High school students who invest the time putting together a resumé may be handsomely rewarded by this year’s Common Application. Of the 531 member colleges and universities (out of about 610) that are “live” as of this writing, 131—or about one-quarter—have made 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 resumés 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.”
But many college advisers and lots of colleges very much disagree.
“I’ve long been a believer that teenagers need to know how to effectively present (and market) themselves on one or two pages. A resume should be far more than a list of extracurricular activities and personal commitments. It’s an opportunity to highlight accomplishments—what a 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,” said Judi Robinovitz, a Certified Educational Planner in Palm Beach and Broward counties, Florida. “Creating a resume should be an introspective activity, giving a student the opportunity to paint a vibrant picture of herself.”
Most school-based and independent college counselors agree there’s no reason to include a resumé if it duplicates information contained in other parts of the college 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, the University of Maryland, Baylor University, St. Louis University, SCAD and the University of Texas at Austin.
For students using the Common Application, basic resumé-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.
But for some students, the structure of the Common App’s Activities section is still limiting and doesn’t provide enough of an opportunity to showcase specific accomplishments. In this case, the applicant has a couple of options.
First, check both the member questions as well as college-specific writing supplements 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 resumé. These include*
Claremont McKenna College
Colgate University (one page only)
Columbia University (Architecture, Creative Writing, Drama and Theatre Arts, and Film “professional” resumes)
Johns Hopkins University
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Santa Clara University
University of Chicago
University of Cincinnati
University of North Carolina
University of Pennsylvania
Washington University in St. Louis
But a number of Common App members are a little less direct in their requests for resumés. Schools such as Colby College, Creighton University, Marquette University and Emory University provide specific instructions only on their websites as to how resumés should be formatted and/or forwarded along with the rest of the application for admission.
Other colleges such as Bowdoin College and Boston University have set aside space in their Common App member questions or writing supplements for “additional information, materials or writing samples.” These appear to invite resumés and some provide for formatting through PDF submission, but check with the individual colleges first before assuming that’s what they want.
If none of these options works for you, you can use the Common App’s Additional Information section to copy and paste a very simple resumé or an edited version of your resume (eliminating overlap with other parts of the application). Unfortunately, formatting will be limited to what is allowed in that text box and it doesn’t always look too great. Should you go this route, be sure to check the PDF print preview of your application to make sure the information you’ve pasted is readable and represents you well.
And remember that the Universal College Application provides for fully-formatted resumés by allowing PDF’s to be uploaded in the Additional Information section of the application. Once again, 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.
A resumé 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.
*Note that as the Common App continues to finalize information requests from colleges not fully “live” yet, more resumé requests may be made.