Sep 4, 2016

Colleges increasingly want applicant résumés

Claremont McKenna College

High school students who invest time putting together résumés may be handsomely rewarded in the college application process.   Of 653 Common Application member colleges and universities that are “live” as of this writing, at least 185—or well over a quarter—have made specific provisions for or 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.

In their guide to college admissions, Robin Mamlet and Christine VanDeVelde take a strong position against:  “Resumes are for adults applying for jobs, not teenagers applying to colleges.” The idea is that the application form itself should provide enough room for all the information colleges want.

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

“When I first start guiding a student through college planning, I often begin by learning about interests and hobbies, which leads into a discussion about the importance of extracurricular commitment, both in and out of school. The conversation typically gets the ball rolling on a higher level of student engagement and on the creation and ongoing updating of a résumé,” said Judi Robinovitz, a Certified Educational Planner in Palm Beach and Broward counties, Florida.  “A student’s résumé should be far more than a list of extracurricular activities and personal commitments. It’s an opportunity for a student to truly highlight accomplishments—what the student has done, why she’s done it, how she did it, how she’s grown from it, and, most especially, how lives (hers and others’) have been impacted.”

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 have to 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, Virginia Tech, Penn State and the University of Texas at Austin.

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 extracurricular activities 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, located in Fairfax, Virginia), as well as 255 characters for “one brief sentence describing the primary function of this activity” and an additional 255 characters to “[L]ist any positions/honors/awards received in this activity, if any.”

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. Unlike either the Coalition Application or the Common Application, the UCA clearly marks how many characters are allowed for each response.

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

First, check member questions 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
  • Carnegie Mellon University
  • Claremont McKenna College*
  • Colgate University (one page)
  • Cornell University
  • Dartmouth College
  • Davidson College
  • George Mason University
  • George Washington University
  • Johns Hopkins University
  • Lafayette College
  • Macalester College
  • Northeastern University*
  • Pomona College
  • Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
  • Santa Clara University
  • Smith College
  • Trinity College
  • Tulane University
  • Union College*
  • University of Cincinnati
  • University of North Carolina
  • University of Pennsylvania
  • Vanderbilt University*
  • Washington University in St. Louis*
Another option is to see if the college offers an alternate application that allows for résumé uploads. For example, the UCA provides for fully-formatted résumés by allowing PDFs to be uploaded in the Additional Information section of the application.  Before going forward with this plan, however, it’s wise to check with the college first to see if they’d like a copy of your resumé 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 in 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.

*This school has also made provisions for résumé upload on the Coalition Application.
**This school does not specifically provide for
résumé upload on the Coalition Application.

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