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How to Write a Resume for College – Introduction

Standing out as a stellar applicant in the college admissions process is tough. One way to separate yourself from the crowd is by crafting a strong resume for college. Your college resume can highlight information about your background, activities, and achievements. Some of these might not be indicated elsewhere in your college application or recommendation letters

In this article, we will teach you how to write a college resume. We’ll highlight 5 simple steps to building your college application resume. We will also discuss what a college resume is and why you may need a resume for college. Additionally, we will provide examples on how to write a resume for college by reviewing college resume examples. Finally, we’ll walk you through some college resume templates in our example college resumes.

So, let’s look at how to write a college resume and explain what makes a good college resume, why you should include a resume for college in your applications, and more!

What is a college resume? 

A high school resume is typically a one-page document that complements your college application. Your high school resume (or college resume) can help you showcase your achievements and extracurriculars for college. It does this by sharing information that is not elsewhere within your college applications. The goal of a college resume is to show the college admissions officers who you are and how you spend your time outside of the classroom

Before we jump into how to write a college resume, let’s examine some things that make up a good college resume.

A good college resume should include: 

  • Clear structure
  • Concise language (bullet points over essay-style)
  • Relevant details
  • Strong formatting

As we discuss how to write a resume for college, you might wonder what purpose a college resume serves. In short, a college resume is a summary of experiences that you can use to add depth to your college applications. You can also think of a college resume as your high school resume, or a resume for college. Your college resume will include a brief description of each of your experiences and extracurriculars for college. 

While we examine how to write a resume for college, you should first note that your college resume should include key details like your educational details, GPA, extracurricular activities/jobs, and honors/awards. As we’ll discuss, your college resume will have other key features. We’ll go through each of these as we learn how to write a resume for college. 

Many colleges list a college resume within their college application requirements. But, even if a college resume is not listed in the college application requirements, we recommend creating one anyway. 

We will look at a sample college resume later in this article, along with a 5-step guide to creating a resume for college that you can use as you begin writing your college resume. 

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Do I need a resume for my college applications? 

No, you do not necessarily need to include a college resume with your college applications. However, a high school resume or resume for college can be a helpful tool in the college admissions process. 

So, how could including a resume for college application be beneficial? First, including a college resume in your college applications can help highlight your skills, experiences, and qualifications to the admissions office of your dream school. 

Having a college resume can help you showcase your extracurricular activities in your college applications. You can highlight leadership positions, accomplishments, interests, and activities on your college resume that might not appear elsewhere in your college applications. 

Creating a resume for college application can also demonstrate your accomplishments and experiences to college admissions officers. Even if a high school resume is optional in the list of college application requirements, including one in your college applications can help you stand out. Standing out is incredibly important in the admissions process, especially if your ideal college is high on the list of college rankings

It is a good idea to start putting together your college resume as you near the end of high school.

You may forget the names of clubs, supervisors, mentors, teachers, etc. as you get ready to apply to college. So, the earlier you can gather all the information for your high school resume, the better! That way, all of your experiences are fresh in your mind, and you can create the strongest resume for college possible. 

When should I prepare my college resume? 

As you begin the process of applying to college, you might be wondering when to prepare your college resume. The ideal timeline for creating your high school resume can start as early as 9th grade. 

In general, you won’t want to include anything on your high school resume before 9th grade. Like other college application requirements, college admissions officers are only interested in the activities you have participated in during high school. 

Keep a list starting in 9th grade

As early as 9th grade, you can start keeping a list of your accomplishments and activities. Even though you won’t need to format this list into a college resume yet, it will be the basis for your future college application resume.

As you begin the college admissions process, you can use the list you created and turn it into a college resume. As you apply to college and prepare your college resume, research which college resume format works best for you. Reviewing a sample college resume or college resume template can help you find the perfect college resume format. 

As you look through college resume examples, think about which aspects of the college resume template you like the best. Then, adapt things from those college resume examples to fit your college resume. Once you have decided on a college resume format, list your accomplishments, jobs, and activities within that college resume format. 

Summer before senior year

The best time to create your high school resume is during the summer before your senior year. This gives you plenty of time to perfect your college application resume. 

We’ll examine the necessary components of a successful college resume in the next section of this article. So, read on!

What should a high school student put on a resume? 

As you begin the college admissions process, you may be asking yourself what to include on your high school resume. You can start the college application resume writing process by brainstorming how you spend your time outside of your courses. 

