and practice effective organization, the more confident you will become in your leadership abilities. Although group projects are a sometimes dreaded course requirement, you can use this as another way to boost leadership skills in college.
6. Become an orientation leader.
The vast majority of colleges have programs designed for students to work as Orientation Leaders for incoming students, generally during the summer.
- These experiences are intense, because you will have to accomplish a lot of work in a short period of time. Of course, the ability to work under pressure is another skill that great leaders must possess.
In addition, you will work with a team, make a difference on campus, and learn to be a more enthusiastic and confident speaker.
Orientation Leaders are often some of the best and brightest on campus, so this also gives you the ability to network and learn from other future leaders.
7. Learn from established leaders.
Speaking of learning from other leaders, college is full of qualified and experienced mentors! You can learn from excellent professors who are leaders in their fields, for example.
- You can also volunteer or intern with established leaders in the community.
Additionally, colleges typically offer workshops or opportunities to listen to famous and influential speakers.
- You should take advantage of as many of these opportunities as possible to make the most of your college experience.
Attend workshops, volunteer with effective leaders, work as a T.A. for an especially talented professor, attend talks by motivational speakers and other successful leaders, etc.
Many of these events are covered by tuition, so it makes sense to take full advantage!
- College is a wonderful chance to learn from some true leadership masters, and you certainly shouldn’t miss out.
If you want to improve your leadership skills, college is the perfect place to do so. You can learn about communication, teamwork, confidence, organization, problem-solving and more through both hands-on experience and contact with skilled and experienced leaders.
Take full advantage of the college experience by using these seven ways to boost leadership in college.