5 Steps To Making Your Activity & Leadership Plan Work

We talk a lot in our i4 framework about how important it is for students to take the initiative during their high school years. Demonstrating initiative usually involves starting with an idea, then taking steps to make it a reality. Traditionally, when it comes to initiative, we think of things like founding a club or starting a new school program—but taking a formal leadership role associated with your school isn’t the only way to show initiative.

The key is to turn ideas into actions, no matter the context. Here are a few examples:

• Proposing a service project to fellow club members—like planting trees or volunteering at a food bank or homeless shelter—then reaching out to the relevant service organization to coordinate student service

• Making a new playlist and dance routine to add some fun into the daily team warm-up

• Organizing a study group for a particularly tough AP exam, with a weekly agenda to keep everyone on track

• Graduating from journal-writing to starting a creative-writing blog

• Creating a neighborhood summer camp for kids

• Stepping up to a leadership role in your faith-based youth group

• Working with a teacher to create an independent study project

• Coaching or refereeing a sport you love

• Organizing a cheek-swabbing event for the local organ-donation charity

Take the following steps to create an activity & leadership plan that works well for you:

Step 1: Know your strengths

Follow your aptitudes; explore what you’re interested in; capitalize on what you can already do well. Are you a people person? Consider running for student government. Do you write poetry? Apply for a job on the literary magazine.

Step 2: Gain experience

Be willing to pay your dues. Before you can be the newspaper’s editor-in-chief, you'll have to do significant work as a reporter. As a sophomore, you still have plenty of time to do that hard work before taking on leadership roles in junior or senior year.

Step 3: Work well with others

Good leaders have strong interpersonal skills. Be a team player. Listen to other people with openness and curiosity, ask them questions to learn more, and fulfill your responsibilities to gain their trust.

Step 4: Take action

Leaders are ready to walk the walk. Set concrete goals, then take the steps necessary to achieve them. Anyone can have a great idea, but not everyone can turn a vision into a reality.

Step 5: Resist the urge to pad your resume

Don't join a club or team unless it genuinely interests you—you might get bored and make only a feeble contribution to the organization, which a waste of time for everyone involved. College admissions committees can usually tell spot a padded resume. Instead of a laundry list of activities, they’d rather see meaningful and sustained participation in a few areas. Long-term involvement and responsibility in one or two organizations will strengthen your application, whereas being an onlooker in ten groups may not help you much.