Getting into college is 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 resume comes in.
Yes, there’s debate among counselors about the use and usefulness of a high school resume. 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 resume 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 11 excellent reasons to add a resume to your college application tool box:
1. Historical record. A resume 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 resume 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 resume. And the sooner you act on the gaps, the better.
3. Special skills. A resume may be structured to highlight special skills in the arts, sports, or in academics. If you’re a dancer, your resume 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 resume presenting relevant stats to communicate with coaches.
4. 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 resume 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.
5. Color. Electronic applications tend to be fairly cut and dry. They ask only for facts. A resume 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 resume 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.
6. 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, some 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.
7. Links. Resumes are becoming increasingly internet-friendly. Most of the time, uploaded documents will allow for the provision of 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 or complete URLs on your resume to encourage readers to visit websites where you have created, contributed to, or manage content.
8. Recommendations. An up-to-date resume 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.
9. Interviews. A resume 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 resume available for an interview, but ask first before handing it over. Some college interviewers have rules to follow concerning the use of background materials.
10. Employment. Having a resume 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.