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How to Write a Resume for College Applications

Writing resumes is a skill all its own, and one that many high school students are never taught. Nevertheless, when you apply to colleges, scholarships, internships, and jobs, you will be asked for a resume. Additionally, the resume you use in high school differs greatly from the form used by professional adults, making many of the pieces of advice online-only tangentially relevant to you.

In this article, we’ll discuss when you will need a resume, and how to write one. We’ll also include an example resume, so you can see what the finished product is supposed to look like. While your own resume should reflect you and your accomplishments, there are set stylistic constraints to follow when building a resume. We’ll finish with a subset of resumes used by students interested in the performing arts. Let’s get started!

Who Needs a Resume?

Not every student needs a resume to apply to college, and not all colleges require or even want resumes from students. Before you craft a resume, determine when and why you will need one.

Generally, students will need resumes for the following reasons:

  • Jobs. Even high school jobs will often want to see a resume.
  • Internships. Some, but not all, internships will want to see your resume when you apply, so they know what skills you are bringing to the table.
  • Scholarships. Many scholarships which are not associated with schools or the government will ask for resumes, to get a sense of your extracurricular achievements.
  • Colleges. Some colleges will accept or ask for a resume, to gain an expanded view of your extracurricular involvement.

If you are applying to schools using the Apply Texas application, we recommend writing an expanded resume if you have a lot of extracurricular involvement. The application does not provide much room for students to discuss their extracurriculars (only 70 characters), so having an additional place to discuss your accomplishments allows you to better demonstrate what you have done and achieved.

The Common App allows 150 characters to discuss extracurriculars, so a resume is usually less necessary. If you have more extracurriculars than the 10 spaces the Common App provides, however, a resume can bridge the gap. Alternatively, you can include additional extracurriculars in the Additional Information section. 

Only some colleges will request a resume; this is something to check when you are deciding which schools to apply to. Some colleges also specifically do not want to receive an additional resume; make sure not to include one in these cases. Admissions officers have a lot of material to read already, you don’t want to add to that load unduly.

Writing a Resume for College

Now that we’ve determined who needs a resume, we’ll discuss how to actually write one. The point of a resume is to describe your education, experience, and skills, and demonstrate what you will bring to a career. To this end, resumes are split into sections, generally: Education, Honors, Experience, and Skills.

Education

This is where you’ve gone to high school, your GPA, and your standardized test scores. Only include information from high school. If you’ve attended multiple high schools, including each, with the most recent at the top.

Honors

The honors section includes any academic, athletic, and community recognition that you have achieved as a high schooler. In order to make the resume less of a list, group-related honors. For example, if your varsity team won championships three years in a row, group them as follows: “Regional varsity soccer champions, ‘17, ‘18, ‘19.”

Experience

This includes any jobs you’ve had, any internships you’ve completed, and any volunteering or other extracurriculars you’ve been involved with. You should summarize your achievements for each briefly. Only include activities from high school. If you’ve been participating in an activity for some time, then you can include a start date before high school. The most recent ones should be listed first.

If you’ve had a significant amount of experience in one area, such as multiple jobs, you can group them under their own heading. This can be anything from “Employment” to “Volunteering.”

Hobbies or sports should not be included on your resume unless they have occupied a significant amount of your time or are related to the program to which you are applying. For instance, if you have been playing baseball for 30 hours a week over the past three years, then it is appropriate to include it in your resume. Similarly, if you have been building model trains every weekend for the past two years and participated in train exhibitions, then it is also appropriate to note in your resume.

Skills

The skills section illustrates any specific soft and/or hard skills that you possess. Soft skills are personal qualities that make someone effective, such as working well with others, being an effective communicator, or being a good time manager. Hard skills, meanwhile, are specific skills that have to be learned or taught; such as programming, speaking another language, or being a certified audio-visual technician. Examples of skills include:

  • Programming languages
  • Software (Microsoft Office, G-Suite, Photoshop)
  • Physical skills (carpentry, sewing, painting)
  • Training (first-aid, martial arts)
  • Languages (include level of proficiency)

Example Resume

Here is a resume template you can use when constructing your own:

Emily Xi Ample

example@ivyscholars.com I (555) 555-5555 I 1234 Learn St. Houston, TX 12345


Education

Ivy Scholars Academy, Houston TX, 2017-2021

GPA 3.97 

SAT 1570 

ACT 35

Honors

  • National Biology Club Award, 1st Place (2020)
  • Research Society Award, Runner Up, (2019)
  • Presented my paper titled Nowhere Left to Grow: the Cellular Division of Fresh Water fish in Oil Contaminated Waters
  • Ivy Scholars High Dean’s List, (2017- 2020)

Experience

  • President, Ivy Scholars Biology Club (2020-21)

The current president of the Ivy Scholars Biology Club, a school-based club devoted to spreading the love of learning science throughout the school. Duties include running club discussions on botany, zoology, and microbiology; designing and executing experiments investigating cellular division in freshwater fish; organizing fundraisers to fund club trips to local museums and conferences. Previous roles include Vice President (2019-20); member (2017-19).

