Student Council: The Election Guide for Student Leaders

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When it comes to extracurricular activities that make a positive impression on colleges, student council is near the top of the list.

Not only does it impress the admissions team, but student council also prepares you for experiences you’ll have in college and the real world.

Participating in student council, also called student government, builds leadership, communication skills, problem-solving, responsibility, and more.

In this ultimate guide, we’ll discuss the benefits of student council, how to get appointed, and what to expect.

What Is Student Council?

First, what exactly is student council?

Student council is a group of students elected by their classmates to organize activities and address student concerns and interests.

  • The structure of student council varies by school. Many high schools have a separate council for each grade level (freshman student council, sophomore student council, junior student council, senior student council).

Some schools, particularly larger schools, also have a school-wide student council that organizes major events.

Benefits of Student Council

There are many benefits to participating in student council.

Being actively involved in your school gives you the opportunity to make changes you’d like to see, and you’ll get to meet people you may not have met otherwise.

In addition, student council is a valuable leadership experience that will help you develop important life skills.

  • Colleges like to see student government on your resume because it indicates that you are a leader who gets involved on campus.
  • Admissions officers will interpret this as a sign that you’re likely to make valuable contributions to their campus as well.

Your student council experience can also help you develop a variety of career skills, including:

  • Communication
  • Problem-solving
  • Delegating tasks
  • Organization
  • Teamwork
  • Budgeting
  • Planning/coordinating events

In short, student council is an interesting and rewarding experience that helps you build skills you’ll need in college, the workforce, and life. And of course, it doesn’t hurt that it makes a powerful addition to your college resume.

What You’ll Do on Student Council

In general, it is the student council’s responsibility to:

  • Enhance communication between students and school administration/faculty
  • Represent the views of the students on matters of concern
  • Promote respect and positive values among students
  • Support the development of the school and school culture
  • Plan events and fundraisers

Your specific experience as a member of the student council will depend on your role. Below, we’ll look at the various positions and what you can expect from each.

  1. President – The president must plan and lead student council meetings, including assigning tasks to the other officers. They also lead and organize student activities and represent the student body when meeting with faculty.
  2. Vice President – The vice president assists the president with his or her tasks and steps in if the president is absent or unavailable.
  3. Secretary- The secretary keeps the student council organized by taking meeting notes (called minutes), keeping records of important discussions and decisions, and managing important documents.
  4. Treasurer – The treasurer is responsible for managing the student council’s funds and expenses. He or she keeps track of finances and works with the president and vice president to create budgets for events and other expenditures.

If you like to lead and speak in front of others, being the student council president or vice president might suit you.

  • However, you’ll also need the ability to work well under pressure and handle criticism—after all, not everyone will be on board with every decision you make.

Do you have great organizational and writing skills? Consider running for secretary. Are you responsible and good with numbers? You could make an excellent treasurer.

As you decide what position to run for, you should also keep in mind that being elected secretary or treasurer is easier than becoming president or vice president. This is especially true if you don’t have previous campaign or student government experience.

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How to Get on Student Council

Student council positions are determined by student votes. To earn a spot on your school’s student council, you’ll have to campaign. Depending on the school, you may also need to give a campaign speech.

Your campaign can include the following:

  • Designing and hanging flyers or posters with your name, the position you’re running for, and a catchy slogan
  • Choosing a main campaign message: What would you like to accomplish while on student council?
  • Spreading the word by talking to your friends and classmates about why you’d like to be elected
  • Handing out buttons, pencils, or stickers with your name on it (depending on the rules of your school)

Think about what would make you vote one of your classmates onto the student council. You would probably want to vote for someone you like, trust, and believe will make a positive difference in your school.

To show other students that you’re this type of person, you’ll have to get out there and mingle with your classmates.

  • Introduce yourself, share some of your ideas for improvement, and ask your peers what changes they would like to see at school.
  • Don’t make promises you can’t keep, but show a genuine interest in their responses. Smile and be polite and friendly.

You should also think about the impression you’re making in class. Are you a dependable student who turns work in on time, treats others with respect, and performs well academically? These factors can indicate that the school is in good hands with you.

Making a Campaign Speech

As mentioned above, some schools won’t require you to make a campaign speech. Other schools will expect you to make a speech either at a live assembly or via video broadcast. Of course, this experience can be nerve-wracking.

