Ask not what your college can do for you, but what you can do for your college
Student governments are responsible for representing the interests of students within the overall institutional structure of a college or university. They are in charge of running the social activities of the student body. Most student governments are run by students and are typically funded by fees all students pay as part of their tuition. Student governments at large public schools can have annual budgets as high as $30 million.
Student governments across the country have almost as many different names as they have idealistic, overachieving members. There are frequently referred to as “student assembly,” “student association,” “student congress,” “student council,” “student senate” or “student union.” To make things even more confusing, “student union” is also used as a synonym for “student center” or “student commons,” the building that typically houses a cafeteria, lounge / study area and other student services.
Many student governments are structured in a way that mimics the federal government, with separate executive, legislative and judicial branches. Others follow a parliamentary model, with no clear-cut separation of powers.
Schools with a large number of graduate students often have a separate governing body for these students.
Student governments typically have a wide range of responsibilities, including:
- Representing the interests of the student population to the college administration
- Allocating funds to student clubs
- Planning a range of activities and events for students (e.g., Homecoming)
You don’t have to have excellent grades to get involved in student government. You don’t have to be a political science student (though it does help to have a passion for politics). All that you need is some free time and a desire to make a difference on your campus. Do you think things could be better for students at your school? Is tuition too high, is food too expensive and are lecture halls too crowded? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then get off your ass and go out for student government.
You probably don’t even have to run in an election to get involved (though you will need to be elected to achieve a position of power). Most student governments welcome volunteers. Keep in mind, though, that some people don’t consider taking part in student government to be a true volunteer activity. Over 70 percent of student government members receive some kind of monetary compensation for their work in the form of scholarships, tuition waivers and even annual salaries.
Ask anyone who’s ever been involved with student government - it’s a lot of work, but it can be tremendously rewarding. Plus, you don’t have to be a genius to figure out that the experience looks pretty damn good on a resumé.