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Building a Resume for College Applications: Where to Start

The summer is a great time for students to catch up on their college prep, including pulling together some materials that will be helpful when it comes time to fill out your college applications. Putting together a resume of your activities, awards, internships, and more is a great way to organize all the information you want colleges to know – and set you up for a smoother college application experience.

How exactly is a resume used? After all, many applications, including the Common Application, have an activity list section where all of the information on the resume will be entered. It’s important to remember, however, that many colleges still ask students to upload resumes or other documentation with their applications. If you’re applying to outside scholarships, a resume might be required with your scholarship application. Resumes might also be required when applying to summer programs and internships. It’s also good to have an updated resume to send to your college counselor or other teachers when asking for recommendation letters. That way they have additional context for their recommendation.

A resume is also a great point of reference to use when filling out your actual applications, as all the information you need is housed in one place and has been updated throughout your high school career.

At IvyWise, we recommend students begin building their resume in 9th grade, and continue updating it throughout the next four years as activities and interests change and students gain more experience like leadership positions, internships, jobs, or summer programs.

Here’s how to get started on your academic resume this summer or fall.

Start With the Basics
A student resume doesn’t have to be extremely fancy. When building your resume, start with the basic information: Name, address, high school, email address, phone number, etc. After all, you wouldn’t turn in a test without your identifying information, right?

After listing your identifying information, include information on your academic profile. GPA, test scores, class rank, graduation date, and more. Again, this will provide additional context for those writing recommendation letters and can help anyone else reviewing your application, like scholarship committees or summer program admissions officers, see how your academic profile fits in with their needs and goals.

List All Activities From 9th Grade On
After you’ve listed all your personal and academic information, begin detailing your extracurricular activities starting with freshman year. Be as detailed as possible while also being mindful of your word count. Include information on how many years you have participated in that club or activity, any leadership positions you have held, what your responsibilities in that role were, and how you made an impact in that activity. Be sure to include any volunteer activities, too, like Boys and Girls Club, Habitat for Humanity, or any other local community service projects that you have participated in.

Make a Note of All Awards
Did you win the local science fair? Have you been recognized for your volunteer work in your community? After your activities, list any awards or recognition you have received while in high school. Explain why it was awarded, when you received it, and include any information that will provide additional context to those who might not be familiar with the award or organization. This is another way to demonstrate the impact you’ve made in your community and activities, and also provides additional information on your accomplishments to scholarship and admissions committees.

Edit Down Your Resume
Not every single thing you’ve done in high school should be on your resume. After listing all of your activities, volunteer work, and awards, go back and edit down the list to only include activities that you have a sustained commitment in or really align with your interests. For example, if you only did Model UN in 9th grade, don’t include it with your other activities that you sustained from 9th or 10th grade into senior year. One-off clubs and volunteer activities should be left off, too. If you only worked at the food bank one Saturday in 10th grade, that doesn’t add much to your resume.

However, do feature activities that maybe you picked up later in your high school career that you’re really passionate about now. For example, if you discovered a love for robotics in 11th grade and want to continue your education with a STEM major in college, include your participation in robotics clubs and activities – even if you only participated in junior and senior year.

Update It Periodically
Your resume should be a living document that’s always being revised and modified. After you create and edit your resume, save it and back it up to your Google Drive or similar application so that you don’t lose it. Keep track of when you last updated it and continue to revise your resume a few times throughout the school year. Update it to include any new activities, clubs, volunteer opportunities, or awards. Also be sure to update your GPA, class rank, test scores, and other academic information as needed.

Having a comprehensive and updated resume is one way to stay organized throughout the college prep process and to have a better picture of your extracurricular and academic profile as you apply for summer programs, scholarships, and continue to build your balanced college list.

At IvyWise we work with students through various stages of the college application process, including developing, refining, and highlighting student activities and interests in their resumes and activity lists on the Common Application. For more information on how IvyWise’s team of expert counselors can help students build better academic and extracurricular resumes and profiles, contact us today.