Jan 17, 2012

10 Very Good Reasons to Add a Resume to Your College Application Toolbox

Getting into college is a little like 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 you need a tool that summarizes those accomplishments in a clear and concise format. That’s where a resume comes in.

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.

Whatever you want to call it, here are 10 very good reasons to add a resume to your college application tool box:

  1. Historical record. A resume helps you keep track of your accomplishments. It’s easier to remember you won Most Valuable Player for the field hockey team in the 9th 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, work experience) will show you 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.

  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 increases the likelihood that you’ll get it right the first time.

  5. Color. Most electronic college applications are 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. The Common Application recently combined and condensed the number of lines available to list both extracurricular activities and employment. It also has a small truncating problem which essentially cuts answers off mid-stream. If you have more than 10 entries (substantive entries) or if the truncating demon steals half your descriptions, you should consider uploading a copy of your resume as “additional information.” In fact, 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 include it unless specifically requested.

  7. Recommendations. An up-to-date resume should be provided to anyone you ask to write a recommendation on your behalf—high school guidance 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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 of high school students and will make your credentials stand out from the crowd.

  10. Self-confidence. At the end of the day, it’s sometimes easy to lose sight of all you’ve accomplished. Maintaining a resume 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.

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