They say college is the most exciting time in a student’s life and we couldn’t agree more!
The only thing standing between you and your dream university, though, is a college application resume.
You open the resume document, get ready to start writing…
And nothing comes out! After all, how can you even make a resume when you haven’t worked a day in your life?
Worry not - you don’t need any work experience to write a compelling college application resume. In this article, we’re going to teach you just how you can do that!
- What Should a Resume for College Application Contain?
- 5+ College Application Resume Formatting Tips
- How to Write a Resume for College Applications?
- 3+ College Application Resume Tips
- College Application Resume Template
So let’s dive in!
What Should a Resume for College Application Contain?
Before we get into the knits and grits of writing a resume for college application, let’s first do a quick review of what your resume should contain:
- Contact information, including your full name, address, phone number, and professional email.
- A resume objective, where you state the goal of your college application resume.
- Education section, where you list the history of your grades and exam scores.
- Relevant activities, including any work experience you might have.
- Skills relevant to a resume for a college application, e.g. soft skills such as active listening, interpersonal skills, communication skills, or hard skills such as public speaking, MS Office, or computer skills.
- Additional sections, such as awards and honors.
6 College Application Resume Formatting Tips
Before we dive into the nits and grits of CV making, let’s talk about formatting. Here are our top tips on how to format your college application resume:
- Choose the functional/skills-based resume format. This format is perfect for those who lack work experience, as it focuses more on your skill-set. If you DO have some work experience, though, then you can opt for the chronological format.
- Keep your college application resume one page long. As a rule of thumb, this is the optimal length for a resume—professionals with 10 years worth of work experience stick to the 1-page limit, so there’s no excuse for someone with little to no work experience to go overboard.
- Add plenty of white space, especially around your resume’s margins. It will make your resume look less cluttered and more reader-friendly.
- Include clear section headings and use the same heading for each section.
- Use an easy-to-read font. Some resume fonts (such as Ubuntu or Overpass) are resume friendly—professional-looking, easy-to-read, and yet modern. Others, like Comic Sans, are just one big NO.
- Save your college resume as a PDF. You might be used to Microsoft Word, or even think it’s the safest alternative, but MS Word has a good choice of messing up your resume format if opened in different computers or operating systems. PDF files, on the other hand, remain the same no matter what computer opens them.
How to Write a Resume for College Applications? (With Examples)
Once you’ve got the formatting done right, it’s time to get to writing your college application resume.
In this section, we’ll walk you through that process, starting with:
#1. Order Your Contact Information the Right Way
As we already mentioned, your college application resume should start with your contact information.
These are your contact information section must-haves:
- Full name and address
- Functional phone number where you can be reached.
- Professional email address, preferably consisting of your first and last name.
And here’s what this looks like in practice:
123 Main Street
New York, NY
Phone Number: 553-123-1234
#2. Write an Attention-Grabbing College Resume Objective
A resume objective is a 2-3 sentence long paragraph that should communicate your motivation for getting into college or for studying a specific major.
As such, a well-crafted resume objective can instantly attract admission officers to read the rest of your college application resume.
There is, however, a right and wrong way to write a resume objective.
A convincing resume objective is:
- Tailored to the university/major you’re applying to, instead of looking like a one-fits-all kind of statement that you can use to apply to several colleges.
- Highlights the achievements that give you an edge over the competition.
The following example does that right:
Aspiring journalist with a knack for creative writing looking to deepen their knowledge through NYU’s renowned Journalism track. Founder of my high school’s first online newspaper, the ‘Daily Prophet,’ which now has over 2,000 subscribers. Hardworking, with a grade A average in social sciences and commitment to improving.
Now compare it to the following resume objective, which although articulated looks like a one-fits-all kind of statement that you can just insert into several college applications.
Very committed high-schooler with a calling for social sciences. With an SAT score of 1400, a passion for psychology, and experience as a peer counselor, I am confident that my hard work and motivation will shine through as a college student.
