There are certain times throughout our lives when we’re expected to capture our personal attributes on paper. For many, the college resume is the most important example of this because it can open or close a career path for good. While it’s true, your college resume deserves patience and precision, writing it doesn’t need to be a stressful experience.
There are plenty of ways to simplify the writing process, including using a college resume template as a guide. Resume templates are useful as they provide examples of proper formatting and structure, and some even include hypothetical entries to demonstrate what high-quality content looks like.
Keep reading for advice on what to put in your college resume and how to make your achievements stand out in a crowd.
What Is a College Resume?
A college resume is a concise snapshot of a college applicant’s high school career and achievements. It is used in combination with an official application document to showcase a student’s suitability for their chosen school. Just like an employment resume, a good college resume provides pertinent details on the individual’s academic credentials, work experiences, leadership qualities, personal interests, and useful skills.
It’s important to be succinct when writing your college resume. It should, preferably, be one page in length and certainly no longer than two pages. Admissions staff read thousands of these documents every year, and the key to being memorable is finding the right balance between brevity and individuality. Be engaging but make sure everything you put on your resume is relevant.
What Is a College Resume Template?
A college resume template is an example of a good college resume that can be used as a writing guide for your own. Some resume templates come prefilled with information about a hypothetical student, which serves as an indicator of the type of content you need to add for yourself. Other resume templates are blank except for a preformatted structure that the applicant can copy-paste their own content into.
Whichever style of the college resume template you decide to use, make sure to proofread it several times when you’re finished writing. It’s very easy when working with a preformatted document to accidentally skip over sections and end up submitting a blank space or the preloaded words intended to be used as an example.
College Resume Templates & Examples
Importance of a College Resume Template
You can, of course, start from scratch and create your college resume without any type of template at all. The main drawback, however, is it takes a lot longer, and you can end up spending more time creating the visual elements than writing engaging content. Design and formatting are important but only as a means to an end; you want to catch the eye of the admissions staff and make them want to know more about you.
With a template, the design elements of the document are already taken care of so you can focus on showcasing yourself and the qualities you’ll bring to the college.
Essential Elements of a College Resume Template
Here are some things you must include on your college resume. Don’t forget, every sentence needs to matter. If it doesn’t demonstrate why you should be admitted to the college, don’t include it.
Include your full name, current address, phone number, and email address on your college resume. This information should be right at the top or in a spot that’s very easy to find. If admissions staff can’t find a way to contact you, they might decide not to bother.
This is the most important part of your college resume because your high school grades will determine whether you’re capable of excelling at your chosen institution. Here is what to include:
- The name and address of your high school. If you attended more than one school, list them in date order (most recent at the top) and include the academic years you completed at each one.
- Your GPA
- Any coursework achievements that are relevant to the major you wish to study
- Class rank (if you feel it’s relevant and positive)
- Test scores (where relevant)
Activities and Experiences
Make sure to include any hobbies and activities that demonstrate transferable skills. For instance, being the captain of a basketball team shows you have physical fitness, a head for strategy, excellent leadership skills, and the ability to thrive under pressure.
Almost any activity is transferable (relevant to your future goals) if you look at it from the right perspective. So if you don’t have a lot of extracurricular hobbies and don’t belong to any academic clubs, write a list of things you do in your spare time. Then, try to think of three qualities needed to do each successfully.
- School-related activities (academic clubs, school sports, drama performances, school journalism, musical groups, etc.)
- Extracurricular hobbies (sports teams, community service, volunteer work, camp excursions, summer courses, local competitions, weekend jobs, job shadowing, internships, caring for relatives/siblings, etc.)
Awards and Honors
You don’t need regional or state awards to get accepted into a good college, but they make a great impression. At prestigious institutions that receive a lot of applications, awards are a helpful (if not always fair) way to determine which student has the edge over another.
So if you do have any awards or honors in your recent past, include them on your college resume to give you an advantage over those who don’t
- The full name of the award received
- The position/rank awarded
- A brief explanation of why the award exists
- The date you received the award
The last section should be quite short and include interesting facts that don’t fit in the other sections. This might include unusual hobbies, language skills, technical or manufacturing abilities, or even long-term family traditions that say something about your personality and background.
