Sep 20, 2018

12 excellent reasons to add a résumé to your college application toolbox


Union College provides for résumé uploads
Getting into college bears an uncommon resemblance to applying for a job: you need to persuade an organization that you possess sought-after skills and that you’re a great fit for their community. 

It sounds a little like marketing. And yes, you are marketing. Only instead of years of progressive work experience, you’re mostly marketing academic achievements, extracurricular involvement, community service, and special skills.

So it makes sense that you would need a tool summarizing those accomplishments in a clear and concise format. And that’s where a résumé comes in and possibly why over a third of all Common App members make provision for a résumé upload on their applications.

Yes, there’s debate among counselors about the use and usefulness of a high school résumé. Some ruin the effect by referring to it to as a CV (curriculum vitae) which is Latin for pretentious, and others persist in calling the document a “brag sheet,” which sounds well, a little icky. 

And the effect diminishes if you do a sloppy job or go on for pages and pages. Even the most accomplished student can fit everything onto two pages—really! It’s also important that you keep your résumé current and ready to send on a moment’s notice.

But whatever you call it, never underestimate the value of a well-constructed document summarizing your high school career. In fact, here are 12 excellent reasons to add a résumé to your college application toolbox:

1. Historical record. A résumé helps you keep track of accomplishments. It’s easier to remember you won Most Valuable Player for the junior varsity lacrosse team in the 10th grade if you’ve been documenting activities since you walked through the door of your high school.

2. Gaps. A properly constructed résumé that follows along the lines of what college applications request (honors, extracurricular activities and work experience) will suggest where gaps exist in your portfolio. If you’ve never volunteered or don’t belong to any clubs, those gaps will quickly become evident as you put together your résumé. And the sooner you act on the gaps, the better.

3. Special skills. A résumé may be structured to highlight special skills in the arts, sports, or in academics. If you’re a dancer, your résumé can provide a foundation for an arts supplement that tracks where you’ve studied, under whom, and where you’ve danced. Smart athletes also use a résumé for presenting relevant stats to communicate with coaches.

4. Degree of involvement. By providing a general timeline and noting dates of participation, a résumé suggests how deep the involvement and how extended the commitment. And by including information relative to hours or days per week and weeks per year, a résumé drills even deeper into the role the activity plays in your life. 

5. Applications. It’s easier to tackle the task of completing a college or scholarship application if you already have a single document summarizing all of your high school achievements and activities. Having a printout of your résumé sitting beside your computer as you fill in blanks not only saves time but also helps you prioritize which of your many activities are most important to you.

6. Color. Electronic applications tend to be fairly cut and dry. They ask only for facts. A résumé gives you the opportunity to color in between the lines and provide additional information that makes you come alive or stand out as a candidate. If you have specific computer skills, language fluency or certifications, a résumé is a great vehicle for presenting them. If you’ve conducted research, given presentations or participated in enrichment activities, you can add titles, summaries, or the names of your mentors.

7. Upload. Most electronic applications severely limit the amount of information you can provide in the way of extracurricular activities. The Common Application, for example, allows applicants to present ten activities, including school clubs, community service, and employment. Each entry is allowed 50 characters for a label and 150 characters for a description. Because of these limitations, many colleges specifically ask for resumes, so it’s good to have one on hand. But remember that a resume should “inform”  your application not “duplicate” it. If it doesn’t add anything, don’t attach it unless specifically requested.

8. Links. Résumés are becoming increasingly internet-friendly. Most of the time, documents converted to PDF format will support live links to online media including blogs, videos, websites, Facebook pages or articles appearing in newspapers, journals or magazines. Don’t hesitate to include these links in the form of complete URLs on your résumé to encourage readers to visit websites where you create, contribute to, or manage content.

9. Recommendations. An up-to-date résumé should be provided to anyone you ask to write a recommendation on your behalf—school counselor, teachers, or even the classmate who's agreed to write a peer recommendation. It helps them get to know you better and to remember all the details of your amazing high school career.

10. Interviews. A résumé is a great conversation starter for an interview. It puts you and the interviewer on the same page—literally. It also helps an interviewer remember specifics about you after the conversation ends. NOTE: You should always have a résumé available for an interview, but ask first before handing it over. Some college interviewers have rules concerning the use of background materials.

