Going to college? This article has information on writing and submitting college resumes as part of your application. Also included are tips on getting started on your college resume, what to include, and format options for your college resume.
The college application process may involve campus tours, interviews, and essays in which you feel you have to compress your whole life into 150 - 500 words. But writing a short essay may seem like a luxury compared to trying to compress your accomplishments and work history into a format that works. Here are some hints to help you with this process.
The first step in creating your college application resume is deciding whether you need to make one. The process begins with collecting a list of all the types of activities, honors, awards, and job experience that might be useful for your college application. This is the kind of task for which a good approach is to leave a piece of paper with a heading like “My Accomplishments” lying around for a week and jot on it whenever you think of something. Do not do this at the last minute - if you do, you’re likely to forget things.
Another useful strategy is to involve the rest of your family, especially your parents, and especially the parent who was most involved in getting you to practices, rehearsals, meetings, performances, work, etc. Many parents keep a file of their children’s accomplishments - memorabilia such as team photos, diplomas, awards, etc., and that can help jog your memory. If you’re reading this well before the time that you will need to actually do the resume, you might wish to start keeping a record now - it’ll make your life easier when your in the midst of college applications.
You’re Either In, or Out
How do you decide what to include?
• If it happened prior to high school and it was not a national honor or performance, it’s probably best to leave it out of the resume. If it’s really important (such as a long stint in a foreign country; recovering from cancer; six years of teaching younger students in an area in which you excel, or something else that had a major impact in shaping who you are today but just doesn’t fit a resume) consider either a) including it in some way, shape, or form, in an essay, or - if you need to - b) add a note to the admissions material that tells what is important for them to know about you that they didn’t give a space for.
• Follow any guidelines provided by the particular colleges you are applying to.
On and Off the Charts
Many college applications, including the Common Application used today by a large number of colleges, have a section for you to include some information that might otherwise go on a resume. Some of these sections are conveyed as charts, where you fill in several types of information, such as the following, as applicable:
- Name of the activity
- Year(s) of participation
- Hours per week
- Weeks per year
- Positions Held/Honors Won
- Plan to Continue?
- Job Description
The Common Application has three sections:
- Extracurricular, Personal, and Volunteer Activities (Including Summer)
- Academic Honors
- Work Experience
Other applications may refer to “Community Activities,” “Recreational Activities,” “Leisure Activities,” and similar terms.
Always Include a Resume?
Contrary to some info out on the web, I do not recommend collecting all your activities, honors, and work experience and making a generic resume that you automatically send to all colleges. Here’s why:
Many colleges today have far more applicants than they can accept. Consequently, their admissions officers have a great deal of work. Even when the admissions staff is not making really difficult calls to accept one student and accept another, it is far easier for them to assess and compare the information they ask you for in the form they give you to provide it in, than it is for them to deal with thousands of individual students’ personal reshaping of this material. There are reasons that they designed the form the way they did: it gives them what they want in the way that is most useful and efficient for them.
Do you want to be the student who makes things more complicated for the people who are trying to admit you to college? Probably not. Even though it’s easier and more efficient for you to do format this information once, it’s probably not the best plan to use a resumé when applying to college, except in exceptional circumstances.
Also, it is my considered opinion - not shared by any others giving advice in this area that I can find - that it is foolish to waste your time placing information on your resumé that the college has already seen. They know your GPA. They know what your objective is. There is no reason to include anything that isn’t necessary. And it could actually work against you.
So Why Do a Resume?
Nevertheless, there are two good reasons to do a resume:
1. If the college you are applying to does not have a specific place in the application to address your work experience, your extracurricular accomplishments, or your awards and honors.
2. If the space in the application is so limited in comparison to what you need to report, that you would have to squish things or continue on another page anyway.
This could be the case for someone who reached a very high level in a sport or some other activity at an early age. It could also be true for work experience for those involved in modeling or acting from a young age; a young entrepreneur who founded his/her own company; or simply any enterprising young person who worked in a wide variety of jobs prior to college.
If this is the case, write or type neatly in the space provided “Please see attached resumé.” or a similar sentence. When the admissions officer sees the attached page, it should be clear at a glance why you have needed to opt-out of the standard and use a different format.
N.B. It is important to group jobs when applicable; that is, you do not need to list every family you ever babysat or mowed the lawn for.
Resume Format For College Applicants
The type of resume done by an aspiring college student usually has fewer sections than the resume of a working adult, because their experience is more limited. Aim for a one-page limit if that is reasonable in your particular circumstances.
- Center your name on the first line.
- Center your address on the following 2-3 lines.
- You may, at your discretion, center your home phone, cell phone, and email address on the next 3 lines (the college will have this information in other locations).
This will depend on what it is that you need to report that doesn’t fit on the form, possibly work experience, extracurricular activities, and/or awards and honors. If you need to treat more than one, I would suggest you list work experience first. Within your extracurricular activities (if you are including them here), it may be useful to make sub-groupings, such as volunteer activities, performances, competitions, etc.
In reverse chronological order (that is, most recent job first), list your work experience, inserting a carriage return between each entry.
Be sure to include every type of information that the college requests, if work experience appears on their application. Choose one of these formats, or adapt them, to suit your needs. Note that a dash with nothing following indicates that you are still working in the job. An example of each is given immediately below.
Name of establishment. Brief job description. Dates.
Joe’s Restaurant. Payroll assistant. Summers, 2005-2008
Brief job description. Name of Establishment. Dates.
Soccer instructor for children ages 5-7. Soccer World. Sept. 2002-
If your job can’t be described in such a brief phrase, use a sentence, adapting the format to what you have to say.
Be sure to include every type of information that the college requests, if activities appears on their application. In general, use reverse chronological order, but group by type of activity if they fall into groups. Choose one of these formats, or adapt them, to suit your needs. Again, examples appear below.
Name of Activity. Role. Dates.
All State Music Festival. First chair flute. 2008.
Role. Name of Activity. Dates.
Played Skye Masterson. Guys and Dolls. 2007.
As with work experience, if a short phrase does not work to convey what you did, adapt the format and write whole sentences.
Honors and Awards:
Be sure to include every type of information that the college requests, if honors appears on their application. In general, use reverse chronological order, but group by type of honor or award if they fall into groups. Choose one of these formats, or adapt them, to suit your needs.
Name of Honor. Sponsor. Date(s).
Certificate of Merit. University of Vermont Mathematics Examination. Spring 2007.
Sponsor. Name of Honor. Date(s).
Federal Reserve Economics Competition at Boston Federal Reserve. Second Place. Spring 2007
Finally, good luck!