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What to know

After test scores and grades, admissions officers look for how students spend their time in and out of school. An activities resume is not only a way of providing colleges with information about how you spend your time, but also a means for you to learn something about yourself.

A resume is a wonderful tool. Few students take the time to put a resume together, let alone do it very well and know how to effectively use it in their admissions. A model and sample resume can be found here.

•  An activities resume is a 1-4 page word picture of your academic, extracurricular, sports and other involvements.

•  A resume is the cornerstone of a successful admissions application process; among other things, it will help you to identify what to write about in application essays.

•  Developing a very clear, organized and articulated activities resume is a way of being “a little bit better and a little bit different” from your competition.

  An activities resume can be given to

✔  Your high school counselor

✔  Teachers writing recommendations

✔  Other recommenders

Also, you can include a resume as a part of your applications, as a give-away at interviews, and/or as a part of a thank-you note to a college representative.

•  In addition to college admissions, activities resumes have multiple other uses--as an attachment to a scholarship application, as a part of an application for special programs such as Girls’ or Boys’ State; and as part of a job application.

  Some colleges ask you NOT to submit a resume, including the University of California system and Stanford University.

•  Colleges often have specific instructions about what format they want in a resume. Be sure to follow their directions.

•  Colleges are impressed with students who choose an activity, stay with it, and develop it over a period of years. A resume can help you demonstrate that.


What to know

•  Activities resumes should not only identify activities and awards, but also explain what these activities and awards are, what positions you have held and what you accomplished. 

•  Even if you have not done much in the first three years of high school, senior year is not too late do something interesting, meaningful, and/or fun.

•  If you are a student who must work to help your family or have major family commitments, colleges want to know about it. They totally respect this kind of involvement.

•  The content of what you do does not matter, although it doesn’t hurt to have interests that are “unusual” or different.

•  Very competitive colleges want students who demonstrate extraordinary commitment, incredible accomplishment, significant leadership, and who have participated in major academic, athletic or other competitions or prizes.


What to know

Freshman Year
9th grade is not too early to begin noting down all of your various activities, awards, sports, and other involvements, regardless of how important or unimportant they may seem. If you don’t write them down, surely you’ll forget some (if not many!)

sophomore Year
Keep writing down your activities, awards, sports and other involvements.

junior Year
11th grade is the time to put everything you have done into a formal, first draft activities resume.

Sample resumes can be found in the Examples/Lists section of this website.

senior Year
If you haven’t done it already, it’s not too late to put together a resume. This is one of the most useful tools you can have in the college admissions process.


When to do it

High school students are not very familiar with adult tools such as resumes, so this is another part of admissions where you can be of real assistance to your child. Starting in the 9th grade and continuing through to 12th, remind or record yourself everything your son/daughter does, experiences, accomplishes or wins. During the 11th grade, offer to show your child how to put a resume together. Finally, make sure your student has a finished activities resume by summer before his or her senior year.

by Marjorie Hansen Shaevitz
Excerpted from adMISSION POSSIBLE® (Sourcebooks, Inc, April 2012)

If you want to know more about this and other admissions topics, read
Getting into the Best Colleges for you
. Order it here!



adMISSION POSSIBLE® is committed to every student having access to the best college admissions advice available free
of charge, regardless of family background, financial resources, geographic location or attendance at a public or private school.

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