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Writing Your Admission Resume

If you wrote your autobiography, how long would it be? Perhaps several hundred pages including photographs of important people, places and events in your life. Now imagine condensing that autobiography into a single page. While it sounds impossible, that’s exactly what a college or graduate school wants when it asks for a resume. Even if the college you are applying to doesn’t explicitly ask for a resume we recommend that you include one with your application anyway.

Like a resume that you may have written when applying for a job, a college admission resume highlights your skills, accomplishments, talents and experience in a quick, easy-to-digest format. But unlike an employer, a college or graduate school is not concerned with your job titles as much as they are in the skills you learned on the job and how they will prepare you for your studies.

Let’s dive in and take a look at what makes a good admission resume.

Resume Basics

If it’s been a while since you’ve job hunted or your resume skills are a bit rusty, here’s a primer on what goes into a good resume. Basically, you have one, maybe two, pages to summarize what you’ve accomplished. For an admission resume the schools will want you to focus on three major areas: your education, work experience and other relevant experiences.

For your education, you should list the institutions you’ve attended, the degrees that you’ve earned, your GPA and any honors you’ve received. Don’t worry if you did poorly in college before. College admission officers know that you were younger then and weren’t as focused on your studies, which is precisely why you are going back to school now.

For work experience, detail the companies you’ve worked at, the positions you’ve held and the major accomplishments you’ve made. Don’t forget to describe your responsibilities and any knowledge that you gained that might apply to your studies. For example, if you worked in sales and are planning to major in political science, you could certainly highlight your understanding of sales negotiations between buyers and sellers, which is not all that different from the negotiations between nations.

There are also many skills that you learn in almost any job that will help you become a better student. Skills like time management, keeping a schedule, managing a budget, working in groups, computer skills, report writing, verbal communication, analyzing problems, being creative and meeting project deadlines are just a few skills that will help you no matter what your major.

Other relevant experiences include other activities in which you’ve been involved. This may include community work, church, PTA or anything else that you enjoy doing. It may also include hobbies and interests such as woodworking or crafting. In particular, you’ll want to highlight any leadership roles that you’ve had or accomplishments you’ve made. For example, if you tutored math at your son’s elementary school and are planning to return to college to get a degree in elementary education, then you’ll definitely want to highlight that on your resume.

If you have been a stay at home mom or dad, be sure to list that as well. Don’t be afraid to toot your own horn. It’s a huge responsibility to manage a household and raise children. Detail the responsibilities that you are most proud of. You might also want to share what you did during your down time at home. Maybe you became a voracious reader, and this is part of why you want to go back to school. One student we met was a stay at home mom and started writing poetry during the (few and far between) quiet moments. She never thought much about it until we pointed out that having filled a journal with poetry and read the works of other poets was very impressive and should definitely be listed on her resume as well as in her application.

Depending on your own reasons for going back to school, you’ll probably want to categorize your experiences in a way that makes the most sense. In general, put the most relevant and impressive items first. For example, let’s say that you are planning to be a business major. You work in an office environment and also do volunteer work at a local battered women’s shelter where one of your projects is to manage the volunteers who answer the hotlines. Instead of listing your job under “work experience” and the volunteer experience under “other experience,” you may list them both under one category of “business experience.” You could describe your volunteer work as having taught you about managing a team even if your team was a volunteer one. This makes it easy for the admission officers to see in one place all of your experience and skills that will help you be a better business major.

Admission resumes do not need to follow the strict formatting rules that employment resumes often do. You are trying to make life easy for the admission officers by showing them what is important. This means that you can create whatever categories you feel are necessary to accomplish this.

How To Match Your Resume To Your Goals

While your goal for writing a job resume may be to land a new job, your goal when writing a resume for college or graduate school admission is quite different. You want to demonstrate that you are academically prepared for the program and have experiences that will make you a strong student.

We’ve taken some common experiences and described them in a way that would illustrate their significance to a college admission officer. At the same time with only a page of space, we need to economize our words. While your experiences will be different than these examples, the important point is to study how we draw the connection whenever possible between the experience and the skills learned that would make you a better student.

UC Irvine. Completed 16 credit hours in required freshman courses. Received an “A” in Modern Psychology and achieved an overall GPA of 3.0. GED. Successfully completed summer GED program while working full-time.

Macy’s Sales Associate. Responsibilities included customer service and inventory. Named associate of the month for excellence in customer care.

Smith & Lewis, Marketing Associate. Responsible for working with team to develop marketing plans for clients. Conducted market research on location for new hotel and analyzed results of recent radio campaign for electronics store.

Library Volunteer. Dedicated five hours per week. Responsibilities included assisting the reference librarian with patron requests for information. Became proficient in using online databases to find information.

Crochet Workshop Leader. Taught a group of 35 students how to crochet. Class met twice a week over three months. Designed all lessons and exercises. All students graduated with basic knowledge of the craft.

Central High School PTA Secretary. Elected secretary responsible for attending all meetings, keeping accurate records of proceedings and participating in association activities.

Flower Arrangement. Self-taught flower arrangement through extensive study of books and by attending a workshop given by master arranger Sharon Kubota. Participated in annual flower arranging competitions.

Automotive repair. Self-taught mechanic able to completely overhaul an automobile engine. Volunteered time to assist with York High School Student Auto Club.

You can see that for each experience you want to highlight what is most impressive and give concrete examples of your level of skill whenever possible. Ideally, some of these things will also tie into what you plan to study. However, even if the connection is not obvious, college admission officers will understand and value your achievements.

Knowing how to rebuild an engine may not be useful for a literature major, but the skills you acquired while learning how to do this are absolutely essential to being a successful student. College admission officers value all kinds of skills that will make you a good student from the obvious such as writing and math to the less obvious such as team work and time management.