How to Write a Resume for College Applications

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How to Write a Resume for College Applications
portrait of Staff Writers
by Staff Writers
Published on October 27, 2021
Reviewed by Lonnie Woods III

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Most U.S. colleges have similar application processes. Many schools use the Common App, and prospective students usually need to submit official transcripts, ACT or SAT scores, one or more personal essays, letters of recommendation, and a resume.

The resume is often the trickiest part for applicants, as many high school students do not have much professional experience. Unlike a traditional resume, however, a college application resume focuses more on extracurricular activities, academic performance, volunteer experience, hobbies, and awards than it does on employment history.

Still, putting together this document can seem daunting for many students. We created this guide to alleviate that stress. Read on to learn more about how to write a resume for college applications.

How Important Is a High School Resume for College?

Not all college applications require a resume, but it's always good to submit a resume if it's an option.

For example, the Common App only requires an activities list. However, you can still submit a resume, which can provide schools with a fuller picture of your academic performance, interests, and hobbies. You can also upload a resume to the locker section of the Coalition Application.

While some college admissions experts place premium importance on college application resumes, others do not. A resume shows admissions departments evidence of your academic achievements during high school. It also demonstrates your work and volunteer experiences, and what you can bring to the community beyond the classroom.

Don't embellish, but do include unique experiences and specific accomplishments to stand out from the crowd. You should also avoid generalities and cliches.

Additionally, your resume can help your recommenders write the best possible letters for your applications. You can also submit your resume as part of scholarship applications.

What to Include in a Resume for College Applications

A college resume differs from a typical professional resume in several ways. Below, we go over what to put down on your high school resume for college.

Name and Contact Information

The top or header of your resume should include your full name and email address, phone number, and home address. If you have a personal website or LinkedIn profile showcasing your work or achievements, you can also include those URLs in this section.

Education and Academic Accomplishments

In this section, list the name of your high school and the dates you attended. You can also provide information like your GPA and class rank, AP or IB courses you've taken, and your ACT or SAT scores if you think they'll help your case.

Work and/or Volunteer Experience

For high schoolers, work experience can include internships, part-time jobs, job shadowing, and study abroad experiences. Volunteer experience can be particularly important on a high school resume for college, as it demonstrates to admissions departments that you're willing to contribute to your community. Make sure to highlight any leadership positions you held or currently hold.

Extracurricular Activities

Colleges want students who participate in and contribute to campus life beyond the classroom. You can mention sports, clubs, and non-school-related activities that you participated in. This section helps colleges get a more complete picture of who you are and what you care about.

Honors and Awards

You can list your proudest achievements in this section. Include academic awards received from your school, ranks from external organizations (like Eagle Scout or Gold Award), and any athletic accomplishments.

Skills, Interests, and Achievements

In this section, you can mention languages you speak, computer skills, and soft skills like teamwork, communication, and leadership. You can also briefly mention hobbies you're passionate about, especially if they relate to the major you plan to pursue in college.

How to Write a Resume for College: 5 Essential Tips

How you structure and write your resume is almost as important as what you include.

For instance, resumes for college applications should list all achievements, jobs, volunteer experience, and awards in reverse chronological order. The most recent job should be at the top of the section, with your previous position below it, and so on. You can see how this looks on our resume example below.

But first, here are five essential tips on how to write a resume for college.

1. Include a Professional Email Address

A professional email address — perhaps firstname.lastname@gmail.com, or a similar choice — sends the right message to colleges. Colleges may not hold an unprofessional email address against you; however, providing a simple email address that includes your name is a better choice just in case.

2. Start With Your Education

Unlike a professional resume, a college resume should feature your education at the top. Colleges understand that if you're a first-year applicant, you likely don't have much, if any, professional experience. Colleges are first and foremost educational institutions. As such, academic performance is the most important factor in determining who to accept.

3. Use Bulleted Lists

You should always use bullet points instead of paragraphs when listing information in your resume. Bullet points make your resume easier to read. Admissions departments wade through thousands of resumes. They're much more likely to read and consider a clean, digestible list of your accomplishments than a dense, muddled document.

4. Employ Strong Action Verbs

Use strong action verbs with each bullet point in your resume. For example, if you worked as the manager of an ice cream shop during the summer, avoid writing "was the manager at Scoops Ahoy" as a bullet point. Instead, try "directed a team of five employees" or "trained five employees in company policies."

5. Limit It to One Page

No resume should extend past one page. Even after high school, a resume longer than a page is more like a curriculum vitae, or CV. In high school, a long resume likely contains fluff and filler. Keeping your resume to one page is good practice for writing concisely — a crucial skill in college and beyond.

College Application Resume Example

Derek Henry
150 15th Ave. South
Nashville, TN 37212
(615) 777-7777
derek.henry2@gmail.com

Education

Hillsboro High School, Class of 2021
GPA: 3.9

Experience

Activities

Awards

Skills


Feature Image: pondsaksit / iStock / Getty Images Plus / Getty Images

Is a resume the same as a CV? There are some key differences between the two. Read more about using a CV versus a resume. To land a great job out of college, you'll need to craft a compelling resume. These resume tips teach you how to sell yourself and highlight your strengths. Learn how to leverage internship experience on your resume so you can stand out from the crowd.

BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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