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The College Application Résumé

What goes on and what stays off?

As the August application frenzy hits its stride, many of my students are asking about the value of creating a résumé for college. “Why should I do more work,” they ask, “when the Common Application is happy with an Activities List?” The answer to that is, YOU may not be happy enough with an Activities List. There are descriptions and explanations to write to your admission officers about leadership, nontraditional education, summer experiences that blew you away, academic passions that you followed independently, jobs you took that taught you skills too numerous to explain on an Activities List, etc.

A resume is a powerful tool for college and for the future. List summer jobs, performing arts training, athletic accomplishments, academic and pre-professional experiences, travel, public service, and internships. Include the honors you have won in association with these activities under a separate heading. Where appropriate, add a line of explanation and elucidation. Colleges are very curious to see how you spend your summers and they love seeing a continuation of education (in an artistic talent or intellectual pursuit) through college programs at home or overseas.

When you list awards and honors, however, Do NOT include awards from 8th grade, or accolades like: an attendance award from religious school at your house of worship; or an award for being elected “student of the week.” A high school résumé is for activities and scholarships that impress in a big way.

Talk about the extra courses you took in a neighboring college because you are fascinated by marine biology but do not have a course offering to choose from in your high school. Talk about the two years you have put into learning a third language and how you pursue it in the summer at a university abroad. Talk about taking on a job during junior year that helped your family out or that will go towards your first semester of college. Talk about the national honors you have received by beginning a service project that turned into an award-winning nonprofit organization. Talk about your research during the year at a local hospital or lab, and how you continue that research in the summer at the Boston University Research program (or at another fine program on our curated “top-summer activity list”). Talk about winning your science department’s award for best all-around chemistry or physics student; or starting weekend classes at a conservatory for your instrumental or vocal talent; or being elected as President of your high school’s student government. These are the things that belong on your résumé.

Does the résumé have to be one page?

No. Although a professional résumé must be one page, and although admission officers may like to be reading only one page (because they are overwhelmed), please include everything you need to make your résumé stand out. If it is two pages full of regional, national and international awards; and/or fascinating internships and interesting educational pursuits-let it be. If your résumé includes a paragraph or two of explanation for a certain kind of untraditional schooling due to: health, home circumstances, religious belief, educational philosophy, arts preparation, etc., please do include that explanation. This is what the Common Application’s Additional Information section is all about. Just follow the steps below regarding ordering/placement of those explanations in the body of the résumé.

For answers to questions about this type of addition, please contact College Admission Central and we will be glad to help.

Do I use different fonts?

Title font in dark blue, bold & italicized; list of activities in black, 12 pt. Times New Roman

List dates from most contemporary to least contemporary

Do separate sections receive separate titles?

Yes. For titles you have options: Education, Academic Awards & Honors; Service Awards & Honors; Athletic Awards & Honors; Arts Awards & Honors; Leadership; Community/Public Service; Summer Experiences; Jobs/Internships; Speaking Engagements; etc.

Add short explanations for each leadership event in which you’ve participated. Explain your role. Colleges want to know whether you were only a member or whether you actually led a group to success, fundraised, founded, or directed a project, etc.

Separate the elements in each line of your listing by commas ONLY.

For example:

National Coca Cola Scholar, Coca Cola Foundation, Presented to the top 250 graduating seniors in U.S., $25,000 scholarship, 2014

The order

The order in which you list is essential. Usually, the places from which you have received your education must go first. After that, whichever heading includes the most significant honors should come next.

For example: if you are a scholar who has taken academic college programs/courses at home or abroad every summer, place EDUCATION first (w/GPA & Standardized Test Scores—IF you want to show them off outside of the application) and follow it by Summer Education.

If you have won national awards for public service, place Service Awards & Honors first.

Put your ResuMotiv (your multimedia résumé) site with an icon for it at the center of your résumé at the top of the first page. In the upper right hand corner of the first résumé page, place your name, date of birth, name of high school and Common Application ID #.

Don’t hesitate to contact us with your college application questions. As always, we’re here to help you make the most compelling impression on your admission officers and get ACCEPTED!

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