See, the resume objective is your chance to show exactly why you want to attend that college, right from the start.
So, even if you don’t have many achievements to highlight, make sure to personalize your statement by expressing a genuine interest in your application.
#3. Put Weight on Your Education
Taking into consideration that, as a student, you most likely lack significant work experience, your education is the first thing admission officers will look at.
As such, you should give your education its due importance in your college application resume.
For starters, make sure to include this must-have information:
- Your high school’s name and location
- Your GPA
- The date of your graduation
In addition, though, combine that with some relevant achievements that can make your education pop out.
Let’s take a look at two examples. The second student has simply listed out the essential education information, whereas the first has taken their education section to the next level.
Dunnellon High School FL
2017 - 2021
- 3rd place at the International Mathematical Olympiad
- Vice-President of the Science Club
- GPA: 3.6
- SAT Scores: 1350 (650 Verbal, 700 Math)
Dunnellon High School FL
2017 - 2021
- GPA: 3.5
- SAT Scores: 1400
#4. Showcase Relevant Activities
Extracurricular activities have a great number of benefits when it comes to your college application resume. Most importantly, they:
- Demonstrate you who are outside of the classroom
- Provide an opportunity to showcase your skills
Any activity and/or interest related to the college you’re applying to has a place on your college application resume, but you don’t have to necessarily stop there.
Any kind of interest, field, or activity where you’re good at can be of benefit to your application.
That’s because it can prove that your interests are not focused solely on your favorite subject or desired career path and that you are engaged and well-rounded.
So, don’t just list your college resume activities dryly (e.g. “reading” or “swimming”). Instead, be specific and creative about your interests, and rest assured that you will get extra points for diversity and commitment.
Don’t believe us? Compare for yourself how the activities sections of two different students look like: the first has put minimal effort into it, whereas the second has put his A-game into writing it.
- Passionate about science
- Co-founder of the Astrophysics Club
- Two-times winner of my high school’s Science Fair
- Co-founder of the Astrophysics Club, finalists of the MIT-founded THINK challenge
- Swimmer from an early age and member of my high school’s swim team during junior and senior year
- Traveling; I have so far visited 10 countries and 15 states in the USA.
- Photography, with a focus on architectural photography.
#5. Highlight Your Work Experience
Now, if you’ve spent your summer holidays working any type of job for teens, that means that you also have some work experience under your belt.
Although work experience is not necessary when you’re applying for college (meaning that you won’t get left out of college if you don’t have any), it does help to include it if you have it.
Here’s how to list work experience in your college application resume:
- Start with the company name (e.g. if you worked at Starbucks), your job title, and the period you worked there.
- Put your job title first if you worked, say, as a high-school tutor or camp counselor.
- Include 1-2 of your main responsibilities in bullets. If you have achievements to show for, however, make sure to put them first.
Let’s see how that works in a practical example.
- Awarded employee of the month for 3 months straight
- Fielding customer complaints and questions
- Maintaining good customer service and speedy delivery
Even if the above position isn’t related to the student’s desired field of study, the work experience still highlights some of their skills such as commitment, time management, effective communication, and motivation.
#6. Include Your Skills
Skills—we all got them, but not everyone knows how to demonstrate them effectively in a college application resume.
There are two things to consider when you include skills in your college resume:
- Know the kind of skills that are relevant to your major/field.
- Prove your skills, instead of just listing them
Let’s show you how that works through practical examples:
- Time management
- Critical thinking
Are these great skills for a college applicant? Sure!
But anyone can claim to have those skills (and frankly, most people do).
Rather than just listing these skills, you want to also back them up with achievements and experiences like so:
- Attention to deadline: managed to update the high school’s online newspaper daily
- Leadership: successfully led a team of 6 reporters.
- Creativity: won the 2021 Young Writers competition
- Self-motivation: founded the high school’s first online newspaper
Now, this is a skills section on a college application resume that proves you deserve a spot in your favorite university.
