High school students who invest time creating résumés may be handsomely rewarded in the college application process. Of 689 Common Application member colleges and universities that are “live” as of this writing, at least 224 — or about one-third — have made specific provisions for or even 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. And many colleges are very deliberate about not including them as part of their applications.
In her blog on college admissions at the University of Virginia, Jeanine Lalonde makes a point of repeating every year, “The Common App has a resume upload function and lets each school decide whether they want to use it. We are one of the schools that turned that function off. We prefer the Common App activity section to the various ways people choose to present their activities on resumes.”
But many college advisers and lots of colleges very much disagree.
“Almost as soon as I start guiding a student through college planning, I learn about the student’s interests and hobbies and discuss the importance of extracurricular commitment in and out of school – both for college admission and life enrichment. That naturally leads to an analysis of student engagement and the creation and continual updating of a résumé,” said Judi Robinovitz, a Certified Educational Planner in Palm Beach and Broward counties, Florida. “The résumé becomes far more than a list of activities. Rather, it highlights a student’s accomplishments about what she has done, why, how, and, most especially, how these actions have impacted lives (hers and others’).”
Robinovitz adds, “Here’s an important secret: when you share a thoughtfully prepared and detailed résumé with anyone who will write a recommendation, you’re likely to get a stronger and more anecdotal piece of writing that supports your application. Plus, through résumé creation now, we lay critical groundwork for undergraduate summer job and internship applications – and ultimately, for graduate school and vocational opportunities.”
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, MIT 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, Fairfax VA), 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. While the characters allowed are more limited (35 for extracurricular and 32 for jobs), students are encouraged to provide more details in the Additional Information section.
But for some students, these activities sections are still limiting and don’t provide enough of an opportunity to showcase specific accomplishments or direct attention to relevant online content. 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
- Bucknell University
- Claremont McKenna College
- Colgate University *
- Cornell University
- Dartmouth College*
- Davidson College**
- George Mason University
- George Washington University
- Howard University
- Johns Hopkins University**
- Kenyon College
- Lafayette College
- Macalester College
- Mount Holyoke College
- Northeastern University
- Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
- Santa Clara University
- Trinity College
- Tulane University
- Union College*
- University of Cincinnati
- University of Massachusetts-Amherst
- University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill
- 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 résumé 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 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 also made provisions for résumé upload on the Coalition Application.
** This school does not specifically provide for résumé upload on the Coalition Application.