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How to Win a Student Council Election

Four Parts:Preparing to Get NominatedStrengthening Your CampaignDelivering the Perfect SpeechOptimizing Election Day

If you want to win a student council or student body election, you must tell your peers why it is in their own interest to vote for you. Show students which of your credentials are relevant to what they want to see happen; however, sometimes elections are won strictly based on popularity so it's best to let your personality and passion lead you to a win.

Part 1
Preparing to Get Nominated

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    Get noticed with a campaign slogan. Depending on the size of your school, you may be lost in a sea of names. It may even be harder if you’re running against students who are constantly in front of the entire school like athletes or frequent award winners. Think about what makes you unique and how you want the students to remember you and develop a campaign slogan around that.[1]
    Don't: use a crude or vulgar slogan. It turns some people off, and could get you kicked out of the race.[2]
    Do: consider funny acronyms (MIA: Mike Is Awesome), puns (Drop the Mike into Student Council) or plays on famous slogans (Just do it. Vote for Mike.)
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    Put yourself out there. Talk to fellow students and get engaged. Put a face and personality to that catchy campaign slogan. Meet as many students as you can by attending as many different school functions as you can. Even if you aren’t the most popular person running, there’s no reason you can't change that.
    • Passion is infectious. Showing everyone how badly you want to win and how hard you’re willing to work for it can help your cause.[3]
      Don't: act "fake" or pushy.
      Do: greet people and explain your positions as though you were talking to an acquaintance.
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    Find out what people actually want. Take a quick poll to find out what the majority of your fellow students are looking for in the upcoming new year. Whether you ask your circle of friends, stand up at the end of a few of your classes, or walk around the cafeteria during lunch, you will soon get a clear picture of what’s important to most of your classmates.
    • It’s often difficult for students to express themselves especially in front of an audience. Asking your peers one-on-one might be an easier way to get authentic answers rather than sarcasm or silence.
    • Ask yourself what you’re looking for and see if this aligns with the answers people are giving you. Better yet, give some examples to help ease conversation. You can ask whether people want an extra school dance, another vending machine, or an extra pep rally. Just remember to be realistic as the power of your position is surely limited.
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    Speak to school officials. Speak to your principal, vice principal, and teachers to understand the election process and how much power each elected position holds. You may learn that the position you want has too many responsibilities based on your already full calendar of extracurricular activities.
    • Ask questions like: what is the election format? When is the election? What responsibilities does each position have? Create a checklist so that you make sure you’ve done everything required to get a nomination.
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    Get nominated. Each school is different but you may need a combination of students and school officials to vouch for you to make your nomination official. Make sure that you know the minimum number of people needed to make your nomination official.

