January 17, 2018

When should I train my student leaders?

That’s a question I get a lot. And the answer is that it varies from school to school, what stage of leadership your student leaders are at and what you are trying to accomplish. Since I can’t cover every conceivable situation in this blog post I’ll give you some general guidelines about timing your training for your student leaders.

I’ll also suggest that you read the posts “The Five People to Train in Student Leadership Heaven” and “4 groups that should get student leadership training other than the SGA.” They’ll help you get a handle on ‘who’ should trained and this post will focus more on the ‘when.’

Dave Kelly - When should I train my student leaders

I’ll start to answer this question based on the academic school year – basically September through May.

First Semester Leadership Training

The first cycle for training student leaders is during the month of August. A lot of schools like to get a jump on training their leaders by holding training sessions and retreats either right before the start of the year or right at the start. This works especially well if your student leaders are involved in New Student Orientation in some way or if getting your clubs and organizations started immediately is important on your campus. How smoothly an organization runs has a lot to do with the success of the organization so making sure that your leaders know how to run better organizations is important from the start.

Second best to training your leaders before the year even starts is to get everybody up to speed right at the beginning of the year. Getting student involved before the year even starts can be difficult so I find myself very busy during September and October. Again, these are critical months for getting all of your campus clubs and organizations cranking at full efficiency from the start. If your clubs are operating from the beginning of the year, too many things can go wrong by the time your reach November and December. The bottom line is, August, September and October are prime student leadership training months.

Second Semester Leadership Training

With that being said, I find that January and February are also prime training months. Why? A lot of schools have a beginning of the second semester leadership program or conference – or they kick of a leadership series. They find that it’s an especially good time to train freshman and first year leaders. During the first semester those new leaders have had a chance to get their feet wet – both at school in general and in their student leadership roles. Now they’re ready to dig in deeper as student leaders and make it all work for both them and their organizations. As a more fun aside, because most of the country is deep into winter during January and February a lot of ski weekends and retreats are held. Student will often ski all day and have leadership training at night. I’ll have to admit, these are great fun for me too!

The Early Bird Gets The Worm

Finally there’s the student leadership training that happens later in the spring – the March and April timeframe. Going back to the beginning of this post where some schools train their student leaders in August before the semester starts, this spring training is for the real early birds. It occurs immediately following the spring student officer elections. Even though these newly elected officers won’t take office until the fall semester, there’s no better time to train them. During this time I’ve helped many elected leaders plan recruitment drives, put next year’s calendar together and set their club or organization’s vision for the coming year. This training often even occurs into the summer months.

All-in-all there really is no bad time to train your student leaders, but it is important that they do get trained – and the sooner the better. If you can get them trained before they make all of the mistakes, they are less likely to get discouraged and your campus and students will benefit because they’ll learn to run better organizations.


Leadership consists of a set of skills, methodologies and ideas that can be taught.

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About the Author: Dave "Gonzo" Kelly (64 Posts)

Dave Kelly is the leading authority on student leadership and community service on college campuses today. As a professional trainer, motivator, and servant leader, Dave is an expert on all aspects of running and leading campus organizations and developing the character of a servant leader. Dave has 20+ years training leaders and advisors from student government associations, campus activities boards and campus clubs of every kind on organizational leadership and community service projects. He has trained students and advisors at more than 150 different colleges and universities and is the national coordinator for the APCA Serves! Initiative by the Association for the Promotion of Campus Activities.

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