Your Guide to College Resumes

June 7, 2022 
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How can one page of about 500 words sum up over a decade of your life? It might seem impossible, but millions of students present such an overview of their years of classes, awards, tests, clubs, jobs, sports, and more in resumes that they submit with their college applications each year. Not every college requires a resume, however, so you might be wondering if you should bother making one. Fortunately, you’ve come to the right place! Read on for a guide that will explain whether you should make your own resume and how to do it right.

Why You Should Create and Submit a Resume

Your resume can be a powerful tool in your college application toolbox. Once produced, your resume acts like a “ticket” you can share either physically or digitally with people you’ve asked to write recommendations, with places you’re applying for scholarship or work opportunities, and with alumni or admissions officials from your prospective colleges. Everyone who receives your resume will use it to get a better sense of who you are and what you have to offer in order to determine if you deserve a scholarship, a job, and, in particular, admission to a college. Moreover, a resume that you create now, while you’re in high school, will be a “living document,” meaning it is something that can evolve as you edit and update it while you progress through college and ultimately your professional career.

What You Should Include

Convinced that there are lots of good reasons to complete a resume? Great! Now, you’ll just need to learn how to make a good one. An effective resume will not only have all of the right content, but will also be formatted in a way that is pleasing to look at and easy to read.

The Content

    • Name and Contact Information: Put your full name at the top of your resume and put contact information (e.g. email address, phone number, home address) right below or to the side. Make sure that the email address you use is professional, which means something with elements of your name (e.g. alincoln@gmail.com) rather than something too kooky (e.g. surferchick@yahoo.com). Any links to personal websites that highlight your academic and work experiences and achievements (e.g. LinkedIn) can be included here too.
  • Education and Academic Experience: Place information about your school, grades, scores, and any relevant honors and experiences here, including your high school’s name, location, and years you attended, your GPA and class rank, your SAT and/or ACT scores, any AP/IB or summer/community college classes you’ve taken, and any academic honors you’ve received.
  • Work and Volunteer Experience: This is where you share the paid and unpaid work you’ve done to show your work ethic and commitment to helping your community. So, that means listing part-time jobs, internships, and volunteer work. Cite your role/title/position and the date ranges of your involvement followed by a brief description of your responsibilities and any leadership roles and accomplishments (e.g. Employee of the Month). 
  • Activities: These can be activities you’ve done in and out of school. The goal is to reveal more about your personality and how you’d contribute to a college’s campus beyond academics. List things like clubs, sports, choirs, religious groups, scouting, etc. without using any abbreviations. Group activities in categories (e.g. sports) and include dates of participation, then explain what you did using strong verbs (e.g. organized, founded, raised, led).
  • Honors and Awards: Time to toot your own horn and brag about significant awards you’ve received for your academic, athletic, or other achievements from either your school or organizations outside of your school.
  • Skills and Achievements: Show off your passions, talents, and interests here with a list of the most important skills (e.g. multilingual) and hobbies (e.g. gardening) that you have, especially those that relate to your academic and career pursuits, as well as any general skills, such as being a good leader or good mediator.

Keep in mind that this resume is meant to be short (ideally one page) and showcase the best of who you are and what you’ve done. Meaning, this is not the place to be superficial, cliche, or dishonest by including things like clubs you only attended once, language that’s too generic (e.g. “I helped customers”), and boastful exaggerations (e.g. stating you led a fundraiser when all you did was collect donations). To impress, be unique, specific, and truthful.

The Format

  • The Right Order: Since this is a college resume, not a professional resume, put your education section first after your name and contact information. A good order for the other sections would be Work, Activities, Awards, then Skills. Use reverse chronological order within each section (i.e. most recent things first). 
    • Style Tips: Limit yourself to only one page for your resume, and make sure that it looks good with a professional font (e.g. Times New Roman, Size 12), consistent and limited bold/underline/italicized text, no abbreviations, and consistent headings. 
  • Bullets and Verbs: Resume readers are focused on important details and actions, so they’d rather not sift through walls of text. Use bullet points that begin with strong verbs (e.g. Trained new members) instead of vague and meandering paragraphs. 

To keep your resume up to date and looking great, you’ll need to proofread and update it as needed.

Next Steps

College admissions is a complex and competitive process with many aspects to the application and many students vying for limited slots, so it’s important to be aware and take advantage of as many opportunities to make an impression as possible. To get started on your college resume, you can explore samples and tips online. Meanwhile, A+ tutors can help you boost your test scores, earn better grades, and craft compelling essays that will complement your recommendations, activities, and resume. With our support and your hard work, you can have a better chance at being accepted to a college where you can add even more achievements to your resume.

At A+ Test Prep and Tutoring, our practices are based on the latest developments in educational theory and research. We have an excellent team of tutors who can help you with standardized testing, executive functioning, or achievement in any other school subject. If you want to find out more about our services, our Client Service Directors Joelle Faucette and Michelle Giagnacovo can be reached at 215-886-9188.

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