When going through the college application process, you may find some schools request a resume. You can write a great college resume by focusing on experiences that align with each program or university you apply to. Follow these three steps:

Step 1: Brainstorm Things You’re Proud Of

Jot down positive memories and details about your high school academics, extracurriculars, or other life areas. For instance, maybe you’re proud of participating in the debate team, ranking in the top 10% of your class, or teaching yourself HTML outside school. Here’s a list of areas to consider:

  • Academics and education (high school GPA, class rank, honors, or awards)
  • Athletics
  • Community service
  • Foreign language proficiency
  • Hobbies and interests
  • Internships
  • Personal accomplishments, such as running a marathon
  • SAT/ACT scores
  • School clubs and societies
  • Summer coursework
  • Technical or computer skills
  • Travel or study abroad experience
  • Volunteer experience
  • Work experience

Don’t be concerned if you only have information for a few of these areas. Also, it’s not yet crucial whether the information you’re generating is well organized or even relevant to your college application — we’ll get to that in Step 2. For now, just write everything down as it occurs to you. The only rule is that each detail must be something you’re generally proud of having done or participated in.

As you complete this step, keep the following tips in mind:

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  • Colleges and universities typically want students who are engaged, diligent, and curious about the world. They also like to see that a student can balance their school and non-school commitments. So when you’re brainstorming, view your experience through this lens and write down anything that speaks to your developing or showing these qualities.
  • Restrict yourself to “I” statements, as in “I earned an A in Calculus. I did spring track all four years of high school. I was a server at Domino’s last summer. I helped my restaurant place No. 3 in the region for customer service….” This writing method forces you to focus on what you’ve done and achieved rather than possibly going off on tangents about other people and events that wouldn’t fit in your final resume.
  • The college resume is a great place for information you can’t fit elsewhere in your application. In particular, if you’re filling out the online Common Application, strict character limits may keep you from giving as much detail as you’d like about a certain topic. So use your resume brainstorming to fill what would otherwise be an information gap in your overall application.

Step 2: Filter Out Irrelevant Info

Once you’re done brainstorming, prepare a list of (unorganized) details about yourself that you feel good about. This isn’t a resume, but it is the best possible foundation for one. Next, go through and delete any details that don’t relate to your college application.

Review one item at a time, always asking yourself the same yes-or-no question: “Does this overlap with the types of things I’d like to do as a student at this college?” If your answer is no or probably not, delete that detail. Or at least move it to a different document for now — maybe it’ll make the cut on your application for another college.

To help find the right answer for each item you review, take cues from what you know about the school. Refer to their website, brochures, notes from the campus tour, or any other information that reminds you what the school is known for and what you’re most drawn to. For example, say you brainstormed many details about high school track and the race times you achieved. But the college in question doesn’t have a track program (or it does, but you don’t plan to join). You can pare back your high school track experience on your resume to the basics since it wouldn’t factor heavily into your attending this college. On the other hand, if you’re proud of doing track because it helped you gain a strong sense of collaboration that aligns with the college’s values, consider featuring this on your resume.

In all cases, remember your resume isn’t meant to be a comprehensive overview of your life experience. Instead, it’s designed to focus on those parts of your experience that help a college admissions officer see you’d be a strong addition to their campus community. View your brainstorming notes through that person’s eyes, and you’ll gain the best insight into what details you can safely leave out.

Step 3: Organize the Remaining Details

Group your remaining information into section categories (refer to the list in Step 1 if that helps). Then you’re ready to plug them into a template and finalize your resume. Keep these pointers in mind:

  • If you brainstormed in “I” statements, in many cases, you could simply remove the pronoun “I,” and any articles (“a,” “an,” “the”) that appear later in the sentence. That will give you the desired “tight writing” style for resumes.
  • Put your resume sections in order of their relevance to your college application. Completing Step 2 above should help you quickly determine which sections are generally most relevant. But know that in virtually all college applications, the most important area will be your high school education, so that should probably go first.
  • Use any broader statements you’ve written about your general strengths and qualities as the basis for a profile summary at the top of your resume. Including a profile is a great strategy for any career stage or transition. It lets you call the reader’s attention first and foremost to your top strengths and experiences.

After completing these three steps, you’ll have a compelling resume that showcases all — and only — the details that can help you get into college and thrive there. What’s more, it will give you a solid idea of how you can build an effective, focused resume for the many career opportunities to come.

Sample College Application Resume

Joseph Corbin
(123) 456-7890 | [email protected] | Philadelphia, PA 12345 | www.linkedin.com/example


Diligent and engaged student with strong academic performance in high school, including an “A” average for mathematics. Excelled in leadership roles for multiple school athletics and extracurricular activities. Naturally curious and eager to explore new topics.


Graduate, Benjamin Franklin High School, Philadelphia, PA | August 2019 to June 2023
3.7 GPA | Top 10% of graduating class | “A” average in all mathematics classes, including AP Calculus
SAT scores: 760 math, 680 verbal (1440 combined)

School Athletics and Activities 

Spring Track Team
Co-Captain – Senior year

  • Voted into a team leadership role; coordinated with the head coach to help organize meets and answer various questions from team members
  • Served as a valued mentor and resource to underclassmen

Member – All four years

  • Gained and demonstrated strong dedication and teamwork
  • Helped team rank in the top four out of 18 high schools in the region for three consecutive years

Debate Team
Member – Junior and Senior year

  • Collaborated closely on a 10-person team to form and organize compelling debate arguments

Professional Experience

Host / Server, Domino’s Pizza, Philadelphia, PA | Summers 2020 and 2021

  • Greeted visitors and took and served food orders in a fast-paced environment
  • Proposed several changes to the order entry process for servers and delivery drivers, increasing efficiency and collaboration
  • Helped restaurant place No. 3 in the region for customer satisfaction in July and August 2021

Hobbies and Interests 

Running | painting | avid reader (over six books per month)


Advanced proficiency in Spanish (“A-minus” average for all four years of high school)

Technical Skills

Microsoft Office (advanced Excel) | HTML

Frequently Asked Questions About College Application Resumes

Should I write a resume for college applications? -

Yes. Creating a resume ahead of time gives you one less thing to worry about as you navigate the college app process. Even if you don’t end up using it directly, your college resume can help you clarify what areas or themes you’d like to emphasize in your application essay or interview. It will also give you a head start on applications for future entry-level or internship opportunities.

Does my college resume have to be one page?-

No. Rather than aiming for a certain resume length, focus on following the above process. Be diligent about deleting information that doesn’t speak to your desired college experience. In most cases, that will leave you with a one-page resume. But if you end up with two pages, don’t worry — it may just mean you have that much relevant information to share.

What template should I use for my college resume?-

For aspiring college students, a clear and straightforward resume template is best. Opt for a layout that lets the admissions officer quickly review your best details. Select a traditional resume font, and avoid any template with a colorful or elaborate design. Also, ensure the template complies with applicant tracking system (ATS) technology.

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