Below, we’ll discuss tips for writing a campaign speech. But first, here are some general tips for effective public speaking:

  • Practice. Before giving your speech, practice with friends, family members, or even in front of your mirror. The more you practice, the more confident and prepared you’ll feel.
  • Speak slowly. We all tend to talk quickly when nervous, so slow it down and enunciate your words. And speak up—you don’t want people having to strain to hear what you’re saying.
  • Pay attention to your body language. Stand up straight, keep your hands out of your pockets, and try to avoid fidgeting, playing with your hair, etc. It’s fine to make gestures with your hands as you talk, but they should be purposeful gestures rather than nervous gestures.
  • Make eye contact. Speeches are more powerful if you can make eye contact with several members of the audience as you speak. If this is too intimidating, you can look slightly over the heads of the crowd. This can give the impression of eye contact.
  • Smile! Most speeches are somewhat formal, but you want to come across as friendly and likeable. Smile, and don’t be afraid to make a couple of well-placed jokes too. (In this case, after all, your audience is your fellow high school classmates!) As a bonus, smiling makes your voice sound more upbeat and confident.

Your campaign speech should be brief. If the school gives you a time limit, be sure to follow it.

If not, your speech should be no longer than 2-3 minutes. If your speech is any longer, you risk losing your audience’s attention.

  • Start by introducing yourself and the position you’re running for. Even if you think most students know your name, you want to be sure all students know who to look for on the ballot.

Next, explain why you’re qualified for this student council position.

  • You can mention both skills and experiences that indicate you’d be a good fit.
  • For example, “I was the Spanish Club treasurer for two years and have never made below an ‘A’ in math class. I’m also responsible and trustworthy.”

You can also state some of your main goals and how you will accomplish them. Repeat the same message that you used when talking to other students about your platform. If you found that many students had some of the same concerns or ideas, you may include these in your speech as well.

End with your name and campaign slogan (if you had one). This will help students remember you, particularly if your slogan is catchy or clever.

Advice from a Former Student Council Leader

Suzi Kutcher, a publicist at Ramsey Solutions and marketing all-star, loved her time during her tenure on student council.

She spoke to our team about her successes and advice she’d offer current students. Here’s her input:

How Suzi Got Involved

It’s been almost 10 years since I was involved in student council. Back then, it was a club that I treated like a religion and is still credited with some of my favorite memories. I first got involved in 2004 as a sixth grader in middle school.

After being elected Treasurer (2006) then Vice President (2007), I had the opportunity to attend my first state student council conference with the South Carolina Association of Student Councils. From that moment on, I was HOOKED.

What Suzi Accomplished

By 2011 I ended up being elected Student Body President of the largest high school in South Carolina (Wando High School) and was also elected (the first woman in over 10 years) as the State Student Council President which meant I planned the state conference that year at my high school.

  • The relationships I formed then are still some of my most-cherished friendships and useful connections.

After graduating from the University of South Carolina I pursued a career working for Walt Disney World and Walt Disney Studios. Today, I am now a publicist for a very well-known personality in the Personal Finance space.

Suzi’s Advice for Students

  • Go to the conferences: So much of being in student council goes unrewarded or unacknowledged. The times where your dedication and hard work really go noticed is when you’re offered a coveted conference spot.
  • Getting to fly/drive/travel to wild locations to meet like-minded individuals and learn and C.A.S.E. (Copy And Steal Everything) ideas from other schools across the world is SUCH a unique experience.

By going to the conferences – yes, even in the middle of Summer/weekends I found college roommates, best friends, and got to see new parts of the country.

As a publicist, you’ve got to be VERY comfortable talking with strangers – from celebrities to some weirdos – you engage with all kinds. Let me tell you – there is no better training for that than a student council conference.

  • Be the first to arrive and last to leave: In my role as student body president, I had to arrive at school every day by 7:30 am and quite often would be working on things until 6 pm.

It was in these off hours that I really grew to appreciate the people working there next to me. It was also these times that some great memories with principles, coaches and of course my student council advisor.

  • Have fun: As a senior, I let a lot of power go to my head and forgot to enjoy that last year of high school. I passed-up time with friends for time leading service projects or craft supply trips – I forgot to make time for other things in my life.
  • You don’t always have to be the leader: Looking back on my student council experience, I, of course, experienced a lot of drop-off and fading interest from those I worked with. I didn’t see then that those people didn’t need a leader, they just needed to feel included – and that has been a takeaway I use to this day.
  • College student government and high school student council are NOT created equal: After being so involved in high school, I wanted to be a part of the college’s student government. After being rejected (yep, rejected) from the Freshman Student Gov program, I found myself in the very boring role of deputy chief of staff.

I joined because I wanted to still plan pep rallies and custodial appreciation gifts. What I found was very boring hours of sitting in meetings talking about legislation and student election violations.

I wasted precious time that freshman year because I didn’t realize what it was I loved about student council and failed to research the organizations that performed those duties on a college campus.

Final Thoughts: The Student Council Guide

Student council is a great life experience and resume booster. You’ll represent the student voice in communication with administration and faculty, plan and host major events, and be a leader among your peers.

Running for a position on student council can be a scary experience, but it’s also enjoyable and rewarding. Win or lose, you’ll learn a lot in the process.