What If You're Not a Leader?

Colleges love applicants who are leaders.

This collegiate desire to find leaders doesn’t jive with the fact that most teenagers — or Americans of any other age group — just aren’t leaders.

But here’s the good news:  A teen doesn’t have to be the president or v.p. of his or her class to be considered a leader. In fact, teenagers can qualify as leaders without ever running for anything.

To explain how teens can pull this off, I’m going to share the experience of my daughter Caitlin, who actually is a natural leader, but she never had any interest in running for any position.

So what did Caitlin, who is a college senior, do? In high school, she pursued two interests that she’s always loved — soccer and arts & crafts, but she managed to turn them into leadership opportunities.

Leadership opportunities

Caitlin played club soccer for many years, but in high school she also coached a little girls’ soccer team one season and she coached a boy’s team the next. While in high school she also started to ref games for the club soccer league in San Diego. Reffing and coaching obviously demonstrated her leadership ability.

And what about arts & craft?  Caitlin contacted an assisted living center near our house and she asked the activity director if she could create some scrapbooks for the facility. She figured the center probably had plenty of pictures of the residents and she was right. She put together scrapbooks for the center and also began decorating the facility’s bulletin board.

What brings tears to my eyes is remembering a widower at the center, who approached Caitlin and asked if she could make a display of his late wife’s mementos from her many years at the Red Cross.  Caitlin found a frame and then displayed the keepsakes behind glass. The elderly man was incredibly touched.

So what’s the moral of this story?

Teenagers should follow their passions and the leadership part will take care of itself.

Lynn O’Shaughnessy is the author of The College Solution and she also writes a college blog for CBSMoneyWatch. Follow her on Twitter.

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  1. It’s great that your daughter turned her passions to leadership opportunities!
    I definitely had no leadership to show on my college application…I have a passion for writing and could churn out a pretty nice admissions or scholarship essay, but writing seems like such a solitary talent. 🙁