Before we get started, I know what you might be thinking, and, yes, it’s true — the Common Application doesn’t allow students to upload an activities resume anymore. That ended two years ago when I applied to college (how has it already been two years?!). Now it is all about the Activities section and filling in what would be in your resume (if you need tips, check out Jillian’s article here).
However, many schools who aren’t on the Common App still will allow you to upload a resume to their applications, and some schools who are very kind (e.g. the University of Pennsylvania) will allow you to upload a resume as part of their supplement. Thus, depending on what schools to which you are applying, you might still need a resume (and if none of your schools require/offer the option to upload one, it’s still good to have as a template for future resumes).
Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, here are some tips on creating your activities (or future template) resume:
1. Keep it simple.
When creating your resume, stay away from flashy colors, intricate designs/formatting, and hard to read font. And definitely don’t print it on pink scented paper à la Elle Woods in Legally Blonde. Basically, you don’t want an admissions counselor to open your resume and immediately feel overwhelmed by it. Simple black font (e.g. Arial, Helvetica) is always your best bet.
2. Have a way to organize all of your activities.
Traditionally, college resumes are broken up into three sections (if all three are applicable): extracurricular activities, community service, and job experience. Another potential section could be prior research, but this is less common. Yet, no matter what you have to put down, make sure there is some sort of order to it. On my college resume, I put everything in chronological order by when I joined/when I left. What I was involved in for all four years was at the top, followed by activities I joined sophomore year, then junior year, and so on. I put any organization I left for last in each section, and used the same methodology. Again, you want to make your resume as easy to read as possible. This helps any reader (admissions counselor or not) to really get a sense of your commitment to your activities and your trajectory throughout the last four years.
3. Do your best to keep it under two pages.
…and strive to keep it under a page to a page and a half. I understand that you may have done a lot, but the common sentiment (regardless if its correct or not) is “You’re only 17-years-old. If I, a professional, don’t even have a resume two pages long, why do you?” So, in order to keep your resume short (and keep admissions counselors happy), make sure that each activity/job/community service you put on your resume is meaningful and something you have dedicated a lot of time to. For example, I would advise against putting a one-time visit to a soup kitchen as a community service activity. On the other hand, if you volunteer at that soup kitchen on a periodic basis, then I would add it. Another example of something not to add would be a club you quit after your freshman year. Yes, it’s a nice way to show you’re involved in your school, but you were involved with that club three years ago. It’s no longer relevant to you and admissions counselors will realize that. (Side note: if you are writing your main essay about one of your activities, jobs, or community service experiences, put it at the top of the section to which it pertains.)
4. Make sure your spacing isn’t too big or too small.
One thing I think a lot of people don’t realize is that the default single-spacing that Microsoft Word/Pages uses will take up extra space you could use for an activity or additional bullet point. On my personal resume, I custom formatted my spacing to 11 (single-space is 12), while using 10 point font. This way, the spaces in between bullets are smaller and I am able to add more to my resume, but it is still completely legible and easy to read. I wouldn’t advise going much smaller than 11pt. spacing. 10pt. or below could make the words too squished together, which would turn the admissions counselor off.
Keep these tips in mind when crafting your activities resume. While these are merely suggestions, I have found them to be incredibly useful both at the college application level and at the internship/job application level. Best of luck, Prospies!