Written by Alexis Allison, College Essay Guy Team
How do you sum up your life’s work on a single piece of paper?
First things first. Remember that you are not your college resume. You are a human being, not a human doing. If you don’t have a rockstar resume, that’s okay. Work with what you’ve got.
Now that we’ve got the touchy-feelies out of the way, let’s talk about how to write an amazing resume.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
- How Important is the College Resume?
- How Do I Pick a College Resume Template?
- What Are The Most Important Parts of a College Resume Template?
- Contact Information
- Awards and Honors
- Finishing Touches
- What do I do With My College Resume?
- Contact Information
- Awards and Honors
How Important is the resume for college?
Well, it depends.
In general, most colleges have a dedicated space on their application system called the Activities List where you will be able to list out all of the things you’ve been involved in outside of school. That section is your BEST place to share those details. Don’t skip it.
However, some colleges offer the option of submitting a separate, more traditional style resume. (Think PDF-style resume that you upload.)
If you feel like you’ve totally communicated all of the important details in your Activities List, you may not need to submit a separate resume. In fact, for many colleges, you may not even have the opportunity to upload a traditional PDF resume.
But if given that option, should you do it?
Some colleges strongly recommend that you submit a resume along with your application (see UT Austin’s policies for certain programs.) While others forbid it (see UVA’s FAQ section.) So be sure to check with individual colleges to see what they prefer.
However, keeping a professional resume on hand will serve you in a few other ways. How?
Serves as a foundation for the Common App Activities List (or vice versa—see this post if you’ve already written your activities list).
Gives teachers and counselors a framework for their letters of recommendation.
Provides you with a list of ready-made talking points for an admissions interview.
May inspire your Common App essay.
Is a requirement for many scholarships or internship and employment opportunities (read: $$).
Finally, it’s like having your own business card. There’s a “professional cool” factor when you’ve got a slick resume to slap on someone’s desk.
Now, let’s make one.
For this post, we use examples from this resume template—but feel free to use any of the others linked below.
College Resume Templates:
College Resume Template #1: Microsoft Word or Google Docs
College Resume Template #2: Microsoft Word or Google Docs
College Resume Template #3: Microsoft Word or Google Docs
College Resume Template #4: Microsoft Word or Google Docs
College Resume Template #5: Microsoft Word or Google Docs
College Resume Template #6: Microsoft Word or Google Docs
Note: To use these example college resume templates yourself: Click on the link, go to "File" > "Make a copy..." > "Ok"
We also recommend checking out some of Canva’s ready-to-use, customizable resume templates. Choosing the right template is kind of like choosing the right outfit for an interview. You want it to look sharp and feel like you. Ultimately, though, the outfit (or template) doesn’t guarantee success—it’s how you rock what you’ve got that matters the most.
For whichever template you choose, make sure you do the following: Go to File > Make a copy, and copy the document to your Google Drive.
Read along and make it your own!
How do I Pick a College Resume Template?
You’ve heard it’s what’s on the inside that counts. Well, when it comes to college resume templates, looks matter too. Think of the resume like your first impression.
Here are some things to consider when it comes to format and design.
(Don’t) Give ‘em Helvetica. Choose a serif font. What’s a serif font? It’s a font with little feet at the bottom of each letter, like Times New Roman. The opposite of a serif font is a sans-serif font, like Helvetica—no feet, see? A serif font looks a little more traditional and professional on a resume.
Create a style for each level of information. Bold or capitalize headings. Use italics or underline if you’d like. Make use of bullet points. The key here is consistency. There’s not one right way—just choose a style and stick to it.
Commit to one page. Your concision will gain you brownie points from college admissions counselors who’ve read one too many applications.
Respect white space. Leave the document’s margins at 1 inch. Keep a space between each section. White space is both a useful design tool and gentle on the reader’s eyes.
Use this one. Ex: Times New Roman
Don’t use these. Ex: Helvetica
How to write the college resume:
Here are 5 things you need for your college resume:
Relevant contact information(Video) 7 GREAT College Essay Tips to Help You Stand Out
Detailed education history + test scores
Experiences (think “Activities List”!)
I recommend sharing those details in this order, from top to bottom: contact information, education, experience and skills. If you’ve received honors and awards, you’ll have a separate section for those, too—but not all of us are that cool.
1. Contact Information
Include the following:
Your name. If you go by a nickname, use the name that’s attached to your college application—again, consistency is key.
A professional email that you check regularly. If you don’t have one, make one. If you’re still using ZendayaLover99 from middle school, it’s time to make a change—for everyone’s sake.
