Starting A Student Organization
Updated: Apr 27
Extracurricular activities are an important part of the college application. Starting a student organization is a solid demonstration of leadership, initiative, and creativity. If no group, club, or organization reflecting a student’s interest exists at their high school, beginning one will not only fill a gap in the school community but may well extend into the future.
Founding a group takes enterprise and work but is an entirely doable and enjoyable pursuit.
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Settling for an existing student-run organization that relates to or minimally speaks to one’s passion will not deliver the gratification and purpose of starting a new one. Colleges and universities like to see leaders in their areas of interest, whether academic, athletic, or humanitarian.
The skills gained from the experience of starting a new student organization are useful in moving through high school, college, and the professional world; taking initiative and action on a passion, leadership of peers, problem-solving regarding both minor and larger issues, teamwork within a community, time management, and communication with classmates and adults are all transferrable skills that will impress the college admissions team.
Things to Consider When Starting a New Student-Run Organization
One’s interests should be clearly defined before embarking on founding a new organization. There are no limits to what an organization can focus on writing, animals, activism, a lesser-known sport, art, etc. Students should research all the facets of their interest, how it will appeal to others in the school community, and the logistics necessary to establish it at their school.
Each high school will have rules about what is required to start and maintain a student-run organization. School administrators should be able to supply the necessary information. It is often the case that a teacher or school administrator is needed to sponsor or supervise a group. Faculty members or administrators with some relationship to the organization’s theme should be chosen.
For example, a biology teacher could be paired with an organization focused on marine life. Prior to approaching a teacher or administrator, the student should have more than a general idea of the group’s purpose. They should clarify their goals and objectives and recruit members in advance of reaching out to sponsors.
The idea of the organization is the framework, and the goals and objectives are the meat of the organization. After understanding the requirements for getting started, the student should state the requirements for membership, delegate responsibilities to members and leadership, organize fundraising, and plan how to attract new members.
The initial impulse is to directly reach out to friends, but extending the invitation to other schoolmates who are interested in the organization’s purpose will expand membership. If the new group is related to an international student organization, reaching out to cultural student centers would benefit and perhaps interest both groups.
Blasting emails to interest groups and related organizations may help, as well as promoting on social media or with printed flyers and other marketing materials.
Laying a strong foundation of the organization is accomplished through several steps: creating a plan, bringing in others, obtaining an advisor, and organizing the necessary paperwork.
The college admissions team values the establishment of new student-run organizations because it exemplifies the valuable skills and behaviors of the organizer. The willingness to follow through in the early stages of founding an organization and the management of the group demonstrates a student’s passion and drive.
Run a Successful Student Organization
There are benefits of establishing and running an official and registered student organization. Founding and leading a new high school organization demonstrates initiative and follow-through in a particular subject area.
At colleges and universities, registered organizations may receive school funding for activities and events, as well as receive priority for when reserving space for meetings or events.
Maintenance of the organization is as challenging as establishing it. Keeping up enthusiasm at the grassroots level will allow the organization to take hold in the school community and grow in the future.
Running a successful student organization takes time and dedication, as well as collaboration and enthusiasm. After the organization is registered, the next step is organizing the funds to sustain it. At the college level, organizational funds can come through student affairs offices, student government, or academic departments.
Because funding from institutions can take a significant amount of time to arrive and there are no guarantees of the monetary amount, group leaders should seek multiple funding options. They should seek funding from local community-based organizations, businesses, or the city in addition to reaching out to institutional departments. Fundraising is also an excellent way to gain publicity for the organization.
In high school and college, publicity is key to not only fundraising but also to raise awareness of the organization. Participation in student organization events and showcases both advertises the group and recruits new members.
Group leadership should post flyers and on social media. They should invite teachers or school administrators to speak about the new organization prior to the school day or in related classes and support other established groups in order to make connections.
Holding an event will greatly enhance the organization’s progress. It is another opportunity to publicize further. A school magazine or newsgroup should be invited to cover the event. The event and the write-ups will show the campus what the organization is about and its role in the school community.
Maintaining participation and interest level will be difficult without events, competitions, or presentations. Participants also want to bolster their extracurricular profile, so establishing an organization’s meaning and depth will give it validity and help establish its longevity.
The group should fill a gap in the school’s extracurricular options offer activities students seek, and provide skill development, creativity, enjoyment, and leadership opportunities.
How to Start a Student Organization in College
Colleges and universities are open to the development of new student organizations because it reflects campus and student growth. The requirements for starting a student organization in college may be more involved than those in high school, but the basics are similar.
The first step is choosing an innovative name for the organization. It will build interest immediately when consulting with others for help and direction informing the group. The best way to begin is by getting in touch with the institution’s student affairs, student services, or student life office to learn about the process and paperwork necessary to establish a new group.
At any institution, completing forms will likely be the first step. A college student will have to identify a minimum number of interested students in order to move forward with creating a group. This may include identifying the president, vice president, treasurer, and secretary of the organization, or simply recruiting members. Faculty advisors can suggest potential participants and leaders of the organization.
At this level, some organizations may be closely related to external organizations. If that is the case, authorization may be required from both the external group and the institution. It is important to define the group’s mission in order to minimize overlap with existing groups. Constructing the mission and goals (called the “constitution” by some schools) is an important step and commonly entails completing a form or template.
Each institution will have different processes and logistics for forming a new organization, but the final step is always the registration of the organization. Once the group is officially registered, fundraising and fees can be considered, as well as possible events and activities.
Finally, carrying the idea of the organization from college and into the professional realm may be worthy of consideration for those seeking to start a business or run a nonprofit. This in turn would provide the organization with a professional connection.
Taking The Initiative and Having Passion
Starting a student organization in high school or in college is an excellent demonstration of initiative and passion for a subject, cause, issue, group, or field. Completing the process early on yields rewarding results for the founder, group members, and the school community.
Starting a new student-run organization and laying its foundation is a straightforward process. That process can vary from school to school, but it always requires dedication, time, and patience. Presenting and leading a club or group they care about serves the student well not only in the college admissions process but in college and beyond.
It also teaches time management and leadership and communication skills, offers experience in developing professional relationships, and fosters an understanding of navigating a multi-layered process.