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How to Write a College Resume

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An effective college application resume is an easily scanned summary of what you achieved during high school. Your college resume should not only highlight your highest accomplishments but also show evidence of character qualities—such as determination and initiative.

How A Resume for College Applications Can Help You at Every Stage

It's not fun to look at a blank college admission resume with no idea where to start. Having your resume handy can help you more easily put your best foot forward in these situations:

  • College applications. Your resume will not only save you time when completing your college applications, it will also ensure you don't forget anything important. Before submitting a resume with your college application, make sure the college accepts resumes. Many schools — including some of the most competitive colleges — do not. 
  • Letters of recommendation. Giving your resume to teachers and counselors writing your college recommendation letters will help them get to know you even better and remind them of your high school accomplishments.
  • College interviews. Bringing your resume to a college interview, if allowed, can serve as a positive conversation starter.
  • Scholarship applications. Similar to college applications, your resume makes it easier to showcase your accomplishments. Some scholarships even ask for a resume.
  • Applications to honors colleges. Some honors colleges may require a resume or other application materials.
  • Jobs or internships. You can easily adapt the resume for work and internship interviews.

How to Get Started with Your Resume for Your College Applications

  • Brainstorm everything you've accomplished. Take time to think about your accomplishments over your high school years. Ask your parents and your counselor to help with brainstorming.
  • List everything that makes you most stand out besides grades and scores. That includes awards, leadership roles, community service, special talents or hobbies, jobs, projects you led, and so on. 
  • Note experiences that vividly show your determination, initiative, and passion. For example, colleges might be impressed if you stayed after school to tutor struggling students, or if you picked up a second language by engaging with coworkers at a part-time job. Or that you kept the robotics club going despite a drop in funding.

How to Make a Resume for College Stand Out

Whittle your list down to your most impressive accomplishments. (If you are not sure it's impressive, discuss the accomplishment with a parent or guardian or your counselor. They might be able to help you see your accomplishments in a new light.) You don't need to include your GPA and scores, since colleges will see them in your application.

  • Include your highest achievements and honors.
  • Describe major leadership roles and initiatives you have undertaken.
  • Include unusual but impressive activities, experiences, and special skills that don't fit neatly into the activity sections of the Common App or other college applications.
  • If you have spent significant time working outside of school, include your work experience. This is also important if your work experience relates to your major.
  • Mention special circumstances, such as a part-time job, that kept you from participating in outside activities as much as you wanted to.

Organizing Your College Resume

Organize the information into an easy-to-read document that is no longer than two pages. Below are some categories to consider for your college resume:

  • Education. Your high school, GPA, and test scores.
  • Activities and work. Briefly describe the activity, your role in it, your contribution to it, the school year(s) you participated, any leadership positions you held, and how many weeks and hours per week you contributed.
  • Honors and awards. Provide the name of the award or leadership position, a brief description, why you won it, and the date you received it.
  • Other experiences and skills. Choose those that show your initiative and commitment. Describe the experience or skill, the challenges you faced, the period of time you devoted to it, and the result of your commitment.

Make Your College Resume Easy to Scan

Put your full name, address, phone number, e-mail, and your high school(s) at the top. Here are some commonly used approaches to listing your entries.

  • Reverse chronological order, with the most recent entry listed first
  • By importance, with the entry most important to you listed first
  • By time commitment, with the largest time commitment listed first
  • By leadership, with the strongest leadership role listed first
  • By type, e.g., school-based activities, community service, work experience, honors/awards, hobbies and special interests

You might want to have a second version of your college resume — one that includes your weighted and unweighted GPAs and your standardized test scores — to use for scholarship applications.

You'll find lots of free resume templates and examples online. Take a look at these templates from Canva and College Essay Guy for inspiration.

A good college resume will be helpful throughout the admissions process — and even later as you apply for internships, scholarships, leadership positions and jobs during your freshman year of college. It takes time to create an effective college resume, but most students find it’s worth the effort.

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