Back to all blog posts

Should You Participate in the Student Government of Your School?

student government

When you hear the term “student government,” you might get all sorts of associations: from “mean girls” popularity contest to wide-eyed activism and unrealistic goals, but today I want to focus on the opportunities that participation in the student government opens to high school and college students. If you are already considering taking part in student council, this article might also be helpful, as we are going to explore some limitations and challenges you might face and some tips from student government veterans and current participants from different schools on how to make the most of your time in the office.

What does Student Government Do?

Many students who are not involved in the student government see it as a sort of academic club with purely information activities akin to the Model UN or debate club. However, it isn’t so! Student government has defined functions and has the power to change the life of students on campus, making it more comfortable and fulfilling. Of course, the authority of the student government association depends on each particular school, but as a rule, the responsibilities of SGA members involve the following:

  • representing the needs and interests of the entire student body, particular class (freshmen, sophomore, junior, senior), or student demographic (for example, commuter students, students with disabilities, or LGBTQ+)
  • suggesting changes to school administration in order to accommodate students better, for instance, establishing a dress code, advocating for more dietary options in the school canteen, leading anti-bullying campaigns, implementing small but meaningful improvements, such as sanitizer dispensers in classrooms, etc.
  • initiating and organizing activities that encourage class and school bonding, such as dances, proms, school spirit functions, talent contests, etc.
  • allocating funds for clubs, events, supplies, school merch, etc.
  • participating in community projects and charity fundraisers
  • former student government officers might be in charge of organizing class reunions and other alumni events after graduation.

Which Student Government Positions Are There?

There are several most common terms used for student governments and similar bodies, as well as specific positions within the government, but these are the most often used across the schools in the USA:

Student government association (SGA) – a group of students representing the entire student body who are charged with organizing events, activities, and programs, managing policies, and implementing initiatives concerning school life and student well-being.

Student council (StuCo) – another name for student government usually applied to middle and high-school organizations with similar responsibilities to SGA, however, as a rule, wielding less actual power.

In big schools with large student populations, SGA can be represented by two bodies: the legislative (senate), which is in charge of adding or changing campus policies and rules, and the executive (council), which is in charge of enforcing rules, managing student clubs, and organizing events. In smaller schools, the roles of the senate and council are combined.

Executive council – consists of leadership positions, such as student body president, vice president, treasurer, and secretary. The president should run the council meetings and represent the students in discussions with the school administration. The Vice president stands in for the president in their absence and assists the president in their duties. The secretary’s main task is keeping accurate records of meetings, activities, programs, and sessions. The treasurer keeps track of student council funds.

In larger schools, the executive council might also include a cabinet of directors in charge of particular areas (events, clubs, sports, campus publications, spiritual life, etc.)

Class councils – a subset of SGA consisting of members specific to a single class, elected from this class, and focusing on community service and activities for this class as a group. For example, the freshmen class president is elected from and by first-year students and is in charge of activities for first-year students. Additional councils may also exist to represent the interests of particular student groups.

SGA can create dedicated groups (committees, sub-committees, councils, etc.) and appoint directors, putting them in charge of specific tasks, like communication, recruiting, getting permissions, and so on. The bigger the school, the more branches there might be.

Student government members can also form campus, state, national, and international-level coalitions. For example, one such organization is the Global Student Government (GSG), founded in April 2022 after two years of preparation work. GSG aims to act as a representative body for students worldwide. According to Justin Patrick, the GSG president, the founding principles of GSG are grassroots democracy, inclusivity, and student autonomy with the view of giving students back a voice in policy decisions that directly affect them. As a newly created organization, GSG prioritizes advocacy and outreach to encourage cross-border collaboration between various student movements and groups.

Why Join Student Government?

If you have a cause you are passionate about, getting involved in student government is an excellent opportunity to advocate for it and make a difference. However, it’s not the only reason to join. The benefits of participating are manifold:

Personal growth and soft skills

Participating in student government helps you develop valuable skills: leadership, time management, organization, planning, arguing your point, advocating for others, teamwork, etc. On top of this hands-on experience, you will likely attend leadership training and other enriching events. Young people who participated in student government recall how it made them more assertive, self-reliant, confident, and organized. It’s a very positive experience that can be life-changing.

Active citizenship

Dr. Laura Ruth Johnson, Assistant Professor at Northern Illinois University and youth civic engagement specialist, stresses the importance of student government for preparing young people for future civic engagement and leadership roles. According to her, it instills a sense of responsibility, fosters a spirit of service, and cultivates the next generation of active, informed citizens.

Transferable experience

Apart from boosting your self-esteem and making you more organized, your respective position will teach you some practical things that might be very useful for your future career. Whether it’s keeping records as a secretary, accounting as a treasurer, designing posters, communicating with students to organize an event, or planning supplies procurement, the hands-on experience and skills you learn can be a building block of your career, making you a competent candidate from the start.

CV and application asset

Besides its practical usefulness, such experience looks impressive on your college and job application. Of course, this should not be your primary reason to join, but if you plan to major in administration, law, politics, and adjacent fields, student government is just the extracurricular to have on your record. Moreover, many colleges value leadership qualities and community spirit no matter the subject, so this will be a couple of points in your favor in any case.

Networking opportunities

Nothing unites people like collaboration, challenges overcome together, and shared achievements. Student government creates an environment where different people with varying sets of skills, opinions, and interests get to work as a team on common tasks. You will meet individuals you might not necessarily befriend casually and learn to appreciate their thoughts and input. This valuable experience teaches empathy and builds life-long friendships with other students, and everyone involved: community, faculty, staff, workers helping during events, parents, etc.

