How To Write A College Application Resume (With Examples)

By Chris Kolmar - Dec. 4, 2020
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Resumes aren’t just for landing the right job; they can also help you get admitted to your dream school. A high school resume highlighting your academic achievement, volunteer or work history, extracurriculars, and interests can help colleges get to know you in a personal and professional way.

High school resumes can be given to teachers or others for help in writing letters of recommendation, and they can even be used in landing you a part-time job or summer internship.

After you’ve started college, you can save your high school resume and update it for help in applying to internships or getting a job after you’ve graduated.

Learn how to write a great high school resume with tips and an example down below so you can get started with your college application process.

How to Build a College Application Resume

How your resume looks is ultimately your decision and plays a part in demonstrating your unique character. However, it’s best to stick with the following conventions for an organized and professional look:

  • Include Contact Information. Such as your name, email, phone number, address, and any other relevant information so that they can reach out to you if needed.

  • Include at Least Three Sections. Seeing as though you are a high school student applying to a college, one of these sections will need to be an “education” section, and this will have to be the star of the show.

  • Use Bullet Points. Organize the different items on your list in a clean, easily understandable way with bullet points.

  • Use Active Verbs. Begin each bullet point with an action word that describes the kind of work you did or do to help the readers create a concrete picture in their head. Use a variety of engaging verbs.

  • Have a Clear Organization. Use an organizational structure that is easy to follow and highlights your best achievements. A great standby is reverse-chronological order (listing most recent first).

  • Keep it Consistent. The formatting and style need to be consistent throughout. Use the same font (something like Helvetica works great), and be consistent with capitalization, punctuation, and spacing throughout each section.

Elements of a Resume for a College Application

The main goal of submitting a high school resume to a prospective college is to show off your unique and distinguished character and prove you are the type of student who will go on to make your alma mater proud. If this doesn’t sound like you, that’s okay. Crafting your resume is all about bringing out the best and most professional in yourself.

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Your resume will give college admission boards a quick look at your academic achievement, jobs, leadership roles, awards, creative endeavors, special hobbies, and interpersonal skills, as well as showcasing your presentation and writing capabilities.

The purpose of this resume is to demonstrate that you are the right fit for a college environment. They want to know that you can thrive in their academic and social environment, and they want to see how dedicated you are to their university.

You may be a bit stressed now, thinking, “I don’t have any skills or experience to show off,” but you probably have more to work with than you think. Any experience, hobby, interest, or achievement that is significant to you can be fashioned into a great high school resume.

While creating the resume is the large majority of the work, organizing your application process is crucial. Keep track of the deadlines and due dates for all of your prospective colleges, and make a plan for when and how to submit your final resume and application.

Tips for Writing an Effective Resume for a College Application

  1. Use Specific Details. Include the details of your experiences to help colleges understand them better and make your resume stand out.

    With an extracurricular, you could talk about how long you were involved, your role in the organization, your contributions or achievements, or any other unique details.

  2. Show Off Unique Things That Didn’t Make it into The College Essay. Colleges have to process a tremendous amount of applicants, especially colleges with a prestigious reputation. Half the battle of your application is standing out from the crowd and establishing yourself as a one-of-a-kind candidate.

    Highlight any unique skills, experiences, or achievements on your resume to stand out, as well as show off your personality and interests.

  3. Highlight One or Two Commitments You Were Really Involved in. Rather than overloading your resume with every extracurricular, club, or activity you did for a short time or were semi-involved with, showcase the commitments you were deeply involved with.

    Focus on experiences you were passionate about or committed to, had a leadership role in, or did for a long time. If you’ve had a job, you could emphasize those skills and experiences as well.

  4. Be Concise and Direct. You don’t have to mention everything you’ve ever done, and, in fact, you really shouldn’t. Including every small-time hobby, achievement, or commitment clogs up your resume and makes it more difficult to see and recognize the areas where you really shine.

    Your resume (and the other facets of your college application) isn’t the place to practice your creative writing. The standard protocol for resumes is staying as short, sweet, and to the point as possible. Be direct rather than poetic in your explanations.

  5. Have The Right Formatting. The contents of your resume will only impress if you have an organized, visually appealing format and layout.