Think about everything you have done or achieved since you started high school and write it down. Your high school resume should highlight your activities, interests, and skills. Pay particular attention to these factors as you consider what to include on your high school resume.

Your high school resume will be organized categorically. Some of the most common categories for a resume for college application include personal information, work experience, extracurricular activities, volunteer experience/community service, education, and skills.  In addition to the categories listed above, below is a list of some other things that high school students should list on their resume for college.

 Top ten things to list on your college resume:

  1. School name and address
  2. Contact Info
  3. GPA or Class rank, if applicable
  4. Paid Jobs
  5. Internships & volunteer roles
  6. Awards and honors
  7. Extracurricular activities
  8. Leadership positions
  9. Key skills
  10. Language competencies

As we mentioned earlier, you may not have information or experiences for every category listed above. That’s perfectly fine! Focus on what applies to you and what you can include on your high school resume as you learn how to write a college resume. 

What does not belong on my high school resume? 

Now that we have examined what to include on your high school resume, let’s discuss what does not belong on your college application resume. 

Keep it current

In general, you should avoid including any activity or achievement from before 9th grade on your resume for college. However, it’s okay to include something that is particularly impressive and/or attached to a current activity. 

For example, if you have 12 years of experience in playing the violin, you will want to include that on your high school resume. However, if you joined your middle school band for a semester, you should likely leave that out of your college resume. Your resume for college should reflect activities that matter to you now.

Avoid listing daily duties

There is no need to include informal everyday activities on your college resume, such as cooking for your family or cleaning around the house. When you are crafting your resume for college, it’s best to stick to things that are relevant to admissions committees or future employers. 

Note that this is one area where your college resume differs from your activities list. For instance, if you spend considerable time caretaking your three siblings, you may choose to include that on your activities list within the Common App. However, the same responsibilities likely shouldn’t appear on your resume for college.

Keep it clear

As you examine college resume templates and college resume examples, take note of the language and structure in a sample college resume. It’s important to use concise language and clear structure throughout your resume for college. 

Additionally, do not include excessive text or overly detailed explanations on your college application resume. You want your resume for college to be simple and clear. In general, you should limit your high school resume to one page, or two at the absolute maximum. Most people who review your college resume will spend about 30 seconds with it. So, your resume for college should be easily scanned, above all. 

When you use concise language throughout your college resume, it will make it easier for your reader to understand your accomplishments. Because most people will skim your high school resume, having a clear structure throughout will make it easy to read. Keep it simple and keep it consistent. 

how to write a resume for college

Steer clear of images and graphics

While you might come across this in your college resume format research, it’s best to avoid including images or graphics in your college application resume. Although this is a new trend and can be seen on multiple college resume examples and college resume templates, it can be distracting and take up valuable space on your high school resume.  

For instance, if you volunteered at twelve different soup kitchens, there is no need to list each one separately. That will become tedious and take up too much space on your essential resume for college application. 

Be honest

Finally, you should never misrepresent your qualifications on your high school resume. Be honest about your involvements, however many you have. It’s not worth potentially getting caught in a lie or an exaggeration during a college interview.

Where do I submit my college application resume? 

While you apply to college, you might be wondering what to do with your resume for college applications. Many college application portals will include a section for your college resume, especially if a resume for college is listed as one of the college application requirements. 

Most college application portals list the high school resume section as optional. While you are applying to college, you might notice that most colleges require that you fill out an activities section as part of the application process. The activities section will ask you to list your extracurriculars for college. Often, your activities section will serve the same purpose as your college resume. 

If you choose to include a high school resume with your college application, it should reflect your accomplishments in more detail than your activities section. Additionally, if you choose to include a resume for college with your application, make sure it adds something new to your activities list. 

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You will receive access to your college’s application portal once you have completed the process of applying to college but before you receive a college acceptance letter and officially enroll. When it’s time to upload your high school resume, be sure to upload it as a PDF rather than a Word document. That way, you can ensure that your formatting of your college resume stays consistent on every application. 

We’ll provide more details about the college resume format later in this article, when we examine college resume examples and college resume templates. 

How often should I update my college resume? 

It may be helpful to update your resume (or other records) every six months to a year in order to avoid missing any important details. You can use your college resume for more than just your college application requirements. In fact, there may be internships or other opportunities you seek out in high school that will ask you to submit a high school resume. Updating your college resume often will help you keep track of your experiences and accomplishments. 

