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Resumes continue to add value in the college admissions process

High school students who invest time creating résumés may be handsomely rewarded in the college admission process. Of the Common Application member colleges and universities that are “live” as of this writing, at least 272 — or about one-third — have made specific provisions for submitting this handy document.
 
Résumés haven’t always been so popular. In fact, there remains a lingering controversy over the appropriateness of asking students to develop and maintain résumés throughout high school. And many colleges are quite deliberate about not including them as part of their applications.
 
In her blog on college admissions at the University of Virginia, Associate Dean of Admission Jeannine Lalonde makes a point of repeating, “The Common App has a résumé upload function and lets each school decide whether they want to use it. We are one of the schools that turned that function off. We prefer the Common App activity section to the various ways people choose to present their activities on résumés.”
 
On its website, Duke University clearly states, “Please note that Duke will not accept resumes for the 2019-2020 application process.” And Tufts agrees, “Keep in mind that the Common Application is your one chance to show your extracurricular engagements: we are not able to accept a supplemental resume of activities.”
 
But they are in the minority, and many college advisers and lots of colleges very much disagree.
 
“Almost as soon as I start guiding a student through college planning, I learn about the student’s interests and hobbies and discuss the importance of extracurricular commitment in and out of school – both for college admission and life enrichment. That naturally leads to an analysis of student engagement and the creation and continual updating of a résumé,” said Judi Robinovitz, a Certified Educational Planner in Palm Beach and Broward counties, Florida. “The résumé becomes far more than a list of activities. Rather, it highlights a student’s special accomplishments, focusing on major themes in her life that set her apart from her peers —what she has done, why, how, and, most especially, leadership, initiative, creativity, and how these actions have impacted lives (hers and others’).”
 
Robinovitz adds, “Here’s an important secret: when you share a thoughtfully prepared and detailed résumé with anyone who will write a recommendation, you’re likely to get a stronger and more anecdotal piece of writing that supports your application. Plus, through résumé creation now, we lay critical groundwork for undergraduate summer job and internship applications – and ultimately, for graduate school and vocational opportunities. And the résumé certainly facilitates a more impactful presentation on the activities page of both the Common and Coalition Applications.”
 
In other words, a résumé represents an opportunity to collect, keep track of and reflect on accomplishments. And it’s likely to be a document the student will maintain, using different formats and styles, through college and beyond.
 
But there’s no reason to include a résumé with a college application if it totally duplicates information contained in other parts of the 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 and MIT.
 
For students using the Common Application, basic extracurricular-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. A second box allows 150 characters to provide insight into what you’ve done and any distinctions you earned.
 
The Coalition provides space for Activities/Experience in the Profile section of the application. Students may enter up to eight activities and are asked to specify “the two experiences outside of your academic program that are most important to you.” For each activity, the student is allowed 64 characters for the activity/experience name (Cashier, Wegmans Grocery Store, Fairfax VA), as well as 255 characters for “a description of your experience” and an additional 255 characters to “List any individual distinctions you earned in this activity or experience.” 
 
Students using the Universal College Application (UCA) may enter up to seven “Extracurricular, Personal and Volunteer Activities” and up to five employers or job-related activities for a total of 12 entries. While the characters allowed are more limited (35 for extracurricular and 32 for jobs), students are encouraged to provide more details in the Additional Information section.
 
But for some students, these activities sections are still limiting and don’t provide enough of an opportunity to showcase specific accomplishments or direct attention to relevant online content. In this case, the applicant has a couple of options. 
 
First, check college-specific questions for additional opportunities to provide details about extracurricular activities. This is where some Common App members have made provisions for an upload of a fully-formatted résumé. These include:
  • Boston College
  • Brandeis University
  • Brown University
  • Bucknell University
  • Cornell University
  • Dartmouth College
  • Davidson College
  • George Mason University
  • Howard University
  • Johns Hopkins University
  • Kenyon College
  • Lafayette College
  • Macalester College
  • Mount Holyoke College
  • Northeastern University
  • Northwestern University
  • Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
  • Rochester Institute of Technology
  • Santa Clara University
  • Trinity College
  • Tulane University
  • University of Massachusetts-Amherst
  • University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill
  • Vanderbilt University
 
Coalition members providing for résumés place the option in the Uploadsection of the application. Some examples are:

  • Bryn Mawr College
  • Claremont McKenna College
  • Colgate University
  • Drew University
  • Florida State University
  • University of New Hampshire
  • University of Pennsylvania
  • University of Texas-Austin
  • Vassar College
  • Washington University in St. Louis

Note that a handful of Coalition members placed their Additional Information questions in the upload section of the application and seem to invite documents such as résumés. Similarly, the UCA provides for fully-formatted résumés by allowing PDFs to be uploaded in the Additional Information section of the application. But before acting on this plan, it’s wise to check with the college first to see if they’d like a copy of your résumé as part of your application for admission. They may not!
 
In addition to asking outright for a résumé, a number of institutions make provisions for an applicant to provide a URL on the Coalition or Common Application. The UCA not only dedicates a question to this, but also makes the response conveniently “clickable” for the application reader. This is another way students may provide a résumé on a personal website or via Linked In.
 
And sometimes colleges specify they only want a résumé as part of a “portfolio” or “arts supplement” submitted through a separate portal. Columbia Universityand Princeton University are among those falling into this category.
 
A résumé can be a very powerful document for pushing your college candidacy forward. It can serve to color between the lines or provide extra detail beyond what may be crammed into a standardized application form. It can also serve as vehicle for showcasing links to websites, blogs, videos or other online media.
 
If given the opportunity, use it. But make sure it reflects well on you and contains accurate and up-to-date information.
 
By Nancy Griesmer
September 11, 2019

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