Chance to advocate and feel empowered

Being in a position to do something meaningful just feels good and motivating. Exercising your influence and having a say in school matters can be your stepping stone to a career in policy-making. However, even if you don’t revel in power for the power’s sake, having a seat at the table where decisions are made can be important if you represent students whose needs aren’t met, amplify their voices, and advocate for their safety and well-being. Participating in student government gives you this precious opportunity to make a difference and be a hero for your fellow students.

What Are The Downsides?

Sounds too good to be true? That’s because there is always a flipside. Here are some tradeoffs, challenges, and other things you should consider to have a balanced view of student government involvement:

Campaigning can be exhausting

To join student government, you must be elected by your fellow students. If you are reserved and don’t like to put yourself out there, running for office can be an ordeal. Talking about your strengths, describing your advantages over other candidates, meeting people, and talking about your program can sound (and be!) very daunting for someone introverted and shy. Apart from all this, there is a lot of organizing, as well as some expenses involved with running a campaign, like supplies, posters, pins, etc.

Despite all the hassle, it can be a rewarding experience that helps you build confidence. If you are anxious, get your friends to help you – you don’t have to do it alone!

It takes a lot of time and work

This doesn’t end when you win the campaign. Being a member of a student government is an official position that you must from now on combine with your other responsibilities. This depends on each particular school, but often student government constitution requires SGA members to work at least twenty hours in the administrative office per week. This includes attending regular meetings, performing your duties, raising money, etc. All this takes your time and energy away from your friends and social life and might put a strain on your academic life to the point where you might need to turn to a paper writing service to catch up.

Of course, it’s not impossible, but it will require some advanced organization and time management on your part to juggle all your responsibilities.

It might still not be appreciated

Not everyone in your school will be enthusiastic about this little democracy. Some will be indifferent, while some might even complain that the student government and its members are useless and clout-seeking. Prepare for criticism – fair, unfair, constructive, and not so much. A lot of what you do might go unnoticed, while every unfulfilled campaign promise is bound to be remembered. Former members of SGA often say that students tend to overestimate the power, time, and resources that the student government has. Expectations are too high, and meeting all of them can be impossible. School bureaucracy can make it very difficult to bring significant change. At the same time, even seemingly insignificant things, like organizing annual dances, take a lot of energy to accomplish. This might take its toll on your mental health, especially if you give your full energy to this job.

One thing that might rectify the situation is ongoing communication between SGA and the student body.

How to Get Involved?

If, after weighing all pros and cons, you decide that you want to run for student government in your school, the first thing you should do is check with a teacher, guidance counselor, or older students about various SGA positions, responsibilities, procedures, and rules for running. All this varies from school to school. A good idea is to attend an open SGA meeting to get a sense of how it functions. When you’ve made up your mind, it’s time to start planning your campaign.

Consider why you are running

Identify a problem you want to solve, a change you want to effect, or a policy you want to introduce that is important to you but also meaningful for your classmates to make it a basis of your platform. However, be realistic and don’t promise things you won’t be able to implement. Apart from issues, you can focus on your personality: your strengths and advantages. How will the school benefit from having you specifically in the SGA? Create your unique message combining both your winning sides and your cause, and package it in a catchy slogan.

Carefully review all the rules

Don’t make any assumptions, and always check. Sometimes, the rules prevent you from running for a particular position if you don’t tick all the boxes. However, if you are really determined, don’t be discouraged! Nothing is impossible if you are motivated enough. For example, recently, one girl went from being unable to run for student body president to winning the election by petitioning for a change in the SGA Constitution clause that was a barrier to her candidacy. She believed it was unfair and succeeded in persuading others.

Prepare for the “meet and greet”

In some schools, you need to collect a certain number of signatures before you can apply. Prepare cards with essential points of your campaign to persuade fellow students, teachers, and administrators to support you. This will give you something to fall back on if you get overwhelmed with social anxiety and forget the right words. You will also need to rehearse your campaign speech and practice public speaking if you want to make an impression and win votes.

Find volunteers

You will need help creating and distributing campaign materials, designing posters, writing speeches, and communicating your goals to the voters. Find people with relevant skills who are willing to support you. That’s your first leadership test: seeking out talent, communication, persuasion, and delegation skills won’t go amiss here.

Play fair and obey the rules

Apart from the application, make sure to check the rules of campaigning. Certain types of advertising, such as giving away key chains, stationary and similar small gifts with your name and slogan printed on them, might not be allowed in some schools and can get you disqualified. Also, just be decent and graceful. Don’t cover over other students’ posters, and don’t engage in petty rivalry. Instead, congratulate your opponents for the courage it takes to put one’s candidature out there and let the best one win.

Even if you don’t find it interesting or possible to get involved with your school’s SGA in some capacity, you can at least be aware of what student government and class councils do for students on campus. Just by voting for the candidate with the most persuasive and feasible platform instead of the most popular student or the one making the biggest promises, you can bring positive changes to your campus. Don’t stay indifferent – engagement fuels any democracy, student, state, or global.

Calculate Price

When you use PaperHelp, you save one valuable — TIME

You can spend it for more important things than paper writing.

Approx. price
Order a paper. Study better. Sleep tight. Calculate Price!
Created with Sketch.
Calculate Price
Approx. price
Call us (Toll Free)