In general, you should update your high school resume as often as it works for you. However, when you are almost done applying to college, you will want to make sure that your college resume is up-to-date and accurate before including it with your application. 

No matter how often you update your resume for college applications, we encourage you to keep copies of any old college resume examples you might have. Having old copies of your college resume can help you in the future as you begin to tailor your college resume for potential reviewers. 

How to write a resume for college

Now that we have a better understanding of what makes up a college resume, let’s focus on how to write a resume for college. You can begin writing your college resume by creating a list of your key details. Your key details will be the starting point for your college resume. 

First, you will include information about where you go to school, as well as your current GPA and any Honors statuses. You will also want to list your academic interests on your high school resume, including what you hope to study or pursue beyond high school. 

You will also include your extracurricular activities and the years you engaged in them on your resume for college. Additionally, you will want to add any jobs or internships you have had and the dates you held them. You can also list any leadership positions and the years you held them on your college resume. 

Finally, you will want to include any special skills you have on your resume for college. This can include certifications as well. 

Once you have a list of your key details, you will want to organize these details into sections on your high school resume. For some, these sections might include Objective, Education, Leadership Positions, Work and Internship History, and Special Skills.  

Linked about is our college resume walkthrough. Let’s do another walkthrough of these sections here to see what kind of information to include in each one. 

Objective

Your objective is the reason why you are writing your college resume. This section will vary depending on where you send your resume. 

If you are creating a resume for college applications, you should include information about your intended major or future career in this section. However, if you are sending your high school resume to a potential employer, your objective section will include information about why you are uniquely skilled for the job. 

Education 

The education section of your college resume should include all high schools you have attended, along with your GPA and anticipated date of graduation. 

If your high school provides you with a class rank, you can also include that piece of information within this section of your resume for college. 

Additionally, you can include your SAT or ACT score within this section, especially if you are submitting your resume for college applications. 

Leadership Positions 

Be sure to highlight any leadership positions you have held in your college resume. This includes any appointed positions you have received and even informal leadership positions. 

For example, if you were voted Class President of your Student Council, you can include that information here. Or maybe you are a peer mentor on your soccer team—you can include those details within this section of your college resume. 

Work and Internship History 

This section of your high school resume will list your whole work history, including internships, summer jobs, or part-time jobs. 

You will want to include the job title, company, dates of employment, and a brief outline of your duties for each of the work or internship experiences in this section of your resume for college. 

Special Skills 

Finally, this section of your college resume will outline any technical or soft skills you might have. Soft skills include things like teamwork, communication skills, and conflict resolution. 

In this section of your resume for college, you can also include any languages you speak or certifications you have. 

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After you have organized your high school resume into sections, you will want to include a bulleted list detailing your responsibilities within each of your engagements/leadership roles. Be sure to include only relevant details in your descriptions, as it’s important to be concise on your college resume.  

Remember to include the years for every role/activity on your college resume. You will want to list them with the most recent positions/activities at the top of your resume for college. 

College resume format

Your college resume format is one of the most important features to consider as you apply to college. As you construct your college resume format, make sure that it’s readable. 

Most people won’t look at your college resume for more than 30 seconds. So, any reader should be able to skim your high school resume and come away with a relatively clear idea of your qualifications and background. 

The ideal college resume format will have the name of the student clearly listed at the top of the college resume. Another aspect of a strong college resume format will have clear sections with strong headlines. Additionally, the best college resume format will include bulleted lists where appropriate. 

We will look at the college resume format in action as we review some college resume examples and college resume templates. 

College resume examples

As we review our sample college resume, we will explain how to use it to craft your own college resume when you apply to college. Use this sample college resume as a reference point for your resume for college. Then, adapt it to fit your own unique needs. 

We will discuss the sample college resume in the next two sections of this article. As we review the sample college resume, pay particular attention to what makes this college resume clear and effective. You can use this sample college resume as a college resume builder while you apply to college. 

college resume examples

At first glance, you can see that this college resume is organized. This resume for college has clear sections and a concise structure. What makes this college resume clear and effective is its formatting, language, and length. Be sure to incorporate these same elements into your own high school resume as you apply to college. 

Remember, this sample college resume is just one of many college resume examples available. Figure out what you like best about this sample college resume and use it to craft your own college resume. 

Sample college resume – What works? 

The key features of this sample college resume are its formatting, language, and length. Focusing on these in your own college resume will ensure that your resume for college stands out. 

