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How to Write A Résumé for College Applications

25 SEPT 2020

Particular universities and scholarship committees will require you to submit a high school resume along with your other application materials. For many, this may be your first time putting a resume together. This is a great opportunity to showcase additional experiences and skills that may not have come through in other areas of your application. Additionally, it’s a fantastic chance to develop your resume-building skills which will prove imperative to your success in future career endeavors. The resume you build is also helpful to share with teachers who are writing your letters of recommendation.

Before we dive into the structure of your resume, be sure to only submit the resume if it is requested by the university. Following the instructions of particular universities is extremely important in all areas of your application.

Rules of Thumb for your Resume

  • Be Detailed!
    • Adding dates and time spent on each extracurricular, volunteer opportunity, or activity is really helpful for admissions officers to see.
    • If you held leadership positions in any of your listed activities, be sure to include this!
    • Provide specific examples of how you contributed to each project.
      • Be very careful about the verbs that you use. "Participating", "Attending", etc. do not indicate you've done anything to move the needle - talk about things that you've built or developments that you've been a part of,” says David Freed, chief operating officer at Crimson.
      • Numbers are extremely important. Proper nouns as well. Recall that the persons reading this resume are likely extremely unfamiliar with your circumstance or the company you've worked for (there are so many companies!). So use numbers and proper nouns to anchor achievements in frames of reference that people can understand. If you got 17th in a big competition with an unclear name, note you finished "17 of 2000" to give that context. If the company is relatively obscure, represent it as "the Netflix of Omaha" or something similar - ground your description in a common concept that everyone will understand,” says Freed.
  • Keep It Concise
    • We know you have done a lot of impressive things during your high school career, but be sure to keep your resume as concise as possible, while still sharing all of your highlights. Don’t exceed one page!
  • Keep it organized!
    • Break your resume into digestible chunks, like the ones listed below! Organize your resume in a way that makes the most sense-whether that be by importance, time commitment, or chronologically.
      • “Consider what is the key takeaway that readers will have about the resume. Experienced recruiters scan this in 15-30 seconds: you should be tailoring it to this. Make everything very clear and linked together - be brutally cutthroat in removing anything that doesn't align with the main narrative,” says David Freed.
  • Be Honest!
    • Admissions officers have reviewed thousands of applications, so are able to spot inconsistencies quickly. If something seems off, they may verify the information with your counselor.

Resume Elements to Include

  • Heading
    • Include name, address, and email
  • Academic Information
    • Include High School, graduation date, GPA here!
  • Testing
    • Highest SAT/AP/ACT scores can be reported here.
  • Additional Coursework
    • Have you taken courses outside of your high school? Maybe online work such as Coursera, or through a local university? Add those in here! Any coursework that you have done outside of your high school transcript can be added here. Show off your intellectual curiosity and commitment to learning here!
  • Extracurricular Activities
    • If the university you’re applying to does not use the common app or have an activities section, this is a great place to include descriptions of your impactful extracurriculars. It is better to show the depth of interest as opposed to scattered involvement in an assortment of activities.
  • Work Experience
    • Your resume is a great place to share your work experience. Holding a job can show how responsible you are in addition to any skills learned at the job.
  • Special Skills
    • Do you have knowledge in a particular field that hasn’t been communicated already in the other parts of your resume? Add those here! Maybe you are a self-taught coder, or are fluent in another language, for example. This is a great place to highlight those valuable skills.
  • Awards
    • If you’ve received any recognition or awards for academic or extracurricular involvement, add those here!

How to Start

We recommend finding a template to follow, on Microsoft Word or online. Look at other examples of college resumes, and see how others have effectively communicated their accomplishments. While your resume is meant to be uniquely yours and highlight your individual accomplishments, it can be helpful to see how others have formatted their high school career into one page!

Once you have written a draft of your resume, share it with a friend, counselor, or teacher to review. Proofreading and editing are key to every element of your applications and your peers will often spot errors that slipped through your own editing process.

If you’re finding it difficult to fill in the blanks for this resume, it’s possible that you may need to dig deeper with extracurricular involvement. Since you may find yourself with more time on your hands in 2020, it’s important to continue building your extracurricular profile. Consider an internship or working with an extracurricular and leadership mentor to help you gain real-life skills in addition to boosting your application! If you’d like more information on this, please reach out to us to schedule a time with one of our enrollment advisors to see how Crimson can help you!

Drea M.

Written by

Drea M.

Drea attended the Lawrenceville School and then graduated from the University of Colorado Boulder with a B.A in Journalism & Anthropology. She currently resides in San Diego. Previously, she worked at Education First, an international education company, serving as the Activities Coordinator for a diverse student population. She now works for Crimson as an Education Coordinator and Copywriter. In her free time, you can find her seeing live music, hiking, and traveling.