    Keep your resume to one page, and organize it by section headings with bullet points underneath. Make sure it is easy to follow and understand with a clear organizational structure. Use consistent tenses on your resume.

    Choose a resume layout that is minimalistic, simple, and elegant. You may have to submit your resume in plain text, so be sure that the organization and clarity are still there if you’re doing this.

  6. Don’t Exaggerate or Make Up Details. Colleges want to use your application to get to know who you are, so don’t include inaccuracies or misleading information. Your prospective college can verify any information that seems inconsistent and it doesn’t reflect well on you.

    Be sure you have the dates and specific time commitments correct, as well as all other important details. Whatever you do, don’t make up a fake club and say you were the president of it. It’s been tried by many unsuccessful college applicants, and it is very transparent to the college review board.

  7. Proofread, and Let Someone Else Read it Over. Your final step is to proofread and then proofread again. Be sure the spelling and grammar are spot-on so that you make a professional first impression. If you are using this resume to apply to multiple colleges, be sure to include all the correct college information.

    It’s also incredibly helpful to find an “editor” who can help you with this process. Having another pair of eyes read what you’ve written can help you understand how others receive your resume. Ask a teacher, parent, guidance counselor, or anyone you trust with your writing for their help.

What to Include in a College Admissions Resume

Your college admissions resume highlights your most important professional or academic achievements and involvements. Include only high school experiences or achievements, unless there is an exceedingly impressive exception.

If you take a little time and brain energy to create a great, well-organized high school resume, your future self will thank you. Your resume can be saved as a template and record of your experiences and built upon during and after your time in college, or even fashioned into a great cover letter.

You could include any of the following sections; feel free to combine similar sections as necessary:

  • A Header With Your Contact Information (Required). Name, email address, and address.

  • Education (Required). Graduation date, weighted GPA, class rank, standardized test scores (ACT/SAT).

  • Achievements. Academic and scholastic awards, honors, medals, publications, and any other achievements.

  • Work. Summer jobs, part-time jobs, or entrepreneurship.

  • Volunteer Work. Community service, long and short term volunteer commitments, and any work you weren’t paid for.

  • Extracurricular Activities. Sports, clubs, theatre, student government, and other involvements.

  • Projects. Art projects, web or technology projects, activism, and any impressive creation of your own.

  • Leadership Positions. Include any activity or title in which you served as a leader or mentor.

  • Special Skills. Fluently-spoken languages, coding, web-developing, or other skills that set you apart.

  • Interests. Hobbies, creative activities, interests, and passions.

Example of a High School Resume for College Applications

This example can be used as a rough guide for structuring your high school resume. You can use it as inspiration in creating your own resume, or you could even have a little bit of fun practicing by using this template to write yourself a resume to Hogwarts.

However you choose to do it, you can refer back to this example to create the perfect high school resume:

Elizabeth Bueno
216 Old Charlotte Hwy.
Asheville, NC 28803
Email: Lizbueno@gmail.com
Phone: (219) – 886 -2538

Education:

  • Asheville High School 2016-2020

  • GPA: 4.2/4.5

  • Graduated second in a class of 200 students

  • Participated in post-secondary college classes from grades 9-12

Achievements:

  • Won first place in North Carolina State Legal Writing Competition

  • Published two Op-Eds in Asheville Citizen-Times

  • Achieved perfect attendance during all four years of high school

Volunteer Experience:

  • Served as a volunteer animal companion at Asheville East Animal Shelter, a weekly commitment from grades 10-12

Extracurriculars:

  • Co-captain of Asheville High School Women’s Lacrosse Team, from Fall 2018 – Spring 2020

  • Participated in drama club four hours per week from grades 9-12

  • Won lead roles in two high school theater productions

Hobbies:

  • Avid reader and writer. Read, logged, and reviewed over 100 books on my literature-devoted Instagram (@Lizreadsbook)

  • Pursued passion for animal welfare by becoming a registered dog foster-parent

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Chris Kolmar

Author

Chris Kolmar

Chris Kolmar is a co-founder of Zippia and the editor-in-chief of the Zippia career advice blog. He has hired over 50 people in his career, been hired five times, and wants to help you land your next job. His research has been featured on the New York Times, Thrillist, VOX, The Atlantic, and a host of local news. More recently, he's been quoted on USA Today, BusinessInsider, and CNBC.

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