Part 2
Strengthening Your Campaign

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    Create posters. The most important thing is to get your name out there so don’t get caught up in elaborate designs. Make sure your name is clear and visible, and build from there.
    Don't: make the design too elaborate or complicated.
    Do: make sure the poster catches the eye and that your name is clearly readable from a distance.
    • Make a budget for your posters. Posters can be costly depending on how large your school is and how involved you plan to make the poster, so make sure you calculate how much you want to spend on poster material like paint, poster board, and tape.
    • Posters are visual but should not just show but also tell. Don’t try to fit in too much text on your posters because people will tune it out. Additionally, don’t just have a cool image without your name, what you’re running for, and why you should be elected.[4]
    • Check for spelling and grammar errors. Make sure people can read your posters from a distance and that the fonts you choose aren’t cluttered or illegible.[5]
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    Place your posters around your school. Make sure to place these posters in high traffic areas like the cafeteria, school gym, or outside of the bathrooms. Make sure to ask school officials where you are allowed to place your posters because you don’t want to cover important school displays or safety markings.[6]
    • Step outside of the box. It doesn’t hurt to wait a day or two to see what your competition is doing. You want to stand out not blend into all the noise. Try changing the shape or message of your poster to stand out from the rest.
    • Don’t place your poster over anyone else’s as it will look petty and could get you kicked out of the race.
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    Create campaign material. Whether you create buttons, pamphlets, or t-shirts, ask school officials what is acceptable and then devise a strategy on what will be the most effective. For example, some schools may only allowed posters of a certain size whereas others may allow free t-shirt giveaways.
    • Make a budget. Depending on what you plan to make, costs can quickly add up. For example, creating 100 flyers will be a lot cheaper than creating 100 t-shirts.
    • Everyone loves free stuff so sometimes it’s worth it to have a few giveaways but make sure that voters will have a positive association. There’s no use in spending money on something nobody wants or worse, spending money and not getting their vote. Be cautious if attempting to win votes this way.[7]
    • Effective giveaways are things that will have the dual purpose of advertising your name by being visible while being in use like t-shirts, stickers, mugs, or balloons.
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    Build your campaign team. Whether you recruit your friends or your basketball team, campaigning is always easier when you have help. Choose people that have your best interests in mind.
    • Be mindful of everyone’s time. Don’t take advantage of those who are willing to help you.
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    Create a campaign schedule. Whether you are campaigning alone or together with a team, manage your resources by creating a calendar.
    • Make sure everyone has access to the calendar. Either make copies, send an email, or use a shared app. You don’t want someone to miss an important deadline because they simply forgot.
    • Color code key dates so you can prioritize and follow up with your team as each date draws near.
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    Optimize social media. Start a campaign event or page and invite as many people as you can. Different social media sites have different restrictions so be sure to choose the right social media site to spread your message effectively.
    Don't: treat your social media page as a text chat. This is your public face, so avoid mean comments and off-topic posts.
    Do: show that you know what goes on at the school, making school-wide inside jokes or congratulating a school sports team after a victory.
    • Don’t bombard people with unwanted messages. You can lose votes if your campaigning is seen as annoying.
    • Get creative. Social media is meant to engage people so don’t just make this a one-way conversation. Get people talking by asking questions on sites like Facebook or Twitter. Social media sites may have special apps to help you create creative campaigns that will have your peers talking. For example, hold a Candy Crush tournament and giveaway prizes so people associate your name with a very addictive apps.
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    Speak to people. Make yourself visible and speak to as many people as you can throughout the school. Get people familiar with you so that they trust you enough to give you their vote. Don’t act like someone who you aren’t because people will see through that and will ultimately vote for someone else.
    • Speaking to strangers can be a scary proposition, especially if you are shy or an introvert so take it at your own pace.
    • When you speak to people, ask for clarity and empathize with their concerns. "Do you mean you want an extra school dance or to change the homecoming schedule? I completely agree that November seems a bit scattered."
    • Bring someone with you for support. Ask open ended questions to break the ice like “where are you from?” Level the conversation because no one wants to be talked down to so be authentic. For example, say something like “Hi, I’m trying to run for the student election but I’m a bit shy. Thanks for chatting with me and giving me the chance to get to know as much about my peers as I can...” You can also talk about topics that have nothing to do with the election to break the ice like what’s happening in pop culture.[8]
    • Avoid targeting a specific group but tailor your message for your audience. While you can ask your teacher if you can speak to her class or approach different clubs or teams, don’t focus all your energy on a single group. For example, you don’t want to alienate the chess club by concentrating your message on the football team.

