Should you include a resume with your application?

Congratulations to your son or daughter! They have finished filling out the activities section of the Common App – not as easy as it looks. The have carefully described their positions in clubs and organizations, as well the depth and breadth of their participation, and painstakingly organizing their activities in order of importance. And then their friend casually mentions the resume they are sending to colleges. Resumes! Does everyone need a resume?

While not required by most colleges (the University of Texas a notable exception), including a resume with the college application can be a good idea. This is especially true if:

1) your student was not able to include all of their activities in the Common App (which only allows for the inclusion of 10 activities) or

2) your child needs to expand on the extent of their participation in activities (the Common App only allots 150 characters for a description of how students engaged in extracurriculars). Students who participate in the same club or organization for all four years of high school and/or who hold multiple positions within a club often find they simply cannot adequately explain their involvement without a resume.

If your child decides to include a resume with their college application, here are a few tips for them:

  • The resume should be 1-2 pages, no more.
  • The resume should provide details of their role(s), especially any leadership positions, and participation, including any specific or unique contributions.
  • Data can be your friend in a resume so students should include the number of club members, how often the clubs meets, its budget, etc.
  • Formatting is key.

I recommend looking at a college’s Career Services website and using the template they provide to their students. This is important, because often students ask mom or dad for help and produce a resume better suited for job-seeking than a college application. Remember, the audience is an admissions office, not LinkedIn or an HR department.

Students need to be careful, however, when deciding whether to submit a resume as part of a college application. Some colleges limit supplemental materials to those explicitly allowed (such as an arts portfolio or research abstract). In that case, students should definitely not include a resume. Moreover, even if a college does not have a clear statement about whether it will accept a resume, students need to make sure that the resume does not merely repeat information already in the Activities section, but rather adds new information.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, students need to make sure there is no inconsistency between the Activities Section and the resume – there is nothing more confusing (and frustrating) to an admissions officer than contradictions in an application. Students do not want admissions officers wasting precious review time trying to reconcile conflicting data points – when this happens a resume is not a “plus” – but becomes a “negative” – in a college application.

If your student decides not to include a resume with their application, or does not send it to all colleges, preparing one can still be useful. Many colleges offer interviews, sometimes with alumni. Alumni do not have access to a student’s application, and providing  a resume at the start of the interview can be a great way to break the ice.

While it can feel overwhelming to put together all of the components of a college application, spending a couple of hours on a resume is time well spent.