Be a Leader

A lot of random bits of lingo get tossed around when people discuss what top colleges look for in a student. One of the hardest to define is that ubiquitous little word: leadership. 

Well, actually it’s not that hard to define. The Merriam-Webster dictionary calls it “the office or position of a leader” (exciting!), the “capacity to lead,” or “the act or the instance of leading.” 

Personally, I like the second definition, because that’s the one that matters for rock-star little seventeen-year olds. The capacity to lead – that’s everything, if you think about it. What’s an SAT score if it doesn’t give a quantitative description of one’s capacity to achieve more? What are essays if not an opportunity to exhibit how well you communicate to others, an essential quality for a good leader? 

Now, something a little more useful. How can a dumpy little backup singer fifteen-year old become a rockstar seventeen-year old? Well she’s got to start showing her “capacity to lead,” mainly by throwing herself headfirst into very man “acts or instances of leading.” 

What’s the key verb here? Lead. Lead lead lead. Joining clubs and community service projects absolutely do NOT show the capacity to lead. They show the ability to follow. Oh sure, they make you a sweet, wonderful, fun all-around person, but these are not the verses of a poem called “Leader,” little lady. Take my word for it, if you want to be considered for admission to the very best schools and the very best scholarships, you’ve got to step out in front of the crowd and raise your voice. 

Personally, however, I believe that the actual most important word when it comes to showing true leadership is…dun duh duh dun dun dun duhhhhh…creativity. Don’t start a new recycling club if your school already has one. Create a student-run recycling business that actually turns a profit and donates the money toward building schools in Sichuan. Don’t start a student literary magazine. Start a blog that accepts submissions from students all over China, then turn it into a real, live book that will loom with silent stateliness over your Harry Potter collection. 

Think of it this way: if everyone in your school knows your name, most people like you, and a few people say bad things about you, you’re probably on the right track. If nobody knows you, well then little emperor, you’re no leader.

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