How to Write a Resume for College Admissions, Scholarships, Internships

A resume is no longer reserved for after graduation. Students may want to craft one as early as the ninth grade for everything from college admissions to scholarships and internship opportunities.

The resume should continue to evolve over the course of one’s academic career, shaped by his or her experiences and reflective of the student’s interests and activities, experts say. Both high school and college students will want to keep a well-polished resume up to date.

“It’s a really valuable thing for a student to have,” says Kelly Fraser, owner and consultant at Green Apple College Guidance & Education, which has offices in Boston and the Washington, D.C. area.

Some colleges require a resume with the application, while others welcome the document in the supplemental materials section. Some internship, scholarship and study-abroad applications also require resumes.

Fraser says a high school resume should be complementary to a college application but students should avoid repetition and cramming all of the same information onto the document.

“Each document that you submit to a college does not have to have everything about you in it, but all of the pieces of the puzzle should come together to make a nice picture,” Fraser says.

[Read: A Complete Guide to the College Application Process.]

While a resume in ninth grade isn’t an absolute must, students should at least be thinking about it , says Nancy Polin, president and senior college counselor at Educational Excellence in Florida. “It doesn’t have to be a formal resume, but I recommend that they start some sort of formal record-keeping system in the summer before ninth grade,” Polin says.

Marjorie Hansen Shaevitz, founder and director of adMISSION POSSIBLE in California, sees resumes as pieces of information that allow students to communicate who they are.

“More and more, college admissions officers are now looking for how and where people spend their time, including the quality, depth and length of involvement,” Shaevitz says.

She recommends that students include standardized test scores, Advanced Placement and honors courses, awards, activities and talents that show depth in educational endeavors. Grade point averages and other accomplishments also should be highlighted.

“Colleges want to know who you are,” Shaevitz says, adding that the same is true for students who may have family responsibilities, such as caring for younger siblings or working.

“There are many students who have to work, who have to go home to family responsibilities. Colleges understand that, and they should put those on their resume,” Fraser says.

Experts advise high school students to mine their entire academic career for experiences and accomplishments.

[Read: 6 Tips From College Admissions Pros on Standing Out.]

Yuridia Nava, a school counselor at Riverside Poly High School in California, wrote in an email that she asks her students to reflect all the way back to kindergarten for their experiences, urging them to consider lengthy volunteer commitments and passions they’ve held for years.

Advisers also insist on sincerity, cautioning students to not embellish their resumes.

“If you’re applying to a college and you’re submitting anything in your application that’s not true, then it’s a big problem,” Fraser says, adding that students also should avoid listing experiences that they will have trouble talking about in an interview with an admissions officer.

Once in college, students should continue to build on their resume and keep it current , says Caroline Lee, a program director in the career center for the University of Maryland–College Park.

As in high school, students should continue to list “relevant and recent” experiences, she says. Students can draw on their background in high school for their resume in college, which Lee says is usually “fair game” until the end of their sophomore year, at which point they should exclusively highlight postsecondary accomplishments, whether that’s work experience, involvement in student organizations, class projects or other activities that have helped them develop new skills.

“Through a lot of those classes and student organizations, they are getting real, tangible experience that is 100 percent translatable into the working world,” Lee says.

[Read: Choose Between Work-Study, Part-time Job in College.]

Jeremy Fisher, director of the John P. Fahey Career Center at Creighton University in Nebraska, says that resumes for college students may be more career-specific than in high school.

“A college-level resume will be more focused on relevant experiences, skills, leadership, service and other activities that may be more important to a potential employer,” Fisher wrote in an email.

For high school and college resumes alike, students will want to follow many of the same rules. Experts emphasize writing in a clear and concise fashion, personalizing the resume for applications, proofreading diligently for spelling and grammar and soliciting feedback.

They also encourage students to keep it simple and straightforward, avoiding flashy text or graphics. Generally, they suggest a one-page resume as the standard.

“Employers scan and review resumes very quickly — typically in 15 to 30 seconds or less initially, so it is important to have a resume that looks professional (style, format, font, etc.) and is very easy to read,” Fisher says. “The use of proper spacing, bullet points for descriptions, bolding, underlining, or italicizing important information such as the resume categories, school, degree, major, employer name, job titles, etc. is very helpful,” he says.

Nava cautions students against including social media profiles “unless it’s clean of any negative images or memes” and to avoid using email addresses with unprofessional language.

Some consultants and counselors provide model resumes for students to follow, though templates are typically discouraged at the college level, according to Lee and Fisher.

Lee says not everything fits in a template and it limits the control students have when writing their resume. Fisher says templates can be helpful as a guide but resumes created from templates are not unique and don’t stand out.

“Why would you want your resume to look exactly like hundreds of others?” he says.

Creighton lists guidance on its website showing resume examples for those early in their academic careers as well as those in graduate and professional programs. For first and second year students, Creighton’s career center offers a simple one-page example that focuses on education, including major and GPA, experience, and activities and service.

Maryland’s career center offers similar examples, adding a section for skills and relevant projects.

Whether for high school or college, experts stress the need to have a resume handy.

“The earlier a student has a professional resume developed, the more ready they will be to pursue opportunities as they arise,” Fisher says.

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