Running for Student Council

Arizona for President poster, running for president

Serving on student council at your school allows you to participate in the student government process. As a student council member, you will play a role in important decision making. However, in many schools student council members are elected positions, so you'll need to prepare for, and run, an effective campaign.

Before Your Campaign

If your school elects student council members (as opposed to appointing them), then chances are you have a campaign in your future. These steps will help you plan and create a campaign.

Step One: Learn Requirements

Many schools have certain requirements for council members. These requirements may include:

  • Grades above a certain GPA
  • The availability to attend student council meetings
  • Lack of disciplinary actions against you for a certain period

Learn your school's requirements and work to meet those requirements.

Step Two: Learn the Role of a Student Council Representative

As your campaign progresses, you will need to be able to talk knowledgeably about how you will serve effectively as a student council representative. To do this well, you need to understand exactly what your role will be. Understanding the role makes it less likely you will make campaign promises you can't keep. There are several ways you can learn more about the position.

  • Talk to current and past student council members to learn what their roles are.
  • Ask if you can observe a student council meeting.
  • Ask teachers or administrators to explain the role of student council.
  • Talk to the student council advisor.

Step Three: Apply

Some schools require applications or petitions from youth who wish to run in student government elections. The application process may include items such as:

  • Completing an application form
  • Obtaining recommendations from teachers or peers
  • Having a certain number of students sign a petition for candidacy
  • Writing an essay about how you can help in student government

If your school holds elections based on nominations and you are interested in becoming a student council representative, make it known to some of your peers that you would like to hold the office and ask them to nominate you.

Step Four: Meet Deadlines

It is very important that you meet application requirements by the set deadline in order to move forward with your candidacy.

Campaign Planning

Once you are a candidate, it's time to launch your campaign. An effective campaign requires careful strategizing.

Step One: Set a Budget

Typically, there are some expenses associated with running a campaign. Therefore, it's important to know how much money you'll have to work with before you start purchasing items for campaign materials. Set a budget that is realistic. When considering a budget, keep the following types of expenses in mind:

  • Materials for campaign buttons
  • Materials for campaign posters
  • Cost of any campaign literature you may hand out
  • Small thank yous for your campaign volunteers such as candy bars

Step Two: Find Campaign Volunteers

There is a lot of work involved in campaigning for student government. People with different skill sets can handle different aspects of your campaign. For example, a good writer can help write your speech, while an artist can help design posters and buttons. Working with campaign volunteers has an array of advantages, including:

  • Spreading the work around
  • Leveraging the great ideas and creativity of a group of people instead of just one
  • A broader network can help you make the right connections to get more votes
  • You have more people to hand out campaign materials

People who may wish to help with your campaign include:

  • Close friends
  • Siblings
  • Friends from afterschool activities such as sports or clubs
  • People in your classes
  • Your parents

Step Three: Brainstorm

Once you've gathered your team, it's time to begin planning in earnest. Start with a brainstorming session in which no idea is dismissed. During the brainstorming session, discuss and record the following:

  • Why am I running for student council?
  • How will I make a difference?
  • What advantages do I offer over other candidates?
  • What are my unique strengths?
  • What changes would I like to see made?
  • What words best describe me?
  • What is my message?

Step Four: Create Your Platform

speech

Once you have all of the ideas brainstormed, it's time to pare them down to create your platform, message, or brand. These ideas are extremely important, because you will use them throughout the remainder of your candidacy to develop everything from your campaign slogan and campaign materials to your speech.

Your directive should include:

  • Core values of the candidacy
  • How you intend to serve in your position
  • The changes you'd like to help facilitate
  • The value, skills, and knowledge you bring as a candidate

Step Five: Create a Campaign Slogan

An effective campaign slogan is simple and memorable. Good slogans tie back to the mission or platform of your campaign. To create an effective campaign slogan:

  • Make sure it reinforces your message
  • Tie it to students in your school by focusing on their values and needs (such as safer schools, more nutritious lunches, etc.)
  • Make it catchy
  • Make it short and easy to remember

Some examples of catchy slogans include:

  • Shaw for safer schools
  • When you want something done, John is the one
  • Alli is the choice that will give you a voice

The Campaign

With proper planning in place, it's time to get about the process of your campaign.