College application resume skills
Wondering which skills to include in your college application resume? Here’s a list to draw some inspiration:
- MS Office
- Computer Skills
- Public Speaking
#7. Use These Additional Sections
If you’ve followed all our tips till now, congrats - you’re around 90% into creating a top-notch college application resume.
Now, let’s talk about how you can take that to 100%!
In addition to the conventional resume sections we’ve covered till now, you can include the following to help you stand out in a sea of other applicants:
- Awards. Here, you can list any awards won in competitions (spelling, art, storytelling, math, etc).
- Volunteer experience. Did you clean up your town, or maybe you volunteered at an animal rescue center as a high school student? Any kind of volunteering can help your college application resume because it shows you’re a responsible community member. If it’s somehow related to your field or future major, that’s a big plus.
- Projects. Be them individual (e.g. you built a website from scratch, or started an informational podcast), or school-related (e.g. an art portfolio for a class, or a history documentary), projects can show that you’re passionate and creative.
- Sports. Poet Juvenal said “a healthy mind in a healthy body.” This means that physical exercise is an important part of mental and psychological well-being (which is why sports in a college application resume make all applicants look good). Do you excel at specific sports? Include them in your resume!.
- Languages. Being fluent (or even just a beginner) in a foreign language is another plus for a prospective college student. Make sure to show it in your college application resume.
5 College Application Resume Tips
Finally, here are some of our college application tips that didn’t fit anywhere else in the article:
- Be direct and to the point. Your college application resume is not the right place to show how many SAT-level words you know. Keep your language simple, direct, and to the point. Let your achievements and results speak for themselves.
- Don't lie about your academic background or accomplishments. Lying about the awards you’ve won or your achievements won’t get you into college. More often than not, admission officers will see through your lies by asking behavioral interview questions.
- Proofread your college application resume. Spelling and grammar mistakes can make you appear like a less serious applicant. Imagine telling recruiters that you have great SAT scores and GPA but having spelling mistakes in your resume. Kind of contradictory, isn’t it? To avoid these kinds of mistakes, use spelling and grammar apps such as Grammarly and Heminway.
- Have one or more people look at your resume before you send it out. There are kinds of mistakes that Grammarly or Hemingway cannot catch. To avoid such mistakes, have one or more people that know you give your college application resume a look.
- Emphasize specific achievements over general responsibilities. As mentioned before, emphasizing your achievements over your responsibilities is the best way to set yourself apart from other candidates. The reason is that your achievements effectively show how well you handle responsibilities and they are uniquely yours.
College Application Resume Template
Making a resume from scratch can take what feels like ages—especially if it’s your first time doing it.
You’ve got to tweak the formatting.
You make a change at MS Word and the layout falls apart in front of your eyes. Or you end up using a bland and outdated template.
Well, you don’t have to worry about any of these things with Nóvóresume’s free resume templates.
With 8 free templates to choose from - college application resume included - you don’t have to worry about anything other than inputting your information.
Let our resume builder do the rest!
And that’s a wrap on college application resumes. We hope to have made the process of writing yours easier and even more enjoyable.
For good measure, let’s go over the main points we covered:
- Your college application resume should contain the following sections: contact information, personal profile, education section, relevant activities, your skills, and additional sections, such as awards and honors.
- In terms of formatting, the functional resume template fits your college application best. Additionally, make sure to keep your resume one page long and save it as a PDF.
- Write a resume objective that doesn’t surpass 3 sentences and that clearly communicates your motivation for getting into college and your most relevant skills.
- Make sure to give your education section its due importance by being thorough about your grades, SAT scores, and achievements.
- Don’t forget to list all your relevant activities and passions, as well as soft and hard skills.
- Instead of writing your college application resume from scratch, use one of Nóvóresume’s ready-made templates to save yourself time and effort!