Leadership training gives kids a leg up on college applications

leadership trainingWith so many kids these days applying to college and searching for scholarship dollars, you apparently have to do something to stand out. Our family has always been big into volunteer activities, and my husband and I have assumed leadership responsibilities for many of these. So at the beginning of their junior year, we began a deliberate effort to give our twins some leadership skills. With some gentle coaching to help them develop ideas, CLASS was born.

CLASS stands for Community Leadership and Student Service. It is the brainchild of our two children and their best friend. All three of them are active in sports – our twins are the number one seed boy and girl, respectively, on their high school team, and their friend has been a starting player for all four years of high school, as well as captain, of the football team. They took their love of sports and decided to develop a sports day camp for inner-city children.

We walked them through the steps of starting a project, but really tried to let them make the decisions. Because our church does a tremendous amount of work in the inner-city, they met with the pastor of our church who is responsible for urban ministries. He in turn got them hooked up with the director of a community center in what is perhaps the poorest neighborhood of our very large city.

They encouraged their friends to participate and even got some businesses to give them seed money. The project really took off as they took pride in what they were doing. Almost 20 teenagers volunteered at the camp, and about 50 inner-city children participated. It was a huge success and left an incredible memory with the volunteers! It was also a good lesson because yes, they did get invaluable leadership experience and something great to write about on college and scholarship essays. But they also learned that frequently when you give of yourself, you get so much back. I don’t think any of them will ever forget those sweet little children.


I’m telling you all this not just to brag on our children (and I am very proud of them), but to also say that competition is stiff. From everything I’ve read and everyone I’ve talked to, you have to do something to make yourself stand out. Maybe it’s community work, maybe it’s a 36 on the ACT, or perhaps you’re the star of the track team. Echo boomers – the children of we baby boomers – are going to college in droves. Now schools are demanding higher test scores and GPAs, and they’re looking for the real stars. Making a deliberate effort to be that star seems to be a great idea.

Well, we are in the midst of sending out scholarship applications. I am an extremely organized person who lives with an incredibly unorganized family. Therefore, it was a delightful surprise to see my daughter get herself organized about applications. She made packets for each of the people she is asking to write recommendations. In the packet, she included an informational sheet about that particular scholarship and the website address, her high school resume, her transcript, her college application essay and a three-minute DVD of the CLASS daycamp. She has made it as easy as possible for the folks writing the recommendations. My son, on the other hand, has not been as organized. He did write a super essay for the College of Business freshman scholarship offered by his university. Hopefully, we will hear something soon.

And Mom? I am getting more sentimental by the day as the weeks toward graduation fly by. Last week, they brought home the order forms for caps and gowns. The reality of the empty nest is really setting in! The reality of the empty bank account is also looming!


Applications and Admissions