How to Write a Resume for Colleges Using Your Common Application (With 3 Amazing Examples)

how to write a resume for colleges using your common app part 1 of 2

Do I need to send a resume to colleges? (Part 1)

Before you start making a resume to send to colleges, you should first consider this important question:

Do I need to create and send a resume to colleges? 

What do I mean? Well, a few things.  Ask yourself:

1. Do my schools even want me to send them a resume? 

Find out by checking each school’s admissions web page or logging onto the Common App to see which schools include a place to upload a resume. Each school has a different policy on whether or not to submit a supplemental resume and it’s usually a good idea to follow their instructions. #Sarcasm

The University of Virginia says clearly that they do not want students sending additional resumes.  Other schools like Brown University, Boston College, and Carnegie Mellon provide space for uploading optional resumes in the Common App, whereas some schools like the University of Texas - Austin say that submitting a resume is “strongly recommended.” i.e. You should probably do it.

In short, look at what each school requires.

2. Secondly, does my resume provide insight that isn’t already on my application? (Or just because I can send one, does that mean I should?)

So if submitting a resume is optional, how do you know if your resume provides value beyond  your Activities List?  Easy. Take a look at your entire application, including your main Common App essay, your Activities List (maximum of 10 spots and 5 honors/awards), your supplemental essays, and your Additional Info section. 

(Note: If you haven’t noticed, that’s a lot of space to submit information about what you’ve been doing.)

Then ask yourself this: Is there something important about my application that is not already being highlighted or communicated clearly? One example might be:

  • Significant work experience. Have you worked multiple jobs almost full-time to help support your family? Or did you have an awesome internship that you couldn’t fully explain in the 150 characters that the Common App provides? Or maybe you spent hundreds of hours studying marketing and internet search engine optimization and started your own business? It might be worth mentioning these in more detail. Take a look at this (real) resume and ask yourself: Would it have been possible for this student to include all of this detail in 10 spots of 150 characters each? Probably not.

Example Resume #1.

I know, this resume looks unreal for a high school student.  But even if your experience is 1/3rd of this and you’re not able to fit it into your Activities List, consider creating a separate resume that highlights your unmentioned accomplishments and experience

Here are some other reasons to create a separate resume:

  • So many awards. If you’ve won 28 awards as Captain of a Nationally Ranked Colorguard team, it might be worth creating a separate resume to list them all, since they definitely won’t fit on the 5 spots they provide you.
  • So much community service. If you’ve been involved with 6 or 8 separate service organizations in different capacities or led an unusually high number of projects, it might be worth creating a separate resume to highlight each of those and what you’ve done, rather than taking up all of the space on your extracurricular activities list.
  • So many responsibilities. Did you have a lot of different jobs within one particular organization? Is it difficult to list both what your responsibilities were and the impact you had on the organization in 150 characters? The resume is your chance to go into greater detail about your diverse roles and responsibilities, as long as it communicates and highlights new information.

IMPORTANT FINAL NOTE: If there are just one or two smaller activities that you couldn’t fit in the ten spaces provided on the Common App activities list, you can actually probably just include those in the Additional Information section and not have to create a separate resume just to include those two. Check out this blog post to learn how to use this space.

3. Lastly, are there other reasons for creating a resume?

Yes! For example, if you are:

  • Applying for outside scholarships:  When applying to scholarships from 3rd party organizations, many require resumes in addition to essays.
  • Applying to jobs or Internships: If applying to either of these as a high school student or college freshman, it would be easy to tweak your college resume and gear it towards specific internships or summer jobs.
  • Attending an interview: If you have college interviews with alumni or for jobs or internships, it might be a good idea (read: you probably should) bring a copy of your resume to provide some talking points during your interview. They may have seen it already, but it never hurts to be prepared.

Read on to part 2 to see how to turn your Common Application into a simple and clear resume and see two more awesome sample resumes.