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The College Resume: A How-To Guide

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.


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 Should I Start Creating My 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.


How Important are the Leadership and Honors/Awards Categories?

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.  


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.


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.


How Should I Differentiate all of the High Schools I Attended?

The simple solution is to list all of the schools you attended at the bottom left of the college resume. Include the name of the high school, city, state and the grade level you attended the school.  List the most recent one first.


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!


How to Get Started on Your College Resume

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!

Download a Sample College Resume