5 min read

The Path to Student Government

The Path to Student Government

Requirements, qualifications, and election procedures leading up to the big day


We’ve talked about how to win a student government election, but let’s drill down a little further and discuss what you need to know about every step of the election process.


Understanding the basic roles and responsibilities

Before you sign yourself up to be the next school president, you should know the difference between running for student government and running for student council.

These terms are often used interchangeably, but the people that hold these positions have completely different roles:

A member of student council may be a class president or a class treasurer. These students are elected through a self-nomination process and are in charge of decisions relating only to their class (Freshman, Sophomore, Junior, Senior).

A member of the student government association may also be a president or a treasurer, but instead of advocating on behalf of a specific class, they represent their entire student body. SGA members can also be members of their class’s student council. They often work with faculty, staff, and peers to plan school-wide events like homecoming, pep rallies, community events, and other related activities.

As you can see, the responsibilities of the SGA are far more intensive than student council, although they may work together on a lot of school initiatives.


What to think about before joining

Before we dive into the SGA election process, ask yourself these questions if you’re serious about joining your student government association:


Question #1: Do I have enough time to dedicate to SGA?

Depending on the position you’re running for, you may be tasked with attending meetings as well as drafting communications and other SGA related materials. This commitment may take up a decent amount of your free time after class – so be prepared. Some of the responsibilities of student government are:


  • Attend SGA planning meetings and participate in activities.
  • Delegate specific tasks to class officers and other members of the SGA
  • Work closely with class advisors
  • Act as a spokesperson for the student government, attending events on their behalf


  • Take over the president’s duties when he/she isn’t available
  • Attend SGA and class planning meetings
  • Participate in SGA and class activities
  • Assist class officers with events


  • Take notes at all meetings
  • Type up notes and distribute to all members of SGA and class council
  • Write follow up letters to staff, faculty, and parents as needed
  • Publicize events by creating posters and announcements 


  • Create a class budget
  • Keep a record of all expenses and income throughout the year
  • Type up budget reports for the SGA and class officers
  • Create a system for collecting and storing receipts
  • Take charge of planning fundraisers


Question #2: Am I in good academic standing?

Pull out those report cards. To nominate yourself for candidacy, it’s important that you meet the academic requirements and/or organization requirements necessary for the SGA.


Question #3: Can I prioritize this role over all over commitments? 

If you play sports or are involved in other school organizations, a spot on the SGA is a great way to round out your college application. Make sure you can make it a priority however, colleges want to see that you can handle responsibility.


Question #4: Is the role appropriate for me and my future goals?

Being a part of a student government association means getting a head start on building crucial life skills. If your goal is to learn how to effectively communicate, hone your leadership skills, and manage a group of your peers, the SGA is a perfect place to begin.


Student election procedures and policies

Now that we’ve got those details out of the way, let’s (finally) take a look at the election process.


Step 1: Prove you’re in good academic standing

If you’re still reading, I’m assuming you answered “yes” to the question above about your grades. Most high schools require that candidates have at least a C grade point average, although this requirement will differ depending on factors like your school’s location and district. Also, it’s crucial that you not be on probation as this could affect your candidacy – even if you have the right grades. Lastly, some schools will require that you be a current member of your student council for at least a year before you can apply for student government.


Step 2: Gather endorsements by faculty or staff

Since anyone can self-nominate, it’s important that you get endorsements by teachers, advisors, or staff attesting to your character and level of responsibility. If you have a mentor or a teacher that you’re particularly close to, ask them to draft up a letter of recommendation on your behalf.


Step 3: Collect signatures in a student petition

In addition to good academic standing and teacher endorsements, you may need to get a certain number of signatures from your peers supporting your candidacy. While you can meet this requirement fairly quickly by targeting your social circle, it may be a good idea to go outside your traditional group of friends and start networking early. Getting to know your fellow students before you start campaigning will help you gather more awareness for your platform – and you may even make new friends along the way.


Step 4: File the necessary paperwork

Some schools require that you submit a draft of your speech or platform along with your nomination papers. If you’re not sure what it is yet, take some time to get to know your peers and faculty and learn about any improvements that can and should be made. Some popular platforms are:

  • Quality of food in the cafeteria
  • Dress code
  • Student parking
  • Off campus lunches
  • Adding new athletic programs
  • Technology in the classroom
  • Smoke-free campus 


Step 5: Start the campaign process 

Now the fun begins! Posters are a traditional campaigning method, but you can also develop social media campaigns and hand out flyers. Your school will have specific rules about how much you can spend on your campaign and where you can distribute campaign materials, so refer to their policy first. To ensure you’re getting as many eyes on your campaign as possible, recruit a team of volunteers to help you, and if you’re allowed to, hand out small gifts like buttons or pens with your name on them to help students remember you.


Step 6: Deliver your speech

You only get one shot to ace your speech, so make it count. You know your fellow students the best, so make sure you’re delivering a tailor-made speech that will appeal to them and the issues they care about the most. Don’t forget the most important aspects of your speech: your platform, and the steps you’ll take to turn that mission into a reality.


Step 7: Vote (for yourself, naturally) - and await the results!

Every vote counts – so don’t forget to vote for yourself! Your school will have a balloting system set up, whether it’s an electronic ballot box, online voting system, or paper ballot. Read the ballot carefully, make your selection, and relax knowing that the hard part is over.

This waiting period depends entirely on the voting method that your school chooses. If they go with a paper ballot process, tabulation can be lengthy as votes are typically counted by members of the SGA or faculty member. If your school chooses an online voting system, results will come in almost immediately.


Hopefully, this will give you a clear idea of what to expect as you begin to make the journey to student government. Whatever your mission or reason for running is, know that you are taking the bold first step of carving out a better experience for your peers and that’s a reward in itself.

Good luck!

P.S. If your school could use a quick and convenient way of tabulating votes for your upcoming SGA election, check out our Pricing page for more information on our products and features.

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