Preparing and submitting a resume as part of your college applications allows you to describe your extracurricular activities in great detail and helps colleges learn more about your interests and values. Composing your resume can also help you complete the Activity Sheet of the Common Application, as well as prepare you for college interviews.
You can also use your resume to apply for summer internships or academic programs. In fact, you can begin crafting your resume as early as sophomore year, and update throughout high school as needed. Read on for tips regarding the organization and descriptions of your activities and accomplishments
How to Select Activities
Before crafting a resume comes the all-important step of doing the extracurricular activities you will include on it! Becoming engaged in activities during high school will strengthen your candidacy as an applicant, as colleges in the U.S. place significant weight on your activities as a measure of your interests, character, and values. But doing so isn’t just for show; activities can also help you develop your personal, social, and intellectual skills—not to mention that, if you choose wisely, they’re a lot of fun.
As you consider which activities to select, try to identify your genuine interests and passions. Do you come alive through performing arts? Are you happiest when you’re on the soccer field? Do you love competing in academic settings, like mock trial or debate? Feel free to try different activities to see which you enjoy most, a process that you can begin as early as middle school; it’s hard if not impossible to know what you like before actually doing it!
In the end, it’s more rewarding to choose a few activities that are very meaningful to you than to throw yourself into as many activities as possible because you feel that will impress colleges. Think of your interests in terms of themes, such as service, sports, research, performing arts, writing and journalism, politics, cultural identity, and advocacy; and develop depth in a few themes instead of being a master-of-none.
Organizing Your Resume
Your resume should be organized by section headers, such as Education, Extracurricular Activities, Community Service, and Work Experience/Internships. Depending on your experiences, you may want to add additional section headers such as Research, Athletics, Performing Arts, Creative Writing, Publications, Entrepreneurship, or Social Justice. At the end of your resume, you can have a section of Honors and Awards. You may also want to consider adding Skills and Interests, where you highlight Special Skills (in areas such as coding or research), Language Proficiency, and Interests.
Overall, you want to begin your resume with your education followed by your most meaningful and current activities and/or employment, and end with activities that you weren’t actively involved in or didn’t participate in recently. When listing your activities, think about most important to least important.
Resume Writing Tips
- High School: Include honors and awards, if applicable; include GPA and test scores if strong.
- Summer Educational Programs: Include courses you took for credit or enrichment, with a brief description.
Extracurricular Activities and Employment
- Organization: Sequence your activity categories from the most recent and meaningful—those activities that you’ve devoted the most time to and are still involved in—to the least. Within each activity category, sequence from the most recent to the least.
- Grade level: State from lowest to highest, e.g. 9, 10, 11, 12.
- Role/Position: State in italics the position in which you served, such as President, Peer Leader, Researcher, Member. Begin with your most recent positions, e.g. Vice President (12), Treasurer (11).
- Use bullet points to summarize your responsibilities and accomplishments.
- Order the bullets from most important to least important.
- In the first bullet, describe the objectives of the club or organization if not generally known. (You can combine this with a description of an accomplishment; for example: “Co-launched and edited opinion section and internal blog for national online college guide.”)
- Use active verbs in each bullet and vary your word choice. Use the present tense if the activity is ongoing, and past tense if the activity has concluded.
- Use the active (not passive) voice, and omit pronouns (I, we).
- Indicate if you were selected, elected or awarded, if appropriate.
- You can repeat honors and awards in an Honors and Awards section at the end of your resume.
- Hours/Week; Weeks/Year: Note that the Common App requires you to enter your time commitment for each of your activities; on a professional-style resume, this info is not necessary.
- Organization: State the full name of the organization, town, and state.
- Year: Include time period, e.g. June 2016 (4 weeks); hours are not necessary.
How to Submit your Resume to Colleges
Common App Colleges:
Each college that accepts the Common App now has the option to request a resume on their Activities or Writing section, if they so choose. Here’s what the 2022 prompt looks like:
* If a college DOES provide this option, assess whether the Common App Activity section adequately summarizes your responsibilities. If you feel more detail would be helpful, upload your resume as a PDF.
* If a college DOES NOT provide this option, do not include your resume, since the college is indicating that it is not receptive to resumes.
Non-Common App Colleges:
If colleges with their own applications offer the option to upload a resume instead of complete the Activity section, we recommend doing so—the resume format has more room for your individualized details.
Sample Lists of Colleges’ Policies on Including a Resume
Colleges that accept a resume include:
- Barnard College
- Boston College
- Brandeis University
- Brown University
- Bucknell University
- Dartmouth College
- Northwestern University
- Tulane University
- Vanderbilt University
- Washington University in St. Louis
Colleges that do not accept a resume include:
- Amherst College
- Bryn Mawr College
- Duke University
- George Washington University
- Pomona College
- Stanford University
- Syracuse University
- Tufts University
- University of Chicago
- University of Michigan – Ann Arbor
At Collegiate Gateway, we are passionate about helping each student to demonstrate their unique qualities through an effective resume. In addition, we have experience in developing specialized resumes and supplementary materials for students who have special talent in athletics, the arts, or research. For more information, feel free to contact us. We’re always happy to help!