Your cell phone number.
It might look something like this:
This section requires a little more work. Include the following:
High School Name, City, STATE (start year – end year).
GPA, weighted and unweighted.
Best test scores (ACT, SAT, SAT Subject Tests, AP).
Relevant coursework. This section allows you to show off any extra classes you’ve taken in high school that reflect an interest in your major. So, if you want to be a doctor and you’ve taken Anatomy, add it!
Here’s a sample:
North Shore High School, Somewhere, TX (2015-2019)
GPA: Weighted: 3.6 / Unweighted: 3.2
Relevant Coursework: Advanced Journalism, Desktop Publishing, Multimedia Graphics
Remember those kids who started random clubs like underwater basket-weaving just so they could write “Club President” on their resumes? Even if the club never met? Right.
This section is your chance to show that you’re different, because it’s more than just your responsibilities. It’s also about your accomplishments. What’s the difference?
Responsibilities vs. Accomplishments
Maybe the underwater basket-weaving club president was responsible for hosting meetings, planning events and organizing a fundraiser. But if she didn’t actually accomplish any of those things, she can’t add them to her resume. So consider both your responsibilities and accomplishments, whether in a club, on a team, at a job, through a service project, etc. and then think of those accomplishments in terms of numbers.
Why numbers matter
Numbers give context and scale, plus they can help you stand out. Here’s what we mean:
Say you’re the editor of your school’s newspaper. Think back to how many papers you’ve published. How many articles? How many meetings have you led? How many students in each meeting? Say you babysit neighborhood kids. How many kids? How old are they? How often do you babysit? For how long each time? Maybe you work at a coffee shop. How many shifts per week? How many hours per shift? How many people do you serve on average each shift? Maybe you’re the team captain for your lacrosse team. How many warm-ups do you lead each week? For how many teammates? Do you lead team study sessions to help keep everyone’s grades up? How often?
Use strong active verbs
Once you’ve got the numbers, think of active verbs that describe exactly what you did. Here’s your chance to show that you’ve led, managed, organized, created, problem-solved, budgeted, maintained, coached, produced, written, presented, scheduled, built, developed, traveled, bought, bid, sold, delivered, etc.
Some tips for organizing the Experiences section of your college resume:
List experiences in reverse chronological order, starting with your most recent activities and working backward.
For each activity, list the organization/business (even if it’s just your school), location, your position, and the dates of experience. The dates show much you’ve invested in that activity.
Avoid first person. Instead of saying “I managed,” just say “managed.”
Keep verb tenses consistent. So, if you’re still participating in the activity, use present-tense verbs. If you’re not, use past-tense verbs.
Want a huge list of verbs you can use to perfectly describe your experiences? Boom, here you go.
Need help thinking about your experiences?
Sit down with a parent, guardian, teacher who knows you well, or good friend, and ask them to help you remember what you’ve done.
Note that “experiences” can include lots of things. Don’t sell yourself short; even taking care of your younger siblings could count (if you’ve spent significant time and energy!).
Other ideas for your Experiences section:
Taking care of an elderly neighbor.
Volunteering at your house of worship.
Organizing weekly pick-up basketball in your neighborhood.
Working on your parent’s/friend’s car.
Organizing a fantasy football league in your class.
Serving on the board or council for an organization/group.
Taking summer art classes.
Selling homemade crafts on eBay.
Teaching your little sister to play the guitar.
Writing a regular blog about baking cakes.
Showing pigs through your local 4-H troupe.
Competing in local beauty pageants.
Click here for a list of other activities you may not have considered—but that count.
4. Awards and Honors
Think of this section as your trophy case on paper. Maybe your essay last year received second prize in the school-wide writing competition, or your science fair project or miniature pony got you best-in-show. Maybe you’re an Eagle Scout and you earned all 137 merit badges (yes, it’s possible!). Maybe your ball-handling skillz got you Most Improved Player on your JV basketball team.
Get this: you can also include if you were selected for something. (Examples: “1 of 200 students selected to serve as student/admin liaison” or “1 of 4 students chosen to represent our school at the national conference.”)
And, as with the Experiences section, take the time to give a brief, specific summary that captures just how awesome you are. Make sure to do this:
Include the name of the award and, if it’s obscure—or only someone from your town would recognize it—briefly describe what it is.
List the organizations involved, your position and the date you received the award (month and year works).
Be specific and use numbers. First place out of how many schools/teams/participants?
Avoid using “I.”
This final section should be short and sweet, like a toddler eating a cupcake.
