What's role on the baseball team, on the student government, or in the school play?
You might say you're the pitcher, the treasurer, or Danny Zucko (if you're performing Grease). Those titles are important, but they're not your roles. Titles are easy to describe. Your role is a little more complex. Your role is different than a position, an office, or a part.
For example, in addition to being a pitcher, you might also be the one who gave all the guys nicknames. Or you might be the one who kept people laughing on the bus even when you were in the middle of a 5 game losing streak. Or you might be the one who called the catcher the day after his error cost the team the championship, just to see how he was doing.
In addition to being the treasurer, you might also be the one who mediated the dispute between two other officers, or who studied parliamentary procedure and encouraged everyone to use it at your meetings, or who knew how to stand up and give an impassioned speech when you could tell the group needed to be inspired.
In addition to being the lead in the school play, you might also be the one who made sure the understudies got invited out for the post rehearsal pizza, or who made it your mission to promote and sell out opening night, or you could be the one on whom the teacher relied to run rehearsals on days when she had to teach an after school program.
When we brainstorm college essays with our Collegewise students, one of the things we listen for is evidence of them playing their roles. The roles are often more interesting than the job titles.
So think about the roles you play, how you play them, and how they help you make an even bigger impact. And don't be afraid to share them when you discuss your activities with colleges.