Clear delineated sections

The formatting in this college resume works so well because it includes clearly delineated sections and organized by year. Keeping your information and experiences organized by year is an effective format for a resume for college applications. 

Simple and straightforward language

Another feature of this college resume that works well is the language. There is clear language and details throughout this resume for college that provide context for each role and accomplishment. For example, each of the work experiences in this high school resume feature a brief description of the student’s role and duties/responsibilities. 

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Concise structure

Additionally, this resume for college application features a concise structure that helps the reader clearly understand the purpose of each section. The descriptions within this college resume are brief but comprehensive. Having a concise structure and clear language throughout your college resume is key. 

Length

The final key feature that works well in this college resume is the length. This resume for college is just one page in length. Ideally, you want your college resume to fit on one page, but that is not a hard and fast rule. If you have a wealth of experiences and extracurriculars for college, your college resume can go over the typical one-page length. 

Even though this high school resume is a little over one page, it does not have any irrelevant details or extraneous information on it. As you begin writing your college resume, be sure to only include relevant details on it. 

As you learn how to write a college resume, keep track of what features work well and incorporate them into your own college resume. If you are unsure if the sample college resume will work for your college resume, don’t worry. There are plenty of college resume examples and college resume templates to choose from as you are applying to college. 

College resume template

There are multiple college resume examples that you can review as you start your college resume or college application letter. Looking at a college resume template can help you decide on the formatting, language, and length that works best for you. 

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Hunter College has a web page with college resume examples and college resume templates. Use it as a resource as you build your high school resume. 

If possible, you should avoid using form templates as you construct your college resume. Instead, think of the college resume template as a guide. You should aim to format your resume for college in the way that works best for you. 

It’s best to be a bit unique as you create your high school resume. Looking at a college resume template can help you find your own distinct style. You can also incorporate different aspects from a college resume template into your own college resume. 

However, be sure to avoid any hard-to-read fonts or unnecessary details in your formatting as you learn how to write a college resume. While your resume shouldn’t look like it was made using a stock college resume template, it also should not be overly crowded.

College resume builder

There are also college resume builder resources, like this one from Wheaton College, that will help students build their college resumes. You can use a college resume builder to format your own resume for college. 

At CollegeAdvisor.com, we host webinars on topics that help you apply to college. We have a webinar on how to write a resume for college, with plenty of college resume examples. We also have a webinar with advice from former Admissions Officers on how to build your college resume. 

Once again, you should generally avoid a pre-formatted college resume builder or college resume template. Instead, use these college resume examples as a jumping off point as you begin the college admissions process. 

Formatting your high school resume yourself makes it easier to make any quick edits or fix any formatting quirks. If you were to use a college resume builder or college resume template, these adjustments may be a challenge. 

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Build your College Resume in 5 Simple Steps

Having examined some college resume examples, let’s review 5 simple steps for how to write a resume for college. 

Five Steps to Build your College Resume

Step 1

Make an accurate list of your experiences, awards, education, and qualifications. You will use this list as the outline for your resume for college. 

Step 2

Choose the best college resume format for the job. Before you finalize your choice of college resume format, review a college resume template or college resume examples for guidance. Then, create a resume header for your college resume. 

Step 3

Add your accurate information by section on your resume for college. Reference the college resume examples you reviewed previously to choose the sections you will use on your high school resume. Organize each list by year, placing the most recent item at the top of your resume for college. Be sure to separate your extracurricular experiences from your awards/honors, creating two lists (or more if necessary). 

Step 4

Format your lists to be clear and readable, and add your name and contact information as the header of your college resume. 

Step 5

Ask a friend, family member, or mentor to copy edit your resume for college! Having another set of eyes on your high school resume will help you create the strongest resume for college possible. 

How to write a college resume – Final Thoughts

In this article, we reviewed how to write a college resume. As we discussed the purpose of a college application resume, we examined college resume examples and described key features that work in a college resume. We hope the college resume examples we featured in our article on how to write a resume for college help you craft your high school resume as you apply to college.

Need help crafting the perfect college application resume? CollegeAdvisor.com can teach you how to write a resume for college. Register for a free CollegeAdvisor.com account and receive access to hundreds of articles and webinars. These resources will help you craft your college resume as you begin applying to college.

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This article was written by Claire Babbs. If you want to get help with your college applications from Claire or other CollegeAdvisor.com Admissions Expertsregister with CollegeAdvisor.com today.