What are skills? Anything you can do that could be relevant for college or your major. If you’re hoping to study theater and you can do the Daffy Duck voice or know how to swing dance, include a few gems! These often create great conversation starters for an interview, for example.
Tips for writing the Skills section of your college resume:
Avoid cliches like “punctual,” “passionate,” “organized,” “hard-working,” “team-player.” These days everyone and their mother is a punctual, passionate, organized, hard-working team-player.
Instead, focus especially on computer and language skills. Modern employers lurve ‘em
If you’re a Google Drive maven, add “Google Apps for Work”
If you can rock Word, Powerpoint and Excel, add “Microsoft Office Suite”
If you know how to hack or code, include it.
If you’ve taken Spanish I, include it. If you’re studying Arabic through Rosetta Stone, or High Valyrian through Duolingo, include it!
Some examples of other skills you might include:(Video) How to Make a Resume for College Applications | Coach Hall Writes
Technical skills (welding, fixing cars, construction, computer repair, etc.)
Data analysis skills
Communication or teaching skills
Writing skills (Maybe you can create comics, or write screenplays or newspaper articles; maybe you know AP style or APA style like the back of your hand—include it!)
Speech and debate skills
Artistic skills (Which mediums can you work with? With which types of paint do you thrive?)
Interpretation/translation skills (This goes beyond just speaking a language!)
Musical proficiencies (Can you read music? Play five instruments? Sight-read?)
Keep going on the Skills section until it starts to feel ridiculous. Or until you’ve listed, say, 8-10 max, whichever comes first. How do you know if it’s starting to get ridiculous? Give it to at least one person (but no more than three) to edit before you send it out.
NEXT STEp: STAY AHEAD BY GETTING FAMILIAR WITH COLLEGE INTERVIEW QUESTIONS
Save your resume as a PDF with a professional, clear title. Include your name and the word “Resume.” Avoid titles like “asdjks.pdf” or “Resume.pdf,” which can come across as unprofessional or confusing. Remember, details matter.
Don’t write, “References available on request.” It sounds nice, but whoever reads your resume knows to contact you if he or she needs references, so it’s just wasted space.
Don’t include an “Objective.” They know your objective is to get into college, get a job/scholarship/internship. Anything more specific will come across in your essays and interviews.
How to submit your resume for college applications
You’ve got a slick digital resume. Now what?
If you’ve decided it makes sense to share your resume with colleges beyond what you’re sharing in your resume, you can typically do so within each school’s application system.
The Common App typically lets schools decide whether or not to offer an upload function within each colleges individual supplemental section.
If you can afford it and plan to do interviews in person, go to your local office supply store and buy some thick, white or off-white resume paper. Grab a professional-looking folder while you’re at it (no folders with kittens or polka-dots). Print 10 or so copies to keep on hand. When you ask teachers for letters of recommendation, give them a copy. When you walk into an interview, whether it’s for college or a job, bring a copy for every interviewer. Hand one to your significant other’s parents! J/K.
Finally, keep your resume updated. As you gain new experience, skills and awards, add them! If you stay on top of your resume, sending it out in will be a snap (after all, you’ll be in college—you’ve got better things to do).
Already written your Activities List and want to turn it into a resume? Here’s how.
Want to see some other college resume templates? Feast your eyes.
Check out my free one-hour guide
Check out my pay-what-you-can course
Which resume template is best for college students? ›
The most common resume format for a college student is “functional” or “skill-based”, which allows the hiring manager to immediately see the benefits in hiring you. We recommend college students starting with this format.How do you write a good college application essay? ›
- Write about something that's important to you. ...
- Don't just recount—reflect! ...
- Being funny is tough. ...
- Start early and write several drafts. ...
- No repeats. ...
- Answer the question being asked. ...
- Have at least one other person edit your essay. ...
- Test Your College Knowledge.
First, there is no empirical evidence to recommend against it. Second, traumatic experiences are huge sources of personal meaning and significance, and it would be sad if you couldn't use your writing as a tool for processing your experience. Third, meaningful essays = good essays = stronger applications.What should you not put on a college resume? ›
Don't include on college resumes:
Unrelated details of any variety. Bad job/internship experiences that will reflect poorly on you. Irrelevant padding on any relevant content.
This is the most common type of resume format and is generally preferred by most hiring managers. A chronological resume leads with your work history, which should list your current and previous positions in reverse chronological order.
