Your resume for college is an important part of getting potential employers and schools to notice you. For high school and college students, and recent graduates of the same, a college resume can come in handy at highlighting one’s educational and professional experiences, achievements, skills, hobbies, and other special talents that are relevant. But a resume isn’t just a job or school application utility. It can also help students prepare for potential school interviews and can provide a foundation for your career coach to write an effective letter of recommendation. It can also open doors for volunteer work and internships at prestigious companies.
So, how do you start writing a college resume if you don’t have the requisite job experience? This is the big lie in writing college resumes; that work experience is the only ingredient of a successful resume. In truth, this lack of professional experience may be a blessing in disguise as it provides the opportunity for you to highlight any other special skills or abilities outside of work. Therefore, a college resume, or any resume for that regard, isn’t something that is limited strictly to the white or blue-collar professional. Even a summer picking cotton in the fields would suffice as some form of experience.
How to Write a College Resume With no Experience
Most people struggle with how to write a college resume simply because of the assumption that professional work experience is all that counts. This is untrue. What matters is whether you have relevant skills for the position that you are applying to. Each position is unique and has a different set of skills and educational or professional experiences necessary. Most prospective employers are sensitive to the fact that college students and graduates may not have these skills as novices. They are thus more interested in the experiences, passion, and enthusiasm that the student brings to the table, as opposed to the professional or technical skillset.
How do you showcase passion and enthusiasm on your college student resume? Think back through your life and itemize the activities that you have been involved in and the skills that you have learned along the way. These could be as trivial as organizing marches for your local scout group, to helping out with babysitting during the weekends. The point is, each activity that you have taken part in can be framed as a would-be asset in this new position or school that you are applying to.
What a College Student Resume is Not
A college student’s resume isn’t a college application essay, and neither should it look like one. It shouldn’t detail your life story and neither should it be a block of text. Prospective employers and school admissions committees barely spend more than 10 to 15 seconds scanning a resume. You should think of your resume as your first line of defense since this is the first glimpse that the admissions officer or potential employer has of you. First impressions do matter, therefore you need your essay to instantly stand out.
How do You Make Your College Resume Instantly Stand Out?
The first thing that anybody reading any resume notices is the page layout, the outline, and the formatting. Subconsciously, the reader may even get a snippet of your personality type and how organized you are by simply looking at your college resume. For a high school or college resume, one page is sufficient enough to accommodate all your detail. Even two pages for a resume at this level may be considered too lengthy, given the lack of professional experience.
The use of white space goes hand-in-hand with the rest of your formatting. White space allows for a cleaner format and outline, emphasizing only important details without the need to use excessive font and formatting mechanisms. Another key point about getting your resume to stand out is to classify information according to sections, as per the given graphic below. We’ll dive into each of these sections in greater detail a little later.
This section could also be the ‘objective’ section or the ‘professional summary’ in more advanced resumes.
|Contact info |
(listed in reverse chronological order)
Marketing Intern at Remote Work Solutions, Venice Beach, CA.
Graphic: An outline of a one-page college resume
Another method of making your resume for college student stand out is through the use of relevant keywords. Just as keywords are important in making a copywriter’s work appealing to their readers, so are they in making your resume instantly catch the attention of a potential employer or college admissions officer. Obtaining these keywords is a matter of duly researching the requirements of the specific position or institution/department you are applying to.
Quick tip: Job advertisements always provide the exact keywords that are needed for a specific position. Google a few advertised positions similar to the role you are interested in to obtain these keywords and transfer them onto your resume.
What Information to Include in Your Resume for College
Professional resumes usually contain about 50-75% relevant professional experience and skills. a novice might not have this kind of material to fill out the canvas of their resume. However, all relevant skills, hobbies, extracurricular activities, educational achievements, projects, and any other accomplishments should still provide a neat sell of your resume. How one brings these qualities and traits across is what matters most.
The ‘About’ Section
A good college resume always has an ‘about’ section which can also be rounded off as the objective or summary. The part is immediately below the header (usually your name), and right next to the contact details, as per the provided graphic template. The about section should be a summary of your current station. For example,
“ A B.Sc student in Applied Computing at Tufts University, passionate about learning more about machine learning and neural networks. I have completed both theoretical aspects of these in my coursework and have sole projects that have been presented at competitive platforms. I’m looking to expand my knowledge in these areas at Company A.”
This summary has keywords relevant to the industry and company (presumably a tech company) to which the applicant is applying to. The applicant has highlighted working knowledge and practicum of the concepts that they are looking to engage in at Company A. The ‘about’ section can be modified if the student is applying to a school, a grant program, or a fellowship.
All contact information including phone numbers, email addresses, and social media links should be updated to match your current status. A professional voicemail message is also requisite just in case that all-important call comes in while you are unavailable.
Provide a combination of hard and soft skills. Hard skills are more practical and directly applicable to the specific position being applied to, for example, “analysis of GIS data and spatial modeling” is a hard skill required for surveying. Soft skills are more intangible and transferable, for example, analytical, quick-learner, strong people skills, etc.
These should be listed in reverse chronological order, meaning that the most recent of these should be listed first, again depending on the situation and intention. Diligent exceptions to this rule can be applied, provided a clear understanding of the requirements of the position is obtained, and the experience aligned according to this need.
It is common practice to start with the name of the institution, if prestigious enough, followed by your diploma or college major, and then the weighted GPA. Only include your GPA if it is weighted and above 3.5, otherwise you may undersell yourself.
Your College Resume | A summary of important information to include
How to write resume for college is dependent on how much information you have to include about yourself, and information on the prospective employer or institution you are applying to. Keep in mind the following:
- Heading with your name and contact information, and an ‘about’ section adjacent to this.
- Academic information such as SAT/ACT scores, and weighted GPA. List the highest scores if you have taken these tests multiple times.
- Academic, extracurricular, and other merit awards that may not appear on your transcript.
- Special coursework content if relevant to the position.
- Community or volunteer experience, and practical work experience plus solo projects.
- Any special skills, talents, or hobbies worth mentioning.
- Leadership and mentorship experience.
- Honors, awards, certifications, skills, and training.
- Digital proficiency language proficiency (specifically foreign language proficiency).
Keep in mind that how you present this information is very important. Stellar accomplishments and academic records may matter little if you cannot format your resume appropriately to the reader’s delight.
5 Quick Expert Tips for Crafting the Perfect College Resume
Even if still a novice on how to write a resume for college, these 5 tips provided below will expand your horizons and get you noticed if you apply them. If you can’t achieve this personally, a professional resume writer might help you get the job done.
- Be succinct and stick to the one-page rule unless necessary. Your resume’s job is to complement and not to supplement your cover letter, personal statement, or application letter.
- Make efficient use of white space instead of glaring text and font highlights. The latter two create a distraction instead of focus. Stick to font size 11 or 12 which is the norm for both academic and professional writeups.
- Tailor your resume for quick reading and Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) through the use of relevant keywords.
- Employ action verbs such as “achieved” and “led”, instead of engaging a passive voice.
- Always state quantifiable stats and measures. For example, “as assistant store manager, I was able to reduce inventory losses from 15% to 5% in the first quarter of 2018.”
Remember, your resume needs practical examples of achievement, and you can accomplish this even with minor experience or no post-graduation experience. Since this may be a tough task for noobs and students who have never really taken their time to craft a solid resume, engaging a professional resume writer is a sure alternative to coming up with a starter’s resume that instantly gets noticed.