Part 3
Delivering the Perfect Speech

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    Know your audience. Ask school officials what the parameters of the speech will be because you may have to say several speeches to different groups or a single speech to the entire school. You may also have the opportunity to choose when and where you deliver the speech so be prepared.
    • Often schools will give a time limit for speeches, so be aware of the format.
    • Strike the right tone. Some of us are naturally funny, serious or somewhere in between. Knowing your audience will help you strike the right chord when you are writing your speech.[9]
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    Write your speech. Be prepared and write down what you say. It may be tempting to speak from the heart but you may be squandering a perfect opportunity to capture votes with a perfectly crafted message.
    Don't: write an essay. Avoid long sentences and complex arguments.
    Do: keep it clear, direct, and above all short.
    • It’s easy to lose your train of thought when in front of the audience so having something prepared will keep your focus.
    • It’s easy to get bored when someone begins to ramble so put yourself in your audience’s shoes and eliminate any chances of delivering a boring speech. Audiences expect a path and a destination from your speech so make sure you have both by creating an outline.[10]
    • Focus on keeping it simple and keep revising to reduce any contradictions, confusing language, or boring exposition. You want to get your core message across in the most memorable way possible.[11]
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    Don’t waste the opening. People quickly form their first impressions within a few seconds so prepare to capture the attention of your audience immediately. Engage your audience as soon as you start and build from there.[12]
    Don't: open with a joke that not everyone will get, or that your funniest friend vetoes.
    Do: start with a slogan, anecdote, or anything with a little pizazz.
    • Be careful not to offend just for the sake of garnering attention.
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    Use transitions and repeat yourself. Depending on how long you have, it’s easy for people to drift in and out of a conversation, so make sure to emphasize your core points by repeating them throughout your speech. More importantly, make sure your message is coherent by using transitions between topics.[13]
    • Don’t be afraid to use pauses for emphasis. Silence can provide a dramatic spotlight to an important point.
    • Use phrases like “What does this mean” and “Here’s the most important thing” to help drive home your points.[14]
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    Memorize your speech. It’s easy to use notes as a safety net but maintaining eye contact is important. While some of us are better public speakers than others, reading your speech can be the kiss of death if your delivery is boring and bland.
    • Enlist the help of teachers, members of the debate team, or anybody comfortable with public speaking to give you tips specific to your personality. While you may not be shy, there are often subtle tricks to improving your body language and delivery. For example, standing with a straight posture and smiling portrays confidence and a friendly personality.
    • Rehearse as much as possible in front of as many people as possible. The more practice you have and the more feedback you can get gives you the opportunity to improve and gain confidence.
    • Don’t be afraid to use theatrics. For example, dress up like a famous tv character or use a visual metaphor like sparklers for how the school will change if you’re elected. Keep the props, storyline, and lesson simple but don’t play it safe. If you’re going to commit to this you have to commit all the way or you may come across negatively.[15]
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    Deliver your speech. Once you’re happy with what you’ve written and practiced how you want to deliver it, stand up in front of your audience and confidently give your speech.
    • Vary the tone of your voice to emphasize key words.
    • Finish strong. Whether you want to end with a bit of funny theatrics or on a serious note, make sure your ending has your audience talking well after the speech because it will be the last thing that they remember.[16]
    • Keep it short. The attention of your audience will wane quickly. This is especially true as the size of the audience grows.[17]
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    Be prepared to answers questions after your speech. Depending on your school, you might be subjected to a Q & A from your peers or teachers. Make sure you know all the facts about your campaign and important school policies.

Part 4
Optimizing Election Day

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    Make sure people come to school the day of the vote. Talk to as many students as you can so you can leave a lasting impression right before they vote.
    • Make sure you understand the voting procedures and impart that to the voters.
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    Vote. Lead by example and place your vote. Stay by the polls in case anyone needs your advice or help.
    • Staying by the polls will give that final impression to potential voters so make sure to be friendly. Being overly eager will give off an air of desperation so keep things cordial and only answer questions if asked. Keep the atmosphere light and fun.
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    Wait patiently for the results. Stay positive. If you have done everything in your power then you should be proud of your effort.
    • No matter what you do, you can’t get into the minds of your voters so don’t dwell on a loss. Be cordial in defeat and learn from your experience.


  • Research sites which allow you to make customized buttons. These can be relatively cheap to buy in bulk and an easy way to spread the word about your campaign!
  • Make sure you talk to the students before the election day, let them know you. A friendly contestant is likely to get more votes than a very serious contestant that proves to be a loner.
  • If you weren't already in student government, ask current members to find out what inefficiencies held the group back previously. Promise to work on those things if elected.
  • Offer a "preview of your administration" if you can. If you want your school to have a ping pong table, rent one for a day and bring it in, if possible. If you want the school to serve cookies in the cafeteria, bring in some cookies to give out.
  • Try incorporating an acrostic into your slogan. This will give the voters a chance to know your personality. Example: MIA -- Mia In Action.
  • Make sure to get to know your opposing runners strengths and weaknesses so that you can stand out more.
  • Have something to say, that they want to hear.


  • Don't propagate any ideas that you haven't discussed with a school official. Even if false promises get you elected, they won't keep you in people's good graces as president.
  • If you are considering running just for the fun of it, or so you can get the title of President, you shouldn't run! It's not fair to your competitors who are serious about the job. Keep in mind that this is not a position of willy-nilly fun, it is a duty.
  • Don't choose a running mate willy-nilly. This will need to be someone you're at least semi-close with, or your campaign (and your administration, if you win) can end up flopping.
  • Don't make crazy promises, such as giving all students more recess time or "No School Wednesday"!

Sources and Citations

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Categories: School Leadership