Good writing skills matter, but the best college essay is about the quality of your response. Authentic stories in a natural voice have impact. The story you want to tell about yourself will work better for you if it's told in language that's not overly sophisticated.What are colleges looking for in essays? ›
Colleges look for three things in your admission essay: a unique perspective, strong writing, and an authentic voice. People in admissions often say that a great essay is one where it feels like the student is right there in the room, talking authentically to the admissions committee!What are the top 5 tips for a resume? ›
- Use real estate wisely. Cut the clutter in both appearance and content. ...
- Focus on relevant experience. ...
- Ditch the objective statement. ...
- Highlight accomplishments instead of job duties. ...
- Don't ignore the basics.
Emphasize your education and honors/awards received in college. Take advantage of the many opportunities college gives to you and use those to spice up your resume. Make your resume job/internship application-specific. Include extracurriculars, volunteer experiences, certifications, and publications, if you have any.Can a resume be 2 pages for college? ›
Yes, your resume can be two pages if you have a lot of relevant information to put on your resume, like work experience, certifications, educational details, and skills. It's acceptable to use a two page resume if making it one page would hurt your chances of landing an interview by omitting essential qualifications.
Can you mention depression in college essay? ›
It is okay to write about mental illness and Depression in your college essay as long as it proves that you're a suitable student. Thus, you should be asking yourself, “how does my experience with mental illness or Depression make me a strong candidate?”Is it OK to write a sad college essay? ›
The college essay should relate one moment, one characteristic, one experience, or one single thing that succinctly captures the student's persona and motivation. It can be happy. It can also be sad or challenging as long as the student shows growth, self-awareness, and hope by the end of the essay.Should I mention mental health in college essays? ›
The Additional Information Section. All of the college planners mentioned above agree that if your mental health struggle in high school clearly impacted your performance, then you should mention it in the “Additional Information” portion of the Common Application — but only in a factual manner.What are 3 items that should not go into a resume? ›
- Too much information. ...
- A solid wall of text. ...
- Spelling mistakes and grammatical errors. ...
- Inaccuracies about your qualifications or experience. ...
- Unnecessary personal information. ...
- Your age. ...
- Negative comments about a former employer. ...
- Too many details about your hobbies and interests.
- “Hard Worker” Sure enough, you are a hard worker. ...
- “Creative” “If you were creative you would find a less vague word to phrase it,” says Samantha Engman, content strategist and career specialist behind Bid4Papers. ...
- “Expert” ...
- “Responsible” ...
- “Salary negotiable” Yes, they know. ...
- “References available by request” See the preceding comment about unnecessary terms.
- “Responsible for ______” ...
- “Experience working in ______” ...
- “Problem-solving skills” ...
- “Detail-oriented” ...
- “Hardworking” ...
- “Team player”
- Having spelling errors and bad grammar. ...
- Exaggerating the truth. ...
- Poor formatting. ...
- An unoriginal personal profile. ...
- Not focusing on your achievements. ...
- Making your CV too long. ...
- Putting the wrong contact information. ...
- Not tailoring your CV to the specific role.
In 99% of the cases, we'd recommend going with a reverse-chronological resume format. In 2022, it's the most common and useful format: Applicant tracking systems can read it without any problems. All recruiters and hiring managers are familiar with this format.What are 4 things a great resume shows employers? ›
What are four things a great résumé shows employers? qualifications, meet the employer's needs, likeable, work well with others, appeal to both human and electronic reviews.What should you stay away from in a college essay? ›
- Inappropriate Topics.
- A Rehash of Your Activities List and Transcripts.
- Relationships, Romance, and Breakups.
- Writing About Your Hero.
- The Sports Story.
- Highly Personal Topics.
- Controversial Topics: Politics, Religion, and More.
What are the most common mistakes when writing the college essay? ›
Poor Presentation & Proofreading
One of the most common mistakes students make when writing their college essays is failing to reread their writing. Looking out for basic spelling and grammatical errors and having someone else read it is one of the best ways to notice mistakes.
Yes, every college essay is read if the college has asked for it (and often even if they did not ask for it). The number of readers depends on the college's review process.What are the 7 college essay prompts? ›
- Prompt #1: Share your story.
- Prompt #2: Learning from obstacles.
- Prompt #3: Challenging a belief.
- Prompt #4: Solving a problem.
- Prompt #5: Personal growth.
- Prompt #6: What captivates you?
- Prompt #7: Topic of your choice.
- Describe a person you admire.
- Put the essay away for a day or two. Then read it again. ...
- Read your essay out loud. You shouldn't stumble over words or phrases when you read your essay out loud. ...
- Ask yourself if your essay says everything you want it to say about you. ...
- Pretend you're a college reader.