- Hobbies that are skillful but not directly relevant to college (jewelry making, gardening, photography, mountain biking, etc.)
- Language proficiencies (include any languages except for English that you can speak fluently even if you’ve spoken them since childhood)
- Technical and manufacturing abilities (welding, cooking, dressmaking, graphic design, website building, etc.)
How to Write a College Resume (Step-By-Step)
As you construct your resume, use these steps to make sure you’re including the right information and presenting your skills as positively as possible.
Step 1 – Choose an appropriate format
Admissions staff have to read college resumes quickly. Giving your resume a very clear structure will ensure they find the information they want before moving on to somebody else’s application. Make sure every section has a heading that’s easy to see and read. Write in a sensible, formal-looking font and use a suitable size.
If you’re using a college resume template, pick one that’s not cluttered with unnecessary or distracting visual elements.
Step 2 – Write for Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS)
Some larger colleges use applicant tracking systems – computer software designed to sort applications according to their inclusion of keywords – to quickly identify those resumes with potential. Many colleges don’t use ATS but, if your college does, get your resume noticed by including keywords that are relevant to the institution.
Pay close attention to the language used in the college’s list of preferred and required qualifications and attributes. Find a way to fit these keywords naturally into your resume so they’ll be picked up by the ATS and deemed noteworthy.
Step 3 – Include Contact Details for Potential Referees
Students don’t usually need to include character references in their applications or on their resumes, but you might want to consider adding a phone number or email address for your teacher or current employer.
While it’s not essential, having this information on your college resume gives admissions staff the option to investigate you further. It might be especially useful if you’re worried about not having good grades or being able to demonstrate key skills via extracurricular hobbies.
Step 4 – Make Your Personal Summary Impactful
It’s common practice when resume writing to include a one or two-sentence summary that encapsulates your journey. This is sometimes called a ‘career objective’ or an ‘objective statement.’ This type of summary should be written in the third person, so avoid using ‘I am.’
Instead, describe yourself as if you were writing a short biography for a character in a book. What type of student are you (high school, college, graduate, etc.)? What school are you attending? Which field or industry are you a prospective student of? What are you hoping to achieve with this college resume?
Step 5 – Provide Accurate Educational Credentials
Though it’s common to be asked what you’re going to major in a while still at high school, this opportunity to specialize in a subject normally comes in college. At the application stage, institutions are concerned with the strength of key skills such as mathematics and literacy and your ability to maintain consistency across all your grades.
- Make sure your education section includes:
- Your high school’s name
- Your high school’s address
- Your current or projected grades
- Your GPA
- Your graduation year
- Your chosen college major (if applicable)
- Any relevant achievements, awards, or honors
Step 6 – Proofread, Proofread and Proofread Again
The final step, before submitting your college resume, is to proofread all the content. This is a really important document, so there’s no such thing as being too careful with it. Review the resume several times and, if possible, get somebody else to look it over as well.
If a person has spent many hours writing or studying from a document, their eyes will get familiar with its content and start to skim read. This is how typos and other mistakes get overlooked even after a student has proofread a page many times. Ask a friend, parent, or teacher (with fresh eyes) to take a quick look.
How to Choose a College Resume Template
- There are lots of different college resume templates to choose from. Some templates are heavily formatted with a lot of visual design elements. Others are crisper and cleaner, with minimal formatting to allow for the content to shine. While a degree of creative flair can be helpful, don’t forget this is a formal document.
- Stick with formal or classic fonts (Arial, times new roman, Calabria, etc.), avoiding sans-serif typefaces that are too casual for educational documents.
- Try to fit your entire college resume onto a one-page template. Admissions staff appreciate students who can convey the relevant information concisely and without taking up a lot of their time. If you’re struggling with this, try switching to a simpler template with fewer visual elements. One-inch margins are the standard for college resumes. Make sure your resume template has them. Leave a suitable gap between sections, so the content doesn’t run together and get confusing.
Successful college resumes are short documents that contain fewer words than you might expect. However, this doesn’t mean they’re always easy documents to compose. Instead of prioritizing length as you might with a school assignment, focus on putting maximum value in every sentence.