Skip to main content

See also:

Common App members and others welcome your resumé

Belmont University, TN
Belmont University, TNNancy Griesemer

It seems that when it comes to resumés for high school students, you’re either for them or against them. And shades of gray seldom exist in the debate over whether or not to include these documents with college applications.

Emory provides instructions on resumes on its website.
Emory provides instructions on resumes on its website.Nancy Griesemer

In their popular guide to college admissions, Robin Mamlet and Christine VanDeVelde take a very strong position against: “Resumes are for adults applying for jobs, not teenagers applying to colleges.”

But many college advisers and lots of colleges very much disagree.

“A resumé is far more than just a list of in-school and personal activities in which a student has participated throughout high school. Rather, it highlights a student's accomplishments as well as the impact of each activity on his life and others'. It enables students to showcase initiative, leadership, and creativity,” said Judi Robinovitz, a Certified Educational Planner located in Palm Beach and Broward counties Florida. “When taken as a whole, the resumé can clearly tell an important story of a student's life, passions, values, and goals.”

Most college counselors agree there’s no reason to include a resumé if it duplicates information contained in other parts of the college application, unless of course, the school specifically asks for one. And plenty of colleges outside of the Common App system do, such as Georgetown University, the University of Maryland, Oregon State University, Baylor University, St. Louis University, and the University of Texas at Austin.

For students using the Common Application, basic resumé-related information may be presented in the Activities section, which provides space to describe involvement in ten activities.

Within each activity, the Position/Leadership blank allows 50 characters to give a solid indication of your position and the name of the organization in which you participate. The Details, Honors and Accomplishments box allows 150 characters to provide insight into what you’ve done and any distinctions you earned.

But for some students, the structure of the Common App’s Activities section is still limiting and doesn’t provide enough of an opportunity to showcase specific accomplishments. In this case, the applicant has a couple of options.

First, check both the member questions as well as college-specific writing supplements for additional opportunities to provide details about extracurricular activities. You may be surprised to find a number of Common App members have made provisions for an upload of a fully-formatted resumé. These include*

  • Austin College
  • Belmont University
  • Brandeis University
  • Bryant University
  • Centenary Louisiana
  • Colby College*
  • Colgate University
  • Columbia University (Architecture, Creative Writing, Drama and Theatre Arts, and Film “professional” resumes)
  • Dartmouth College
  • Davidson College
  • Duke University
  • Fairfield University
  • Kalamazoo College
  • Lafayette College
  • Macalester College
  • Maryville University of St. Louis
  • McDaniel College
  • Oberlin College
  • Regis College
  • Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
  • Santa Clara University
  • Smith College
  • University of Cincinnati
  • University of Pennsylvania
  • University of Rhode Island

But a number of Common App members are a little less direct in their requests for resumés. Schools such as Creighton University, Emory University, Southern Methodist University (SMU), Texas Christian University (TCU), and the University of Colorado Boulder provide specific instructions only on their websites as to how resumés should be forwarded along with the rest of the application for admission.

Other colleges such as Bowdoin College, Clark University, Boston University, and Vassar College have set aside space in their Common App member questions or writing supplements for “additional information, materials or writing samples.” These appear to invite resumés and some provide for formatting through PDF submission, but check with the individual colleges first before assuming that’s what they want.

If none of these options works for you, you can use the Common App’s Additional Information section to copy and paste a simple resumé or an edited version of your resume (eliminating overlap with other parts of the application). Unfortunately, formatting will be limited to what is allowed in that text box. Should you go this route, be sure to check the PDF print preview of your application to make sure the document you’ve pasted is readable and represents you well.

And remember that the Universal College Application provides for fully-formatted resumés by allowing PDF’s to be uploaded in the Additional Information section of the application. Once again, it’s wise to check with the college first to see if they’d like a copy of your resumé as part of your application for admission.

A resumé can be a very powerful document for pushing your college candidacy forward. It can serve to color in between the lines or provide extra detail beyond what may be crammed into a standardized application form.

If given the opportunity, use it. But make sure it reflects well on you and contains accurate and up-to-date information.

*Note that as the Common App continues to finalize information requests from colleges not fully “live” yet, more resumé requests may be made.