College and high school extracurriculars can add a lot of value to an entry-level resume, especially if your work and internship experience is limited. You can use them to showcase key work skills and attributes such as:

  • Adaptability
  • Collaboration
  • Conflict Resolution
  • Creativity
  • Dedication
  • Leadership
  • Organization
  • Task Prioritization
  • Time Management

When writing your first resume after graduation, you may have difficulty capturing your extracurricular activities and strengths. People often underestimate their capabilities due to uncertainty and, as a result, only provide a brief summary of their extracurricular activities on their resumes without providing any further information. As a formatting style, this approach is plain and impersonal. The result is that hiring managers often don’t get the full measure of an entry-level candidate’s past engagement and success in demanding or formative extracurricular roles like:

  • Debate Team Member
  • Drama Club Member
  • Honor Society Member
  • Resident Advisor
  • Sports Team Member/Captain
  • Student Council Member
  • Student Mentor
  • Study Abroad Program Participant
  • Tutor
  • Volunteer

If you’ve held any of the above titles through your school and life experience, there’s a good chance it deserves a prominent spot and description on your resume. But there are also times when you should pare back your description and focus on a particular aspect of the role or omit the role altogether. It all boils down to how much relevance any given extracurricular has toward your goals for your job search now.

You can make extracurriculars a valuable and relevant asset on your resume by following these three rules:

1. For any activity that’s highly relevant to your target job, write out a full description

Feel free to develop and structure it as you would describe a regular job. Include your title, the organization name, the location, start and end dates, and bullet point highlights. For example, let’s say you’ve been a Resident Advisor at your school and see plenty of relevance toward your goal of working in HR for an education nonprofit. That would mean providing a detailed description such as:

Resident Advisor, University of California, San Diego | August 2021 to May 2022

  • Supervised and supported a 40-person residence hall
  • Scheduled and organized social and holiday events
  • Helped actively address and resolve conflicts among residents
  • Built strong relationships with other RAs and school administrators
  • Promoted a safe, positive, and inclusive environment at all points

2. For any activity that’s only partly relevant to your target job, provide a partial description

Focus on the aspect(s) of the activity that will speak to the hiring manager’s needs and leave out the rest. Applying this rule to the above example, let’s say instead of HR, you’re pursuing a career in event management. In this case, you may want to pare back the description to focus on the second bullet point:

Resident Advisor, University of California, San Diego | August 2021 to May 2022

  • Supervised and supported a 40-person residence hall
  • Duties included scheduling and organizing social and holiday events

By omitting details that don’t speak to your goals, you can expand on the details that do. Here you might develop the second bullet point further to give examples or describe your event organizing duties in greater detail. This will give the hiring manager a better sense of your overall experience and proficiency with event planning, apart from whatever internship or entry-level work you are also citing on your resume.

3. For any activity that’s not relevant to your target job, do not provide a description

This isn’t to say that the activity isn’t objectively valuable or impressive, only that it doesn’t happen to speak to your current goals. You may want to add it back into your resume for a future job search if it speaks to your goals. But for now, you’re better off using that space to offer more detail on your relevant experiences.

Once you’ve determined which extracurricular activities to include and which details to include for each, you’ll be in the best position to integrate them into your broader resume.

If you include just a few short descriptions of school-related activities, it usually makes sense to integrate them with your Education section. You can put the descriptions right under the respective degree and school where they occurred. But if you end up including more roles with longer descriptions, consider placing them in their own “Extracurricular Activities” section, so they’re distinct from your education details. You can include descriptions of non-school-related volunteer roles in your regular job descriptions. Just be sure to update the section heading from “Professional Experience” to “Professional and Volunteer Experience” or “Work Experience” to ensure the accuracy of the information.

Wherever you choose to fit extracurriculars on your resume, trust that they’ll enhance your application as long as you spell out each one’s relevance to the direction you’re headed next.

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Jacob Meade

Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW, ACRW)

Jacob Meade is a resume writer and editor with nearly a decade of experience. His writing method centers on understanding and then expressing each person’s unique work history and strengths toward their career goal. Jacob has enjoyed working with jobseekers of all ages and career levels, finding that a clear and focused resume can help people from any walk of life. He is an Academy Certified Resume Writer (ACRW) with the Resume Writing Academy, and a Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW) with the Professional Association of Resume Writers & Career Coaches.

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