The College Resume: A How-To Guide
By Julie Kampschroeder on March 17, 2021
By your junior year of high school, you've likely heard of a college resume. But, what is a college resume and how do you build one? A college resume is a brief snapshot of a student’s high school achievements, interests, work experience, community service, and leadership skills.
Understanding the Basics of College Resumes
Why Is It Important To Have a College Resume?
A college representative may be responsible for covering up to 6 states or thousands of high schools in a single school year. You may only have a few minutes to make an impression on him or her. Your college resume will quickly give the rep a peek into who you are and how you have chosen to spend your time while in high school.
When To Start Creating a College Resume
Freshman year of high school is the ideal time to start your resume. Adding activities and awards each year will ensure you do not forget important events. Tracking each year allows you to see which categories to give more attention to in order to increase the strength of your resume. Keep in mind longevity in one or two activities carries more weight than surface-level activity in numerous activities. College personnel can see through someone who is simply trying to pad their resume, versus someone who is passionate in a given area.
What Your College Resume Should Include
Craft a heading for your resume with the basics: your name, address, phone number, email address, and personal statement.
Including your academic credentials may seem like a no-brainer. Nevertheless, let's review what to include and how. You'll want to record:
- Where you went to high school (If you attended multiple, list the most recent one first and include the names of each high school, city, state and the grade level you attended the school),
- Coursework achievements that are relevant to your desired major,
- Class rank (if applicable and of benefit),
- Test scores (if applicable).
Activities & Experiences
This section will make up the bulk of your resume, and should show your personality! List achievements and responsibilities that you participate in school and outside of school. You'll want to record things such as:
- School-related activities. Clubs, sports teams, and musical groups.
- Extracurriculars. Things such as jobs, job-shadowing, research experience, babysitting, volunteer work, community service, special activities, summer courses, local competitions, taking care of your younger siblings, and more.
Awards & Honors
Highly competitive colleges and universities are looking for students with strong leadership skills above the high school level. They prefer to see regional, state and national awards in addition to leadership skills. The same applies to moderately competitive universities that offer full tuition, room & board scholarships. In this section, you'll want to include:
- The name of the award you received,
- A brief description (if not apparent by the award's name),
- The date you received the award, and the position you held in that club/organization.
If you aspire to earn admittance to a highly competitive school or want to earn a competitive full-ride scholarship to an in-state public school, pay attention to the strength of your college resume. Share it with your advisor, counselor or favorite teacher. Ask them for suggestions to get more involved on campus.
This last section should be relatively short, but can include some unique facts about yourself! Below are just a few examples of what you might include here:
- Do you have any hobbies? Talk briefly about your love and skill of photography, crafting, jewelry making, or whatever it may be.
- Proficiency in a foreign language. If you are multi-lingual and feel fairly confident in your experience, include it!
- Technical skills. Things such as welding, cooking, carpentry, graphic arts, fixing cars, and more.
Formatting Tips for Your College Resume
The format and look of your resume certainly matters! Here are few tips for formatting and writing your resume in an effective way:
Styling Tips for Your Resume
- Go with a traditional font. A serif font like Times New Roman looks professional, and is a traditional choice.
- Style consistently. All of your headings should match, all of your sections should look consistent. If you underline one heading, underline them all. If you use bullets in one section, use them in all.
- Keep it to one page. Your drafted resume can be as long as you'd like if it helps you keep track of your experiences. However, when you're ready to submit your resume to a college, it should be just one page.
- Don't touch the margins! Whitespace is your friend. If you're looking for more space, resist the urge to adjust margins, and try adjust the content of your resume instead.
- Save as a PDF. Save your resume as a PDF and title it: "Your Name_Resume.pdf"
Writing Tips for Your Resume
- Use action verbs. You want to describe your connection to an achievement through action verbs. For example: "Planned and led the project that tripled club members."
- Be concise. Save the flowery, detailed language for your college essay. Your resume should be concise and to-the-point.
- Use numbers. When possible, use numbers to help quantify your achievements.
- Site relevant skills. Be sure to use plenty of language to showcase your skills as they relate to the area you are interested in studying in college.
- Find a template or example. Resume examples, like the one here, can be a huge help in deciding what to include in your own resume and how to format it.
- Proofread and ask for help. Proofread your work carefully! Then, ask a friend, family member, or trusted mentor to proofread and offer you feedback.
Common Questions About College Admission Resumes
What if I Cannot Be Involved on Campus Because of Family Responsibilities?
Many of my students work 30 hours per week at a job to pay bills at home. Other students are responsible for younger siblings while their parents work 12-hour shifts. If this is your reality, make sure you communicate this to the college. Communication is key! Working to pay for a new car is not a good excuse for not being involved at school. Working to assist your family is a noble responsibility. Remember if you are a manager at work or train new employees, be sure to include that under ‘leadership’ on your resume.
What if I Spend my Free Time on an Activity Outside of School?
I have had many students over the decades I have been a high school counselor concerned because their interests lie outside the high school campus. No problem! One of my past students raced stock cars on the weekend. Another student did barrel horse racing. Yet another was extremely involved in her church in various ways. Colleges like diversity of interests! Be sure to highlight all activities on campus and off-campus.
Are There Other Uses for College Resume?
YES! Bring a copy to your next job interview and impress the interviewer. Bring multiple copies to scholarship or admission interviews in case they do not have a copy in front of them. It is an easy conversation starter. You may want to apply to a Greek Organization freshman year at college or run for an office of a club. The resume will be extremely useful in highlighting your past achievements. And finally, some teachers/counselors will ask for a copy when writing your letters of recommendation for college senior year.
By now I hope I have convinced you of the importance of creating your college resume starting freshman year of high school. It is definitely worth the effort based on the potential return on your time!
Get Started on Your College Resume with Scoir
If you're a student that is currently using Scoir, we have a simple tool to help you build your resume. You can view our guide to creating a resume in Scoir here.
College resumes can be organized in many different ways to help you communicate your experience and skills. If you are not a current user of Scoir, or if you would prefer to organize it on your own, below is just a sample of one way to build your college resume. We hope it helps!