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Your College Application's Secret Weapon

Use it to your advantage!

College applications used to be simple: fill out a few fields of personal information, send a transcript, get a teacher to write about your awesomeness, and spend about an hour writing an essay. That was it. As long as your GPA was in line with the college's average, you were in! These days, in this uber-competitive college admission climate, those simple days are long gone.

If you're applying to highly selective colleges, you've got to present yourself beyond a high GPA, respectable test scores, and all that other stuff. EVERYONE'S got that, well at least those applicants that are true contenders to those highly selective colleges. So, how do you make yourself less of a commodity, and more of a candidate that rises above the rest?


Optional Ain't Optional

When sharing your activities involvement throughout your high school career, there's a section in the Common Application titled appropriately enough as Activities. You are allowed to share a maximum of 10 activities, that's it! But, that's not the worst part; the worst part is that you only have 150 CHARACTERS to describe the activity and your involvement. Did I say 150 words? NO! I said 150 CHARACTERS (and spaces are included in that count). Kinda limiting, don't you think?

Well, colleges thought so, too, and their solution is to offer an "optional" resume that you could include with your submitted application. Understand, not all schools provide this option, but the resume has truly gained ground in the last few years. More colleges are allowing it as an option, and for those who do, take advantage of it! Just like that "optional" essay isn't really optional, the "optional" resume isn't either (unless you don't want to help yourself get accepted).

Benefits of the Resume

This is yet another opportunity to show your own style. When you really break down the college application, there's only one section where you can really share your true voice: the Personal Essay. But, with the resume, you can also show your true style. There are numerous and affordable resume templates for professional use on Etsy. Explore and find one that really speaks to you. Once you buy and download the template, begin to modify it on your own by making it more "high school" friendly. Think about including the following elements in your resume:

  • Name

  • Location

  • Contact Info

  • School

  • GPA, only if above a 3.5

  • Test scores, only if above a 30 and you are not applying test optional

  • If you have a web presence, include your URL

  • Honors & Awards (Common Application only allows for 5 total)

  • Activities in school

  • Activities out of school

  • Hobbies

  • Employment

  • Career interests or major interest

  • Volunteering & Service

  • A "Me" statement

Another advantage to including your resume with your application is the amount of detail you could add to each activity's description. 150 characters just aren't going to cut it if you have a lot to say about an activity, especially if you want to include details like the number of members in the club, the impact you made beyond the school community, etc. There is a cautionary WARNING: the resume should NOT be a duplication of information that is found in the Activities section of your Common Application. The resume is supposed to provide more detail, more activities that couldn't fit, and more awards that go beyond just 5 entries. The resume must not only provide more detail about your already listed activities, but also provide new information not found in the Common Application.

Other Uses for Your Resume

Even if your college of choice does not ask for a resume, you should make one regardless. Your resume is a great summary of how you spent your high school years. Teachers and your guidance counselor would certainly appreciate the information as they write your letter of recommendation. Additionally, you could use your resume to get a job! You'll give the impression of being extremely professional and a step beyond your peers.

Save that resume for "Additional Information" that could be supplied in your college's applicant portal once you have applied to the school. Finally, if you apply under Early application plans and get deferred to the Regular Decision pool of applicants, you could share your resume as additional information for consideration, if the college allows you to provide it.

In today's competitive college admissions climate, you'll need to go beyond what's expected. Raise the bar, help yourself get noticed, and do that "optional" resume!

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