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Last Updated: July 10, 2021

Writing Resume for Admission in Best Colleges

Being a college student, one might not have enough experience writing resumes since the career market is still new to them. But this needn’t be true about all candidates since some candidates also opt for internship opportunities during their undergraduate degree making them aware of how a resume has to be written. Even then, ultimately, a resume written as part of a college application and a resume written for job opportunities differ in their content and sometimes even in their format.

Understanding how to write a resume for college admission is essential if the candidate is applying for professional degrees and PhDs since this is where one can extrapolate their job-related experiences and research experiences. The most important elements to add to the resume would be academic achievements, co-curricular and extra-curricular activities the candidate has taken part in, volunteer work they have done in past, along internship or research experiences they have had previously.

#1) Academics

Academic credentials are one of the most critical parts of a candidate’s resume. Though most US universities are looking for "well-rounded" students, if the candidate does not have the academic credentials to succeed at a top school, the admissions committee will not consider them.

Universities like to see applicants who not only have stellar marks but who do so while taking the most challenging courses. If the candidate’s school offers AP, IB, or honors courses, it is recommended that candidates take as many as they can successfully manage. For example, students admitted to the University of Virginia, which is ranked in the Top 30 in the nation, had an average weighted GPA of 4.23 in students they admitted from high school.

The most common way of achieving this GPA is to take weighted courses that the candidate excels in. It is important that candidates take courses that they are confident they can score well in. Taking courses for the sake of building one’s resume and just scrapping by them is not enough. If the candidate’s school does not offer advanced courses, it is also advisable that they join dual enrollment programs at local colleges.

The GPA isn’t the only academic hurdle that candidates will have to conquer in order to make it into the best universities. Though one will generally have to spend four years working on their high school GPA, they will also have to score highly on standardized tests. Most colleges require the SAT or the ACT scores as part of their eligibility criteria. To get into the best schools, one will have to aim for a score of 1,400 or higher on the new SAT and at least a 31 on the ACT.

#2) Co-Curricular Activities

After grades and test scores, one’s activities are the most important thing college admissions committees consider. Admissions officers like to see students have a life outside of coursework. Clubs and sports demonstrate that lets candidates earn good grades even when they are under pressure to perform on the soccer field or at the debate competition. A highly involved student with a slightly lower GPA might get accepted to a school over another student who does nothing but study.

If the school that the candidate is studying in doesn’t offer any clubs or sports that are of interest, candidates can consider starting their organization. Forming one’s club will demonstrate to the admissions committee that they are a self-starter with passion.

#3) Extra-Curricular Activities

The activities that candidate participates in through their school are not the only activities the admissions office is interested in hearing about. Involvement in scouting, recreational sports, and community clubs or organizations are good things to write about on one’s resume. Including these activities also gives them the opportunity to show the admissions officer that they are deeply involved in activities.

Though it is recommended that candidates include only things that they have been involved in during their high school career, it is possible for candidates to include activities they have participated in much earlier. For example, if a candidate joined the summer swim team in elementary school and still swims for the team in high school, they can show the admissions committee that they have been involved in the team for over a decade.

#4) Leadership

Though most students know that activities are an important aspect of college admissions, many forget that the depth of involvement is an important factor. One shouldn’t just join every club their school offers. Leading in a couple of organizations means much more to an admissions committee than memberships in ten different clubs. Candidates should pick a couple of activities they enjoy trying their best to excel in them.

Candidates should be just as diligent with their sports and clubs as they are in class. They should show up for every event, help out the current leaders, and make friends with the other team or club members. The more involved a candidate is, the more likely they are to get chosen for a leadership position in their junior or senior year.

Though it can be tempting to pack one’s resume with swimming, lacrosse, marching band, debate club, Model UN, and all the other activities their school offers, it’s best to stick to the things the candidate loves. Not only will deeper involvement in fewer activities reflect more positively on them, but they will also have more free time for study, volunteer positions, and internships.

#5) Volunteer Work

Community involvement is one of the top things selective colleges look for in prospective students. Demonstrating that they give back to their community signals that they are someone the school wants to be associated with it. One can also use the opportunity to get involved in things they are passionate about. Candidates needn’t volunteer at an organization that doesn’t interest them. If a candidate likes art, they could volunteer with an organization that provides art programs for disadvantaged children or brings art into hospitals. If they are passionate about human rights, they could work with an organization that resettles refugees or provides English courses for newcomers. There is no lack of charitable organizations in need of help. Not only does volunteering make it more likely to get into a dream school, but candidates will also have the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of others which is a reward in itself.

#6) Internship or Work Experience

Internships and work experience can make a resume stand out. An internship or job relevant to one’s college goals can demonstrate passion and drive to the admissions committee and will allow candidates to highlight their talents and skills.

Even if their work doesn’t demonstrate any skill that can help in college, it is recommended that they include it. The work experience that a candidate has at the local ice cream shop doesn’t just prove to the admissions office that the candidate knows how to dish out a mean banana split-it also shows that a candidate is a responsible person who has the time management skills to balance a job and school, and is thus more likely to succeed in college.

#7) Outside Programs

School isn’t the only place one can learn. If a candidate has participated in any program like the Governor’s School or math camp during the summer, they should include those programs on their resume. One should also include other coursework that may not appear on their transcript. For example, courses are taken for fun through local colleges.

#8) Awards

The awards that a candidate has won in high school may not seem important but should be included on the resume. If a candidate has won the state science fair, got first prize in a poetry competition, or was on the honor roll, it shouldn’t be left off the application. These awards don’t have to be academically oriented either. One should also include awards they have received as part of their extra-curricular activities. A Boy Scout Eagle Award or Girl Scout Gold Award, a prize for sportsmanship, or accolades for musical talents should also be included. These awards can distinguish a candidate from other applicants and show the committee that they have the drive to succeed in college.

#9) Skills

Don't forget to list any special skills on the resume. If a candidate can play the violin, speak French fluently, or are a coding genius, they should make sure that the admissions committee knows. Colleges are looking to craft a class. They want to bring together a group of students who can learn both with and from each other. If a candidate can show the admissions committee that they have skills or talents that will add to the class, they should highlight them.

#10) Interests and Hobbies

Though many students don’t think schools care about their interests and hobbies, weird pastimes can make a big difference in the application. Universities want to admit interesting people; they want people with passion. The best thing one can do for their admissions package is to live their life to the fullest and follow their interests. Not only can one add their cool hobbies to the resume, but pursuing hobbies will also make life more fun and give the candidate something extra to write about in their personal essay.

Other Tips

Once the candidate is a senior in high school, there’s not much they can do to improve the content of their resume, but they still can improve the presentation. Be detailed and spend a lot of time thinking about how to present oneself on paper best. Make the resume as readable as possible. The resume, unlike a statement of purpose, shouldn’t be written in detail. Adding pointers instead of explanations for every sentence is the ideal way to go about it.

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