11. Employment. Having a résumé to attach to an application for a job, internship, or mentorship makes you look that much more professional and job ready. It can answer questions employers haven’t even thought to ask about your background or experience and will make your credentials stand out from the crowd.

12. Self-confidence. At the end of the day, it’s sometimes easy to lose sight of all you’ve accomplished. Maintaining a résumé and looking at it once in a while will help you remember the highlights of your high school career. And that’s a good thing.

This is the second of three articles on the importance of résumés in the college application process. A list of colleges providing for résumés uploads on their applications may be obtained by emailing:  Nancy@CollegeExplorations.com.

Sep 13, 2018

Résumés provide ‘value added’ in the application process


Claremont McKenna provides for resume uploads on its application

High school students who invest time creating résumés may be handsomely rewarded in the college application process. Of approximately 750 Common Application member colleges and universities that are “live” as of this writing, at least 246 — or one-third — have made specific provisions for or even require the submission of this handy document.

This hasn’t always been the case. In fact, there remains a lingering controversy over the appropriateness of asking students to develop and maintain résumés throughout high school. And many colleges are very deliberate about not including them as part of their applications.

In her blog on college admissions at the University of Virginia, Associate Dean of Admission Jeannine Lalonde makes a point of repeating, “The Common App has a résumé upload function and lets each school decide whether they want to use it. We are one of the schools that turned that function off. We prefer the Common App activity section to the various ways people choose to present their activities on résumés.”

And on its website, Duke University clearly states, “Please note that Duke will not accept activity résumés for the 2018 application process.”

But many college advisers and lots of colleges very much disagree.

“Almost as soon as I start guiding a student through college planning, I learn about the student’s interests and hobbies and discuss the importance of extracurricular commitment in and out of school – both for college admission and life enrichment. That naturally leads to an analysis of student engagement and the creation and continual updating of a résumé,” said Judi Robinovitz, a Certified Educational Planner in Palm Beach and Broward counties, Florida. “The résumé becomes far more than a list of activities. Rather, it highlights a student’s special accomplishments, focusing on major themes in her life that set her apart from her peers —what she has done, why, how, and, most especially, leadership, initiative, creativity, and how these actions have impacted lives (hers and others’).”

Robinovitz adds, “Here’s an important secret: when you share a thoughtfully prepared and detailed résumé with anyone who will write a recommendation, you’re likely to get a stronger and more anecdotal piece of writing that supports your application. Plus, through résumé creation now, we lay critical groundwork for undergraduate summer job and internship applications – and ultimately, for graduate school and vocational opportunities. And the résumé certainly facilitates a more impactful presentation on the activities page of both the Common and Coalition Applications.”

In other words, a résumé represents an opportunity to collect, keep track of and reflect on accomplishments. And it’s likely to be a document the student will maintain, using different formats and styles, through college and beyond.

Most school-based and independent college counselors agree there’s no reason to include a résumé with a college application if it totally duplicates information contained in other parts of the application, unless of course, the school specifically asks for one. And plenty of colleges outside of the Common App system do, such as Georgetown University and MIT.

For students using the Common Application, basic extracurricular-related information may be presented in the Activities section, which provides space to describe involvement in ten activities. Within each activity, the Position/Leadership blank allows 50 characters to give a solid indication of your position and the name of the organization in which you participate. A second box allows 150 characters to provide insight into what you’ve done and any distinctions you earned.

The Coalition provides space for Activities/Experience in the Profile section of the application. Students may enter up to eight activities and are asked to specify “the two primary activities that have taken up most of your extracurricular time during high school.” For each activity, the student is allowed 64 characters for the activity name (Cashier, Wegmans Grocery Store, Fairfax VA), as well as 255 characters for “a one-sentence description of your experience” and an additional 255 characters to “List any individual distinctions you earned in this activity or experience.”

Students using the Universal College Application (UCA) may enter up to seven “Extracurriculars, Personal and Volunteer Experience[s]” and up to five employers or job-related activities for a total of 12 entries.  While the characters allowed are more limited (35 for extracurricular and 32 for jobs), students are encouraged to provide more details in the Additional Information section.

But for some students, these activities sections are still limiting and don’t provide enough of an opportunity to showcase specific accomplishments or direct attention to relevant online content. In this case, the applicant has a couple of options.