Step One: Make Campaign Materials

Using your budget, purchase the items you need to create your campaign materials. Make sure you follow the school's guidelines for developing these. The campaign materials you design need to include the following:

  • Your name
  • Your slogan
  • The office for which you are running

Campaign materials might include:

  • Posters for the halls: Make these large enough others can read them from a distance. Use neat lettering, and if possible add a little bit of an artistic flair. Keep the posters simple so other students can read them quickly in passing. The school may be willing to supply materials for campaign posters, or you can purchase them at art supply stores such as Hobby Lobby.
  • Campaign buttons: You can make these simply out of construction paper and markers. Many candidates like to tape a piece of candy to the buttons, as well. Make enough buttons that you can pass them out to all of the students in your class. Some schools have button makers that allow you to make pin badges. You can also use printer badges, such as adhesive badge labels or construction paper with double-sided tape.
  • Campaign flyers: Print one page flyers that have your name, picture, slogan, and office for which you are running on them. You may also wish to include a few brief bullet points about your platform if you have room.

Step Two: Campaign to Your Peers

In the time leading up to the election, you will need to make your peers aware of your candidacy and what it is all about. To actively campaign:

  • Put up campaign signs in visible locations.
  • Mobilize volunteers to hand out campaign buttons and flyers.
  • Be visible before and after school, at lunch, and during breaks to talk to as many people as you can about your candidacy.

When campaigning to your peers:

  • Smile
  • Be friendly
  • Be respectful
  • Be polite
  • Be well groomed
  • Share your ideas
  • Don't talk negatively about your opponents
  • Stay on message
  • Ask for their vote
  • Ask for their opinions about what they would like to see happen at the school
  • Be a good listener

The Speech

Most student council campaigns require making a speech to help voters get to know you better. While many people feel anxious at the prospect of giving a speech, careful preparation can make you successful.

Step One: Create an Outline

When writing your speech, create an outline that includes the following information:

  • Your name
  • The office for which you are running
  • Why you are running for office
  • How the school will benefit if you are elected
  • The planks in your platform

Step Two: Write Your Speech

Once you have the outline, write your speech from it. Use the following tips when writing your speech:

  • Start with your name and the office for which you are running.
  • Include a little appropriate humor if possible.
  • Use simple, direct statements.
  • Talk about why you make a good candidate.
  • Talk about how students will benefit from your representation.
  • Don't talk negatively about opponents.
  • Keep it short.
  • Conclude by thanking the audience for listening and ask them to vote for you.
  • Seek feedback on your speech from campaign volunteers, trusted teachers, friends, or your parents. Make changes accordingly.

Step Three: Practice

Once your speech is written, put it on note cards. Practice your speech multiple times until it becomes second nature and you only need to glance occasionally at the note cards.

  • Practice in front of the mirror.
  • Practice in front of family and friends so you get used to doing it in front of others.

Step Four: Make Your Speech

Speech day has arrived, and it's natural to feel nervous. Be sure to do the following:

  • Dress appropriately for your speech and make sure you are well groomed.
  • Take a deep breath as your name is called.
  • Walk confidently to the podium.
  • Look up at the audience and smile.
  • Take another deep breath and speak with confidence.
  • Look up occasionally and try to make eye contact with audience members.
  • Look up at the audience at the end of your speech and smile.
  • Walk away from the podium with confidence.

Election Day

It's election day, the culmination of your work. Consider the following tips:

  • Arrive at school looking well-groomed and confident.
  • Be visible before school, at lunch, and during breaks.
  • Answer questions candidly.
  • Be friendly to your peers and ask for their votes.
  • Wish your opponents luck

After the Election

Regardless of whether you win or lose, you can be proud that you've run an efficient and effective campaign.

  • Thank your volunteers.
  • Remove your posters in a timely manner.
  • Congratulate your opponents on a well-run campaign.

It's a Process

Once you've run one campaign, you will have more experience for your next one. Even if you didn't win this year, you now have new campaign skills, as well as ideas about how you can contribute to your school in case you decide you'd like to make another run.

Running for Student Council