- Introspective and reflective.
- Full of a student's voice.
- Descriptive and engaging.
- Unconventional & distinct.
Colleges today are looking for students whose strengths and experiences will be an asset to their school. Good grades, a challenging high school curriculum, standardized test scores, extracurriculars, and a strong essay are a few key factors admissions officers assess.What are 5 things colleges look for? ›
- Grades in college prep courses. ...
- Strength of curriculum. ...
- Admission test scores. ...
- Grades in all courses. ...
- Extracurricular commitment. ...
- Letters of recommendation. ...
- Essay or writing sample. ...
- Demonstrated interest.
A high GPA (relative to what admitted students have) and a rigorous curriculum. Strong test scores (relative to what admitted students have) A specific, honest, and well-written personal statement. A unique extracurricular interest or passion (a "spike," as we like to call it)How do I make myself stand out on a college application? ›
- Have a diverse list of extracurricular activities.
- Challenge yourself.
- Go beyond the norm in a college essay.
- Show grades trending up.
- Demonstrate interest in the college.
- Schedule an interview if possible.
- Good grades and a challenging course load.
- Strong test scores.
- Honest, specific, and eloquent essays.
- A spike in your extracurricular activities.
- Compelling letters of recommendation.
- Volunteer experience with clear impact on the groups or places you've helped.
What does a 650 word essay look like? ›
A 650 words essay will be 1.3 pages single-spaced or 2.6 pages double-spaced. A standard single-spaced page contains 500 words.How do you start a college application essay about yourself? ›
Start your essay with a creative introduction that will make the readers want to continue reading your essay. You may choose to start with a personal story or experience. Avoid using cliches such as “from a young age” or “for as long as I can remember.” Also, avoid using quotes.What are the 4 mistakes to avoid when applying for a college? ›
- Delaying the campus visit until the spring. ...
- Considering only research universities for undergraduate research. ...
- Ignoring life after college when choosing a college. ...
- Getting your heart set on one place before the financial-aid offer.
- Good Grades. Earning good grades is the most critical factor for college applications. ...
- Challenging High School Curriculum. ...
- Strong Standardized Test Scores. ...
- A Well-Written Essay. ...
- Extracurricular Participation and Leadership Skills. ...
- Diversity. ...
- Enthusiasm for the School. ...
- Letters of Recommendation.
- Participate in a specialized high school program. ...
- Take a college class. ...
- Find a summer program at a local school or community college. ...
- Get involved with research. ...
- Create your own project. ...
- Take a free online class. ...
- Get a job. ...
- Be an entrepreneur.
1. Harvard University — 3.19% With a record-low admission rate of just 3.19% for the class of 2026, Harvard currently ranks as the most difficult school to get into. This rate reflects admission into Harvard College, the Ivy League university's undergraduate school.What can I do to increase my chances of getting into college? ›
- Earn Good Grades in Challenging Courses. ...
- Get a High SAT/ACT Score. ...
- Write a Compelling Personal Statement. ...
- Demonstrate Interest. ...
- Secure Strong Letters of Recommendation. ...
- Apply to a Diverse Selection of Colleges. ...
- Opt for an Early Admission Plan. ...
- Manage Your Online Reputation.
Writing 1200 words should take you approximately 3 and a half to 4 and a half hours. This length of an article can include key details, but you won't be able to expand too much unless the subject is straightforward. An essay of this size usually requires a fair amount of research.How long does a 5000 word essay take? ›
Writing 5,000 words will take about 2.1 hours for the average writer typing on a keyboard and 4.2 hours for handwriting. However, if the content needs to include in-depth research, links, citations, or graphics such as for a blog article or high school essay, the length can grow to 16.7 hours.What does a 2 000 word essay look like? ›
2,000 words is 4 pages single-spaced or 8 pages double-spaced. Documents that typically contain 2,000 words include college essays, operating manuals, and longer form blog posts.
What is a good sentence starter for a college essay? ›
Below is a list of possible sentence starters, transitional and other words that may be useful. This essay discusses … … is explored … … is defined … The definition of … will be given … is briefly outlined … … is explored … The issue focused on …. … is demonstrated ... … is included …How do you sell yourself in a college essay? ›
- Use Action Verbs.
- Impact, not Responsibilities.
- Find the 'Special'
- Build your confidence.
- List your 3 greatest strengths.
- Other things you can do:
Start with a vivid, specific image
If your topic doesn't lend itself to such a surprising opener, you can also start with a vivid, specific description. Many essays focus on a particular experience, and describing one moment from that experience can draw the reader in.