  • Vice President, Ivy Scholars Ecology Society (2020-21)

Vice President of school-based Ecology Society. Duties include managing club finances, contacting local researchers focused on ecological sustainability, and heading the development of the annual charity, Plenty of Fish, which donates all proceeds to local conservation efforts. Member since 2017.  


Skills

  • Fluent in German and Korean
  • Proficient in Adobe Photoshop, InDesign, and LightRoom. 
  • Effective communicator with extensive collaboration experience.

Art Resumes

If you are applying to an arts program – be it theatre, dance, or a more general specialty – then a performing arts resume is usually required. This is formatted differently than a regular resume because different information is presented. The experience described in a performing arts resume typically consists of different parts: (1) performance experience, (2) directing/choreographing experience, and (3) training

Performance experience is a list of your previous performances. Only major roles should be named; that is named roles, supporting parts or above, or demi-soloist or above. Playing Gringoire in Les Miserables or Sugar Plum Fairy in the Nutcracker are good examples. If you were in the corps de ballet or chorus roles, then simply list the length of time involved and the number of productions you were in.

Directorial or choreographic experience is experience you have in creating works, either as director, choreographer, assistant; or other relevant theatre experiences, such as stage managing or costume creation. The main role you held should be used as the header for this section. For example, if you served as stage manager or assistant, this section would be titled “Production Experience.”

Training encompasses any and all training you have had in the performing arts; dance classes, theatre classes, vocal classes, and summer intensives and camps. Workshops may also be included. Subheadings should be used in this section if you have training in multiple forms of performing arts. 

Here is an example performing arts resume:

Emily Xi Ample

example@ivyscholars.com I (555) 555-5555 I1234 Learn St. Houston,TX 12345


Performing Experience 

  • Show Role Theater/Organization Director/Choreographer

Directorial/Choreographic Experience

  • Show Title Role Theater/Organization

Training

   Acting

  • Name of program Organization Director/Instructor

    Vocal 

  • Name of program Organization Instructor

     Dance

  •  Style of dance (years done) Organization Primary Instructor

Final Thoughts

Writing a resume is a learned skill like any other, and the more you do it, the better you will get. Your initial attempts at resume writing don’t need to be perfect, but the more polished your resume is, the more you will stand out from your peers. Evidence of professionalism and maturity in your resume makes a good first impression when you are applying for something.

If you want help composing your resume, or finding places to which you wish to apply, you should schedule a free consultation with us. We have a long experience helping students with their applications and are always happy to hear from you.

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Wendy Y.
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Below is my son's review. He was accepted to his dream Ivy League school!

From an admitted student's perspective, I am incredibly grateful to have met Sasha - he has been instrumental in helping me achieve my educational dreams (Ivy League), all while being an absolute joy (he's a walking encyclopedia, only funnier!) to work with.

Many people are dissuaded from seeking a college counselor because they think they can get into their desired college(s) either way. Honestly, going that route is a bit short-sighted and can jeopardize your odds of acceptances after years of hard work. The sad truth is, the American education system (even if you attend a fancy private school and ESPECIALLY if you go to a public school) doesn't really tell students how to write a compelling and authentic application. Going into the admissions process alone, without speaking with an advisor, is like going to court without a lawyer - you put yourself at a significant disadvantage because you don't have all the facts in front of you, or the help you need to negotiate the system.

That said, you need a good lawyer just like you need a good college counselor. And that's where Sasha distinguishes himself from the crowd of people claiming they'll get you into Harvard. I came to Sasha worried about and frankly dumbfounded by the college admissions process. I was unsure what to write about and how to go about drafting the essay that perfectly captured my passion, interests, and self. And I was highly skeptical that anyone could really help me. But, damn, did Sasha prove me wrong. From the beginning, Sasha amazed me with his understanding of the process, and ability to lend clarity and direction to me when I desperate needed it. After interviewing me about my background, experiences, activities, outlook, and vision, he helped me see qualities about myself I had not previously considered 'unique' or 'stand-out.' This process of understanding myself was so incredibly important in laying the groundwork for the essays I eventually wrote, and I'm certain I would've drafted boring, inauthentic essays without it.

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In the end, I was accepted to the college of my dreams, a feat I could not have achieved without the direction Sasha lent to me. Essays (and the personal narrative you develop through your application) matter so much, and can literally make or break your application. I have seen so many of my 'qualified' friends receive rejections because they wrote contrived essays that didn't truly represent who they were; conversely, I have also seen so many friends with shorter resumes accepted because they were able to articulate their story in a genuinely passionate and authentic way - I fall into the latter category.

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Arda E.
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I used Ivy Scholars to mainly help me with college applications. Within weeks of using this service, Sasha was able to simplify the already complex process. When it came to writing the Common App essay, Sasha didn’t just help with grammar and syntax, he brought my essays to life. Sasha also worked tirelessly to help solidify my extracurricular activities, including research and internship opportunities. Without his help, I would have never had an impressive resume.

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We worked with Ivy Scholars during my son's senior year. I was concerned that we may be too late to take advantage of college advising but the Ivy Scholars team quickly and confidently directed us through the steps to ensure no deadlines were missed. Sasha's knowledge about schools, what they looked for in candidates, and how to maneuver the application process was invaluable. Mateo and Ryan worked with my son to help him create an essay that would get noticed and I am so appreciative he had their guidance.

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