First, check college-specific question for additional opportunities to provide details about extracurricular activities. This is where some Common App members have made provisions for an upload of a fully-formatted résumé. These include:
  • Boston College
  • Brandeis University
  • Brown University
  • Bucknell University
  • Cornell University
  • Davidson College
  • George Mason University
  • George Washington University
  • Howard University
  • Johns Hopkins University
  • Kenyon College
  • Lafayette College
  • Macalester College
  • Mount Holyoke College
  • Northeastern University
  • Northwestern University
  • Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
  • Santa Clara University
  • Trinity College
  • Tulane University
  • University of Massachusetts-Amherst
  • University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill
  • Vanderbilt University
Coalition members providing for résumés place the option in the Upload section of the application. Some examples are:
  • Bryn Mawr College
  • Claremont McKenna College
  • Colgate University
  • Dartmouth College
  •  Drew University
  • Florida State University
  • University of New Hampshire
  • University of Pennsylvania
  • Vassar College
  • Washington University in St. Louis
The UCA provides for fully-formatted résumés by allowing PDFs to be uploaded in the Additional Information section of the application. But before going forward with this plan it’s wise to check with the college first to see if they’d like a copy of your résumé as part of your application for admission. They may not!

A résumé can be a very powerful document for pushing your college candidacy forward. It can serve to color between the lines or provide extra detail beyond what may be crammed into a standardized application form.  

If given the opportunity, use it. But make sure it reflects well on you and contains accurate and up-to-date information.

For a list of colleges providing for résumé uploads, email: Nancy@CollegeExplorations.com

Jul 6, 2018

UVa announces essay prompts for 2018-19


University of Virginia

The University of Virginia announced today that essay prompts for fall 2019 applicants will be looking very very similar to those in previous years, with only a few minor tweaks to keep things interesting.

Each year, we solicit feedback about our prompts from students and admission staff. Sometimes we tweak a question, sometimes we add to the options, and sometimes we remove options,” explained Jeannine Lalonde, “Dean J” of the UVa Admissions Blog.Our prompts aren't changing too much, but we did add one option to the second.

In addition to a required personal statement, UVa applicants will be asked to write two short responses to prompts specified in the application.

As in past years, UVa is “looking for passionate students” to join a “diverse community of scholars, researchers, and artists.” Prospective “Hoos” are asked to answer in a half page or approximately 250 words one of a series of questions corresponding to the school/program to which they are applying:
  • College of Arts and Sciences: What work of art, music, science, mathematics, or literature has surprised, unsettled, or challenged you, and in what way?
  • School of Engineering and Applied Sciences: If you were given funding for a small engineering project that would make everyday life better for one friend or family member, what would you design?
  • Kinesiology Program: Discuss experiences that led you to choose the kinesiology major.
  • School of Nursing: School of Nursing applicants may have experience shadowing, volunteering, or working in a health care environment. Tell us about a health care-related experience or another significant interaction that deepened your interest in studying Nursing.
  • School of Architecture: Describe an instance or place where you have been inspired by architecture or design.
For the second essay, applicants are asked to pick one of five questions to answer in a half page or roughly 250 words:
  • What’s your favorite word and why?
  • We are a community with quirks, both in language and in traditions. Describe one of your quirks and why it is part of who you are.
  • Student self-governance, which encourages student investment and initiative, is a hallmark of the UVA culture. In her fourth year at UVA, Laura Nelson was inspired to create Flash Seminars, one-time classes which facilitate high-energy discussion about thought-provoking topics outside of traditional coursework. If you created a Flash Seminar, what idea would you explore and why?
  • UVA students paint messages on Beta Bridge when they want to share information with our community. What would you paint on Beta Bridge and why is this your message?
  • UVA students are charged with pushing the boundaries of knowledge to serve others and contribute to the common good. Give us an example of how you’ve used what you learned to make a positive impact in another person’s life.
UVa joined the Coalition for Access, Affordability and Success in September of 2015 and may finally offer that application as an option for this fall, in addition to the Common Application. Both platforms have already posted their personal statement prompts. Although the questions are very similar, it’s worth noting that while the Common App word count is between 250 and 650 words, the Coalition “strongly recommends” that personal statements stay within 500 to 550 words.

And in the college admissions world, it’s wise to take these kinds of recommendations very seriously!