How to Write a Resume for College Admissions - the Ultimate Guide

Christine Outram
March 3, 2021

Writing a resume for a college admissions package requires a different approach to writing a job application resume. Here are the five things you’ll need to consider with answers below.

  1. Do you need to write a resume for college?
  2. What’s the difference between a professional resume and a college application resume?
  3. How to show off your soft skills on a college resume?
  4. What you should put on your resume vs. your college essay vs. a letter of recommendation?
  5. Other frequently asked questions about college resumes

Don't like to read? Watch the video instead!

Introducing our expert

At Everydae we know a LOT about making studying fun so you can ace high school without the stress. But we also recognize that we’re not a specialist on everything (!)

That’s why, for many of our blog posts, we interview an expert. This is someone who has spent years in the field helping hundreds, if not thousands of high school students prepare for the next stage of their lives.

Today’s expert is Dr. Genevieve Morgan from Dr. Morgan College Counseling. Dr. Morgan helps families navigate the admissions and career planning process to find the right-fit college for them.

Dr. Morgan College Counseling

Before we begin...

What is a college resume for admission?

A college resume for admission is a 1-2 page document that describes a high school student’s notable accomplishments.

It is different to a job resume in that it can also highlight key projects or experiences that demonstrate to an admissions officer why the student will be a good fit for their college. Calling out project-based achievements is especially important for students who don’t have an extensive job history or volunteer experiences.

Part 1: Do you need to write a resume for college?

That depends. Whether you submit a resume with your college application (or bring one to your college interviews) varies from institution to institution.

Some colleges have banned students from submitting a resume, while some colleges require it.  Before you begin downloading a high school resume templates, make sure you have your shortlist of schools handy so you can establish:

  • Which schools want you to submit a resume
  • Any additional information the school provides on what they are looking for in the application

Part 2: What's unique about a high school resume compared to a professional resume?

The goal of a professional resume is to get you a job and the most important thing that employers are looking for is whether you have the skills they need to get the job done.

In contrast, college resumes can focus less on hard skills. It should give a college admissions officer insight into why you would be a good addition to the student body and how you are different from other students.

As Dr. Morgan, a professional admissions consultant puts it:

“Something that the college resume should have, which you won't see on a regular job resume… is you need to communicate that you're curious, that you're passionate [and] that you're innovative. It’s a lot of the things that educators call soft skills.”

This other piece of advice is also useful to understand:

“I know from both a college and a high school admissions committee perspective that you're looking for the kind of kids who will be fun to teach, who will help sustain and create the fabric of an institution... And that will be kind, that will be good roommates, good classmates, people that other people want to collaborate with.”

Part 3: How do you show off your soft skills on a resume?

To show off your soft skills on a resume, you should highlight project-based accomplishments amongst any work history, grades and extracurriculars.

This shows an admissions committee that you have more depth than an applicant who simply lists “babysitter” or “volunteer” or “tutor” on their resume.

What’s an example of a soft skill you can highlight on your CV?

An example of a soft skill on your resume is a project that you’ve done outside of school that demonstrates your creativity, ingenuity and drive. Dr. Morgan gives a great example of a soft skill that one of her students demonstrated:

Dr. Morgan: So I have a kid this year who went to go do some community service and he realized that one of the things that people are lacking is an ability to wash their clothes. Homeless people don't have access to washing machines so he designed a portable washer for clothes, it's like a salad spinner. Have you ever used a salad spinner?

Everydae: Yeah! I have one on top of my fridge, hasn't been used in a while but yes.

Dr Morgan: All right! So he took that design. And he made it bigger and then he used a 3-D printer… and he actually has a working model of this very cheap way to make a portable contraption that homeless people can use to wash the clothes. So, that's something that went on his resume. 

Part 4: What should you put on your resume vs. your college essay or letter of recommendation?

One of the big mistakes that students make is that they repeat themselves across all aspects of their application.

A better approach is to use each part of your submission to show off a unique part of your personality and achievements. By highlighting different aspects of yourself in each area of the application, you’ll convey that you're a well-rounded person. Here’s how:

Teacher/counselor recommendations:

These will usually focus on what you have been doing in the classroom. As Dr. Morgan puts it:

[Teachers are] going to use anecdotes about a project in math or how you brought a group project together and steered everyone in the right direction. Or they're going to talk about a particular paper that you wrote about the Great Gatsby, etc.

As a result, letters of recommendation are a great way to show how academically accomplished you are and how you can effectively solve problems in a school setting.

The resume:

While your recommendations usually focus on events that take place within a school setting, your resume is the place where your projects and innovative accomplishments outside of school can shine. Here’s a trick from Dr. Morgan that you can use if you’re struggling to come up with ideas:

Talk to your mother, your father, your aunt and ask them about things that they remember about you. You will find stories there that as a student you may just not have thought about. 

Pro tip: While you think that the accomplishments your family mentions may not sound as exciting as inventing a washing machine for homeless people, there is always a story to tell. As Dr. Morgan went on to say:

I've never found a student who is not interesting. Even if they think that they're not interesting, they always have something cool about them. And then the other thing is that admissions counselors are looking for real people, they want authenticity. 

The essay:

High school resumes provide a quick overview and insight into the breadth of your accomplishments as a student. Your essay will focus on a deeper exploration. It gives you the chance to share how you view yourself and the world in more detail. And it gives more clues to an admissions officer as to whether you’ll be a good fit for the school and its culture. 

The bottom line is, you should take every opportunity to tell the admissions committee something new about yourself that they don't know. 

Need college essay ideas? Use this ultimate hack.  

Part 5: Frequently asked questions

Q: How long should a college application resume be?

Your college application resume should be no longer than 2 pages. Many people also advise that one page is enough, but it completely depends on you and which aspects of your past you want to highlight in your application. Any longer than two pages and you’re in danger of the admissions committee not reading it.

Q: What information goes on a college application resume?

  1. Your Personal details:
  • Your name, home address and your email. Note: if you don’t already have a professional email address, then now is a great time to create one
  1. School information:
  • The name of your high school
  • Graduation date
  • Weighted GPA
  • Class Rank (if applicable)
  • SAT/ACT scores (if applicable)
  1. Awards and accomplishments
  • Academic accomplishments
  • Local news in which you’ve been featured
  • Key personal projects you want to highlight
  • Publications you have been featured in
  1. Coursework
  • Key courses you have done well in (including APs)
  • Summer programs or college courses you have taken
  • Any specialized courses that are not on your transcript
  1. Extracurricular activities, hobbies and special skills
  • Highlight what you achieved and why these are important to you
  1. Work experience
  • Don’t just list your job title and dates, include some bullet points about what you learned/achieved

Who is Dr. Morgan College Counseling?

When I first started helping kids, it was essays and supplements. Now I offer everything from list building to interview prep. One of the things I most enjoy is helping kids with scholarship applications. Often people think that if they apply to the public schools, they'll get the best deal but in reality a lot of the private schools offer more aid. 

I also work with rising ninth and tenth graders to help them plan their high school career. People think that sometimes you have to be involved in 10 different extracurriculars, when in reality you should find what really makes your heart sing. 

In short, I’m a full-service one-stop shop!

Get your FREE guide to raising successful teenagers