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Creating a college application resumé

It’s never too soon for students to write a resumé - even if their college applications don’t require one

Creating a college application resumé

On the new Common App, not all schools allow for or require a resumé upload. So, is there still a point for students to take the time to create one? Yes! Creating a resumé for the college admissions process is beneficial for a number of reasons. 


It’s essential for schools that do accept resumés

Some schools, such as the University of Pennsylvania and Brandeis, do allow for a virtual resumé upload. Plus, as a general rule of thumb in the college admissions process for resumés and beyond, optional is not really optional. If students have the opportunity to include optional or recommended information or documents, have them consider it a requirement — don’t skip it. You can be certain that top applicants are submitting a resumé, so for students to stay as competitive as possible, encourage them to submit one. 


It will help you keep their activities organized

Having students compile all of their activities and, importantly, their time commitments to these activities, will be useful for filling out the activities section of the Common Application. Here they have the ability to enter data regarding their top ten — yes, just ten — activities from high school including summer programs, school clubs, sports, internships, foreign exchanges and work experience. It is up to your students to determine which ten activities to include if they have taken part in more, and the Common App expects these ten activities to be listed in order of importance to them. Having all of this information already compiled in a resumé format that is readily available electronically will be a huge time saver when it comes time to fill out this section of the Common App. 


They can use a resumé for more than just college applications

Having a resumé handy also proves useful when it comes time to apply for summer jobs, pre-college programs and internships, as well as certain scholarships and grants, if applicable. 


What to include on a resumé:

Name, address, email and phone number

Detailed listing of ALL activities your students participated in both inside and outside of school. This should include a description of their involvement in the activity, any awards or honors, and the time commitment (hours per week and weeks or months per year). 


Activities to include:

School clubs 

Groups they are members of outside of their high school

School honors societies

National honors societies

Sports, school and club travel teams

Internship and work experience (paid and unpaid)

Study abroad/foreign exchange/language immersion programs

Independent research or research alongside a faculty member

Community service and volunteer experience

Independent (online, in person, MOOC) and college level course work

How to organize a resumé

After students compile all of the activities they have participated in, they need to decide on how to group and present them. Some students may find that it is easier to group and present their activities by theme. For example, students would group all fundraising endeavors (both via school clubs and outside organizations/volunteer work) in one section, all musical activities (including school and non-school choirs, plays, independent study etc.) in another section and so on. Honors and awards related to each theme would be grouped in its respective section and not in a separate honors/awards section. This format helps students clearly highlight where their interests lie and is a way to highlight deeper commitments lasting over time.  

Students with less developed themes throughout their list of extracurriculars may find it best to list them in a simpler fashion — clubs/activities, athletics, community service/volunteer work and awards/honors. Of course, there is no set, standard or even preferred format for most colleges and universities. The sections really do depend on your student’s involvements, but these are some general guidelines. 

What you may notice is lacking from the above list of comments is the inclusion of students’ academic/education information from middle and high school, including their GPA and test scores. This information is not needed, as it is included on the Common Application and is therefore redundant if included on an uploaded resumé. 

However, for resumés to be used outside of the Common Application or for other school-specific college applications (for example, a comprehensive athletic resumé), a small education section including high school name, year of graduation, GPA and test scores can be added. 

Please note, it is important to read the application requirements for every school your students apply to. If they specifically ask “do not send a resumé,” then, of course, your students should not send one. A good rule of thumb is, if they have an upload button for a resumé on the writing section of the Common Application, then they will accept resumés. If they do not, it is typically best not to send one. 

Brittany Maschal is the founder of B. Maschal Educational Counseling.


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