Starting a high school club is a great way to create your own leadership opportunity, but there are some moves that come off as insincere or unfocused to admissions officers. Let's talk about crafting a mission statement that ensures long-term impact, and demonstrates evidence of your genuine drive.
Founding a high school club demonstrates initiative to a college admissions officer. A new club pretty much guarantees you a leadership position like President, giving you the opportunity to practice and season leadership skills, and furthering your extracurricular profile. Practicing leadership also gives you great managerial and people skills for college and career readiness.
Hang on- there are a few speed bumps to navigate when considering starting a new club.
Your school and your college admissions officer may have suspicions that your main motive for proposing your club is for the formulaic admissions boost- that you have no genuine passion for said club or for developing leadership. If the club is established too late into your high school career, or seems thrown together haphazardly to level up your application, it may come off as insincere.
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Founding a high school club your senior year, for example, won’t take you very far. Beyond developing your own leadership, cultivating club membership, activities, fundraising, service projects, working towards mission goals, and working through kinks, takes multi-year time. Cramming development of a high school club during your senior year may only indicate that you suddenly felt the need to pad your extracurricular profile in an ill-informed fashion.
Come senior year, it’s best to redirect that ambition into extra focus spent on one of your existing projects or activities, not a whole new one. Senior year is a great time to tie up stories neatly, but not to begin new chapters of your autobiography.
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High school chapters of national organizations
One way to start a club that carries weight, legitimacy, and a network of support is to look into forging a high school chapter of a national organization or non-profit. This indicates that you have a connection with a wider cause, and want to rally your peers to support that organization.
For example, if you like to volunteer on build sites with Habitat for Humanity on weekends, you could ask the regional volunteer coordinator if they have a process for establishing a high school chapter. Starting out as a volunteer for an organization independently, and then evolving your involvement by forging a club shows a clear sequence of growth.
Another option to consider is starting a club that has an academic competition attached to its finish line, like National History Day, or a specific Math Olympiad. The broader competition adds a clear preparatory agenda for the purpose of the club.
If you start a hobby-based club, partnering with a local annual event is a good idea. For example, your K-pop dance club at school could partner with the annual Bay Area K-pop Convention and prepare choreography for performance at the convention each year. The point is- there ought to be a culminating event to showcase the club’s work in some tangible way. It’s satisfying to work toward a goal, plus it will keep your club members focused, goal-oriented, and attending meetings.
Volunteering or non-profit clubs
If you start a service-based club, focusing on one or two organizations that you want to support through service or fundraising is a good way to focus your mission. Clubs like Rotary and Interact usually choose 1-2 non-profits to support per year, rather than spreading themselves too thin, ensuring impact.
Fundraising towards a culminating project with tangible evidence of success is a great project for a club to undertake. For example, fundraising towards building a clean water system for an off-the-grid village or solar paneling for a school is the type of project that has a discrete finish line, but continues to improve and impact lives long after you’ve graduated. Starting a community garden for an urban school that doesn’t have close access to fresh veggies is a meaningful way to sustain your impact long term.
Start your club
- As a freshman, explore existing clubs and identify any clubs that are not offered that you may like to start. If there are a number of sufficient clubs that interest you, join in, be an active and vocal member, and run for an officer position as a sophomore.
- As a sophomore or junior, perhaps you’ve decided to found your own club because a hobby, service project, or academic area of interest of yours is not already represented by an existing club at your school. Think about the national or local organizations you could reach out to in order to partner or create a sister high school chapter for. Reach out to said org.
- Have a discrete, tangible finish line in mind. Are you working towards a public performance? Fundraising for building a facility or resource? Practicing incrementally towards a competition or tournament? Define your proposed club’s mission statement with this action item attached.
- Ask your principal’s office or school registrar about your school’s process.
Most schools require
❏ A teacher to agree to be a sponsor for your club.
❏ A mission statement and name for the proposed club.
❏ Signatures from at least 10 interested students who would join.
❏ Your school may have other regulations so definitely check in with the principal's office.
❏ Final approval from school administration.
You should think about leadership positions for your club, beyond President or co-President. Define these roles after you’ve defined the mission statement and possible organizational partnership.
Create roles that make sense toward serving the mission of the club. For example, a club dedicated to preparing a math whiz team for an olympiad has pretty different needs from a club dedicated to fundraising and organizing service projects. You don’t have to stick to the traditional formula of President, VP, Secretary, Treasurer.
Do you need a community outreach officer to be responsible for emailing and calling your partner organization? Do you need a curriculum developer to make math flashcards or research robots to build? Do you need a volunteer coordinator? Perhaps you need a social media marketing officer. Consider the needs of your club and craft roles accordingly. Four to five positions are sufficient. Delegate tasks to committees of members to take on needs that officers don’t have covered.
These leadership positions can be valuable for recruiting members who’d also like to practice and showcase their own goal-orientation. Non-officer members should also feel involved and able to influence club activity by voicing their ideas and volunteering their skills towards reaching the mission.
Make it count
Your club needs to have at least 15 members who come to meetings pretty steadily. The more, the merrier, admissions office-wise. The more appeal and commitment your club generates, the greater leadership you get to practice and flex. Recruiting 25 or more members boosts the profile of the club higher than a 15-person club.
Attendance of members for a new club is usually strong at first, but a few might taper off later. Keep members enthused by working towards a mini tangible challenge in the first 2 months of the club. Set up a practice tournament, film your choreography on Tik Tok, or host your first off-site service project and take plenty of fun photos. Not-yet-members will be so jelly.
Good luck creating your club! You've got this!