College 101: How to Write a Resume for College Applications


These days, resumes are needed for more than just job applications. In fact, a growing number of colleges are requiring prospective freshmen to submit resumes as a part of their undergraduate applications. While grades, test scores, and extracurricular involvement form the basis for most admissions decisions, a stellar resume can be the deciding factor for an admissions officer when it comes to choosing between a group of similar candidates. This means, for colleges that use a resume to determine admissions, it can be a critical part of the admissions file.

Why a Resume?

Ideally, your resume should be a consolidated snapshot of your academic and extracurricular profile. It should also reflect what is important to you and help admissions officers determine if you’ll be a good fit for the school. By requiring students to submit a resume, universities can admit a student body that is not only academically prepared but also involved in community service, athletics, leadership, and learning outside of school.

How to Get Started with Your Resume

Think about the things you’ve accomplished over your four years of high school. Make a list that includes everything of note like special projects, awards, honors, leadership positions, volunteer roles, (un)paid work and publications. Next to each accomplishment on your list, write out any quantifiable or noteworthy details that help illustrate your achievements. Here’s a list of examples you might use:

  • Selected as captain for 20-person Knowledge Bowl Team; Earned 2nd place at State Tournament

  • Co-authored a research study on educational justice which was published in a journal with a monthly readership of 15,000

  • President of Associated Student Body; Represented interests of 3,500 students when advising school and district leadership

  • Communications and Outreach Intern, LogicBound Labs, April-September 2018

  • Dean’s List for 8 semesters; Ranked in the top 25% of high school class

  • Lead actor in six community theater productions which averaged 400 attendees per showing

  • Earned the rank of Eagle Scout; Built a 600sq ft habitat for small endangered reptiles as part of service project

  • Managed scheduling and assigning tasks for 15 volunteers working a local nonprofit organization’s booth at the county fair.

What should you include on your college application resume?

For most high school students applying for college, a resume should include:

  • Contact information including your name, a professional email address, your phone number, and link to your LinkedIn profile

  • An objective or summary that concisely states your most relevant skills and accomplishments

  • An education section detailing your GPA, relevant coursework, and test scores

  • A work section listing relevant paid and unpaid work including internships

  • The list of additional accomplishments, awards, and achievements from your earlier brainstorming

  • A list of 2-3 references (name, email, and phone number) who can confirm your skills and accomplishments

Other General Tips for Writing Your Resume

Any resume format is fine as long as it’s readable and professional looking. There’s also nothing wrong with starting from a template which can be easily found by searching online or using the ones built into programs like Google Docs and Microsoft Word. Generally, you should keep your resume 1-2 pages long. Use a standard font such as Times New Roman or Arial and leave enough white space so it’s easier for the reader to find keywords.

Have a trusted friend, mentor, teacher, or guardian read over your resume once you’re done to check for errors and typos. Be sure to proofread your resume once last time before submitting it with your application to find any lingering mistakes.

Write your resume with your objective in mind. If your goal is to get into a top STEM program at an elite university, then you should highlight your achievements, experiences, and awards that specifically relate to the STEM field.  

Be as detailed as possible. Don’t make those reading your resume do the guesswork because you were too vague or used jargon specific to your field of interest. While your resume will only be 1-2 pages, it’s still possible to add enough detail to each section to both quantify and highlight the most important aspects of your past work. Instead of simplifying your experience by stating that you were “selected as the leader of your football team”, add that bit of extra detail and instead write that you were “chosen by 78 teammates to serve as the varsity football captain for the 2018-19 season.

You can and should list group awards in the honors and awards section of your resume. The name of the award and activity should provide an indication that it is a group award. For example, "soccer state champions" and "Member of 1st Place Team at Science Olympiad Nationals" will be read as team awards and not individual ones.

Don’t be afraid to repeat some of the information that’s already in other parts of your application. Unlike a long and complex application, the resume provides a one-page snapshot that concisely illustrates the skills and experiences that make you an ideal candidate.

Cover Photo by Bram Naus on Unsplash