8 Habits of Successful Student Leaders

To be a good student leader, you must be a good student first. So, what are the habits of successful students?


Practice good classroom behaviors

Being a good student starts in the classroom. By participating in class, you demonstrate a willingness to learn and set an example for others.

  • Sit near the front: Studies show that students who sit in the front of the classroom get better grades.
  • Ask questions: If you didn’t understand, there’s a good chance the other students didn’t either. Don’t be afraid to ask questions!
  • Take good notes: Write them by hand in class and then type them later. That way, you’ve taken in the material twice to aid the learning process and saved another copy on your computer.


Sharpen your basic skills

Basic skills—like math, reading, and writing—are the foundation on which all other learning occurs. You have to learn to walk before you can run, or dance.

  • Practice your skills in different classes: Write in social studies, use algebra in science courses, use science in a story for English.
  • Learn to proofread, correct, and rewrite: Editing is an important part of the writing process. Use online resources and reference books to practice.
  • Read the news regularly: Get a better understanding of the world. Reading news articles can also help improve your comprehension skills.
  • Build your vocabulary: When you don’t know what a word means, look it up! Register for “word of the day” notifications or download an app that introduces you to new words on a regular basis. Another way to expand your vocabulary is by using a thesaurus when you write.


Organize your study

Being organized can help get your homework done faster, prevent you from losing it, and ensure it is done on time, making more time for the things you enjoy.

  • Track your homework: Use checklists, planners, or phone apps to remind yourself about deadlines, assignments, and exams. There are a lot of free productivity and scheduling apps that can help.
  • Schedule dedicated study time: Set aside small amounts of time for studying over an extended period. Schedule it on your calendar, so you don’t lose sight of it between homework assignments, extracurricular activities, and fun. 
  • Find a quiet place to study: Find a place that’s free of distractions and noise where you won’t be interrupted. Ask your parents, guardians, or teachers for recommendations.
  • Participate in a study group: Study groups can help you get ready for tests, complete homework, and even proofread your essays and reports.


Get help when you need it

It’s hard to succeed alone. Brady has Belichick. Betty has Veronica. Woody has Buzz. You aren’t expected to know or learn everything on your own. Use the people and resources around you to achieve success.

  • Use your library: Believe it or not, you won’t find all the answers online (and you can’t even be sure they’re factually correct). Get a library card, make your librarian your new best friend, and you’ll be surprised how much the content of your work improves.
  • Email your teachers: Your teachers may still be available or willing to answer questions about homework after school and office hours. Discuss email policies with your teachers.


Develop good testing habits

Part of performing well on tests is having a good plan for taking the test. Academic subjects are a lot like sports. You have to have a strategy and practice for the big game if you want to win.

  • Use test-taking strategies: Read the whole question before answering, leave time to double-check your answers, answer the easy questions first, then go back to the harder questions to keep a better pace.
  • Take a practice test: Practice tests allow you to familiarize yourself with the format and types of questions asked. 
  • Use test prep materials: ACT® Test Prep materials can help you become more familiar with the test format, gain confidence, and be ready on test days. Look at all of our test prep options to find free online practice tests, helpful study guides, interactive study tools, and more.  


Know yourself and your abilities

Being a leader requires strong foundational social and emotional skills. Research identifies five key social and emotional skills that are an important factor for success. Research also shows that these characteristics can be strengthened through practice.

  • Conscientiousness: Are you persistent? Do you set goals and strive to achieve them? Are you willing to practice to achieve success?
  • Agreeableness: Are you sensitive to others and easy to get along with? Do you cooperate when working on a team?
  • Emotional Stability: Are you good at dealing with stress or criticism? Are you flexible to changes? Do you keep your composure when things don’t go your way?
  • Openness: Do you accept differences in people? Are you willing to accept new points of view? Do you spend time learning new things?
  • Extraversion: Are you willing to take charge in a group? Are you confident, persuasive, or assertive? Can you express yourself comfortably?


Identify a support system

A support system can help you celebrate success and learn from disappointments, talk through difficult or stressful situations, and get motivated through cooperation or healthy competition.

  • Build your relationships with friends and family: Show your appreciation to those already closest to you. Sometimes, the best support system is right under your nose.
  • Pursue your interests: Don’t be afraid to embrace the things you like. There are others who are passionate about the same thing. Joining activities like a book club or getting together to watch a favorite show offers you an opportunity to meet up regularly.
  • Volunteer: Devoting time to supporting a cause you care about is a good way to meet like-minded people and support your community.


Challenge yourself

Believe that you can succeed. When you challenge yourself and succeed, you build confidence in your ability to succeed again in the future. Nothing is achieved without first trying.

  • Take challenging classes: The best way to prepare for college success is to take challenging courses in high school. The more challenging the class, the more prepared you’ll be for college. 
  • Get involved and take on a leadership position: Run for student government. Try out for a team. Audition for a role in the school play. Sign up for band or choir. Join a club, committee, or organization, like yearbook, prom planning, or Model UN. As you gain experience within the group, take on more responsibility.