Freshman year is a time of exploration. Students are getting acclimated to high school and hopefully getting curious about which extracurricular activities excite and inspire them.

By sophomore year, students are familiar with the flow of high school, and while their studies may be challenging, tenth grade is often a bit of a lull before a rigorous junior year. Many sophomores have also identified two or three extracurricular activities that seem like a particularly good fit; this is when the seeds of leadership begin to emerge.

Leadership in Process

Leadership is a slippery term to define, but it starts with deepening one’s involvement in a particular area or activity. As sophomores gravitate toward the activities that are most meaningful to them, other extracurriculars will fall away. This frees up additional time and energy, allowing students a greater level of participation in their extracurriculars of choice.

Sophomore year is a year of transition in many ways, and leadership roles are no exception. Students may find that official leadership titles (team captain, student body president) are often reserved for upperclassmen, but that’s not because juniors are magically more prepared to lead than sophomores. Rather, those students who eventually become leaders start laying the groundwork well before junior year.

As a sophomore, leadership might look like volunteering for extra duties in a club, putting in your best effort at every team practice, or bringing an idea for a new initiative into your next student council meeting. Leadership begins with deepening your commitment and taking on a greater level of responsibility. Learning to be a leader is far more important than (and comes before) holding an official title.

Leadership and College Applications

Some students and parents mistakenly believe that collecting leadership titles will help students “check the right boxes” and boost their college applications. On the contrary, admissions officers are more interested in students who are truly invested in their extracurriculars (even if that’s one or two activities) than those who submit a laundry list of club memberships and team positions.

Colleges are also open to alternative forms of leadership that might not come along with a traditional title. You might display leadership as a volunteer in your community or by starting your own project outside of school. An older sibling who cares for younger brothers and sisters certainly has some lessons about leadership to share.

Whether your approach is traditional or alternative, it’s valuable to take some time in sophomore year to reflect on how your current activities are helping you grow as a leader. You’ll be able to articulate that growth to colleges down the road, but more importantly, you’ll identify directions for your future development.

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