College Prep

What High School Extracurriculars Will Give Me Leadership Experience?

High School Students collaborating

All high school extracurriculars will teach you leadership skills and give you opportunities to put them into practice. But if you’re looking for a little more guidance, or some specifics on how extracurriculars will prepare you to be a leader, read on. We’ve compiled a list of common extracurriculars and the leadership opportunities they’ll provide.

Keep in mind as you’re planning your high school classes and extracurriculars that colleges will want to see how you’ve gained leadership skills and experiences throughout high school. Approaching your activities with this in mind will make it easier for you when you’re filling out college applications!


Whether you’re playing team sports, like volleyball or soccer, or individual sports, like tennis singles or cross country, participating in high school sports is a great way to develop leadership skills. Don’t get too hung up on whether or not you make varsity, or whether or not you’re chosen as team captain. Instead, focus on working hard, being reliable, and encouraging others. Being a team player and putting in the effort necessary to be a great athlete will automatically teach you leadership skills and make others see you as a leader. 

Another great way to use sports to develop leadership skills is to volunteer to coach a little league team or work at a sports summer camp. You’ll be in an official position of leadership, which will give you great practice trying out your leadership skills. Not to mention, it’ll look great on a college application.


Stage productions are like huge group projects; everyone has a different function, but all are important for the success of the production. No matter what your role in the production, be you on stage crew or in the cast, you’ll have opportunities to demonstrate leadership skills by keeping others in order and giving direction that will keep everyone safe, on task, and on track to produce a great show. 

Stage performing also teaches public speaking skills. Even though your words will usually be scripted, becoming comfortable in front of an audience in a stage production will seriously improve your confidence off-stage, too. You don’t need to have a leading role or a solo to become confident in front of an audience, either; being a member of the ensemble will give you plenty of opportunities to present yourself onstage and become comfortable with performing. 


Being in a club is an easy way to gain leadership experience. You can start your own club or run for club office, the two most common ways to become a club leader, or you can assign yourself a role without election. See what your club needs to be more successful--maybe you could use more members, or more funding, or a better presence at Club Day events--and take initiative to make those improvements. Even if you don’t have an official club leadership position, you’ll begin to have leadership opportunities and be seen as a leader. 

National Honor Society

NHS is an honor roll-type society that provides leadership training, community service opportunities, and college prep support to eligible 10-12 graders. In order to qualify for admission, you need at least a 3.0 GPA and demonstrated leadership experience. It’s worth it to consider joining NHS just because of the leadership training and community service opportunities you’ll have access to, but one of the biggest reasons to join is that you’ll be surrounded by other hard-working, goal-oriented students. 

If your school doesn’t already have a chapter of NHS, you can encourage your principal to start one.

Volunteer Work

There will always be opportunities for leadership in volunteer work. Even if you’re not in an official position of leadership, volunteer organizations and projects will always benefit from enthusiastic, knowledgeable participants who can show other volunteers the ropes and make a good impression on the community. 

Look for volunteer opportunities that coincide with your passions. If you love to read, sign up to read with struggling elementary school students once a week. If you have loved ones with Alzheimers or cancer, volunteer to help at walk-a-thons to raise money for medical research. Whatever you choose to do, make sure it’s something you really care about so you’ll be inclined fully participate.

Summer Programs

You can also consider participating in summer programs that will hone your business and leadership skills. You'll learn about what makes a business successful, what it's like to work at today's top companies, and how to start a career in business. 

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