How to Write a College Application Resume

A step-by-step guide to building your college resume that will wow the admissions committee and help you get into your dream school.

Posted January 10, 2024

Nowadays, more and more higher education institutions are requiring students to submit a resume as part of their application. Students may find themselves crafting one as early as the ninth grade, which they can also use for scholarships and internship applications. Over the course of one’s career, their resume will continue to evolve. Because of this, resumes should be continually updated to reflect the student’s most recent experiences, achievements, and interests.

The resume should include both education and work history (if applicable). In addition, students should highlight their skills and abilities by including any volunteer work, extracurricular activities, and personal interests.

Why do college applications include a resume?

College admissions committees have to sort through an increasing number of applications each year. The resume is a good way for students to succinctly summarize their educational and professional backgrounds. In a few seconds, it can leave an impression and provide a peek into who you are and how you have chosen to spend your time.

When should you start writing your resume?

The ideal time to start writing your resume is your freshman year of high school to ensure that you do not forget to add any activities, accomplishments, or awards that you garner each year. Also, starting early will allow you to quickly view your portfolio and analyze which areas you should focus on to strengthen your resume. Keep in mind the longevity of activities can matter and a few, deep experiences are often stronger than more, surface-level ones. Your resume should still reflect your individuality and passions.

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What should you include in your resume?


Put your basic information at the heading including your name, phone number, email address, and LinkedIn profile (if applicable).

Academic History

Include the following information in the academic history section:

  • High schools you attended, starting with the most recent. Include the name of the school, city, state, and the grade level you were there for.
  • Courses you took relevant to your desired major
  • GPA
  • Class rank (if applicable)
  • Test scores (if available)

Work Experience

Resumes for college applications will look different than resumes for full-time jobs and the admissions committee is aware of this. In this section, highlight all work experience that you have, including part-time positions and internships. Tailor the job descriptions to the desired skills for the major you’d like to pursue. For example, if you worked as a cashier but want to pursue business, you can highlight the customer service and leadership skills that the job required.

Leadership and Extracurricular Activities

This section is where you should highlight any non-work activities and leadership positions that you have participated in, including job-shadowing, research experience, volunteer work, special projects, summer courses, and local competitions. If you held a leadership position in any club, sports team, or other organization, make sure to list it and describe what you did in that role.

Awards and Honors

Colleges want to see applicants that will succeed at a higher academic level. Awards and honors are a good way to differentiate yourself and show your potential. Include any awards or honors that you have received, in order of most to least recent.

Skills and Interests

Typically at the end of the resume, this section gives students the space to personalize their resume and highlight any unique skills or interests. These can include hobbies like photography or gardening, proficiency in another language, or technical skills like coding or graphic arts.

Steps and Tips to Building Your Resume

When drafting your resume, follow these steps to ensure accuracy and a polished result:

Input your basic information. Identify the activities and accomplishments to include. What do you want to prioritize? Add high school information and contact details. Verify key dates to check for accuracy. Proofread your resume and have a peer or mentor review it.

Formatting Tips

1. Go with a traditional font

Make sure to choose a professional font like Times New Roman. Unique or creative fonts can distract the admissions officer from clearly comprehending the content, and should thus be avoided.

2. Style consistently

Throughout your resume, the formatting should be consistent. All headings should be the same size and equally spaced from each other. Remember, your resume is to make a great first impression. If it doesn’t look professional and neat, it may seem messy and give a bad impression.

3. Keep it to one page

Remember that college admissions staff will review hundreds, if not thousands, of applications. Keep your resume to a clear snapshot of your high school experience on a single page.

4. Save it as a PDF

To avoid any changes on different computers and processing systems, save and share your resume as a PDF file. Resumes shared as a Word or Google Doc can change slightly when exported or printed and should be avoided.

Writing Tips

1. Use action verbs

When describing your experiences, use action verbs like led, researched, applied, and created. These words convey more of an impact and are catchier.

2. Put number if possible

Adding numbers, where applicable, will quantify your achievements. For example, instead of writing, “Managed the cash register and helped customers,” write, “Managed the cash register with a daily cash flow of $10,000 and helped 50-100 customers each day.” The latter is not only more interesting but also sounds more impressive.

3. Find a template or example

There are many free resume templates online that you can edit to make your own. Two such options are ResumeGenius and Zety. Using a template will help prevent formatting errors and save you some time.

4. Carefully edit and proofread

Avoid any typographical or grammatical errors. Proofread before you submit and make sure the language used is professional.

5. Ask for help

Once you have proofread your resume, ask a teacher, mentor, or family member to review it as well for an outside perspective.

Final Note

We hope you found these college application resume tips helpful. Applying for college can be a daunting task. Here at Leland, we provide you with the content, community, and coaching that you need to get into your dream school. Sign up today to gain access to additional free resources, community events, small group classes, world-class coaching, and more.

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