Whether you’re a college student, going through the application process right now, or even a lowly high school sophomore, you’ve heard of the Common Application. The Common App, both our savior and our tormentor, is the universal service that makes applying to (most) colleges as simple as a few clicks. But although it’s streamlined the process significantly, eliminating the need for dozens of separate paper forms, the Common App presents its own unique set of boundaries to work with. One of these limitations is the rigid format of the activities section; it is here that you must explain your entire high school career in a series of dropdown menus and brief descriptions, all adhering to a strict, limited format.
But it was not so long ago that the Common App allowed users to upload their own supplementary resumé to complement this format and fill in any cracks. Now, submitting an additional resumé is not commonplace–doing so requires a separate email sent to the university. With this new hurdle, it’s easy for a high schooler to assume that the resumé is dead. In fact, I’d argue just the opposite: the limitations defined by the Common Application make the resumé an even more valuable resource for a number of reasons. Even though you won’t be submitting it with your application, a personal resumé is an important thing to have.
Using a resumé is a comprehensive way to keep track of your activities and interests. Gone are the days of scrambling to remember what exactly it is you do in your free time. Setting up a file early on allows it to act as a sort of log of everything you’ve done along the way—whether it was volunteering at a blood drive through National Honor Society or captaining your soccer team, a resumé is a snapshot of your life. It can also help you organize your obligations into categories before it comes time to do so for the Common Application. After breaking down your involvements into groups, you may notice that you’re a bit thin in one area—perhaps you realize it would be valuable to gain some work experience, for example. If you’ve created your resumé before application season, you’ll have ample time to look for a job or long-term volunteering opportunity to get involved in before deadlines start to loom.
Most importantly, a resumé can help you start to get a feel for your most relevant activities. In creating one, you’ll sort things out chronologically and by relevance. Since the Common Application has room for only ten items, there is a possibility that you won’t have room for everything that you do. Evaluating your resumé will help you realize what matters and what doesn’t. By the time you sit down to fill in the Common App, you’ll already know what you’re going to include and what will be left out. Plus, you’ll already have some brief descriptions at hand, making filling out the app just a bit more painless.
A resumé also makes applying to other things a breeze. Perhaps you need to submit an application for an honor society or you’re looking to get a summer job. Rather than scrambling to think of everything you’ve ever done, you’ve already got a resource at hand. A professional resumé will be a standard when it’s time to apply to internships or on-campus positions at college, and it’s never too early to have one ready. Plus, once you’ve got all of your content written down, it’s easy to tweak with the layout and design until you’ve got a product you’re proud to submit.
Whether you’re a sophomore or a senior who’s already applied to college, creating a resumé is a worthwhile endeavor. You’ll always have one at the ready when it’s needed—and trust me, it will be. You may also want to have a parent or friend look it over for relevance and correctness. And, although you should have a comprehensive version that includes everything you’re involved in, don’t forget to tailor your resumé when it comes time to apply for a specific position. No matter your age, you’ll be one step closer to landing that job when it’s finally time.