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Writing a College Resume: Dos and Don’ts

This post is from a student, parent, or professional contributor. The opinions expressed by the author are their own and do not necessarily reflect the positions, viewpoints, or policies of Niche.

Coming out of high school, college applicants are all on a pretty level playing field. Some of us may have had a babysitting or restaurant job once or twice, but for the most part, clubs and sports decorate our resume. Leaving for college and starting a new life signals the beginning of your next phase—your resume needs to match the stage of life you are in.


As a student, school should be your first priority and it will say the most about you. As such, your university and areas of study should go toward the top of your resume. Under ‘education’, you should list both your high school and your university. Include as much detail as you feel comfortable with, such as grade point average, second degrees, minors, and certificates.


Next, you should list leadership and extracurricular experiences. Be sure to include the name of both the organization and your position in addition to a description and timeframe you held the role. Beware of falling into the habit of simply describing what the role is or what the organization is—employers want to know what you did within the position. Be specific and quantify your value. What changes or improvements did you make? How many new members did you recruit? What events did you organize, and what sort of skills did you need to accomplish that feat? The more descriptive you can be, the better.

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In the ‘skills’ section, only record technical skills you’ve learned through experiences. Writing filler soft skills like “leadership” or “public speaking,” while both valuable, can be controversial because there is no way to quantify your experience with those skills. Stick to coding languages, software, or foreign languages that you know, and be sure to note how experienced you are in each of the skills you list. If you are just a beginner in a skill, it’s best to leave it off your resume until you reach an intermediate or more advanced stage.


You should alter your standard resume each time you apply for a new position to make it appropriate for the role you are interested in. Tailoring your resume is a great way to accentuate specific skills and experiences you have that are relevant to the position. One resume doesn’t fit every job! There are resume templates all over the Internet; they can be helpful, but sometimes deceiving. The best place to find out if your resume passes the test is your college’s career center. There, advisors can give you personalized feedback based on what other students use in their resumes. Advisors may also be familiar with the company you’re applying with, which can help you get a better grasp of what that company looks for in candidates.


Always be mindful of the industry’s culture that you want to work for; the layout and design of your resume should change depending on the field. If you’re applying to a position in the legal or business fields, you should keep your resume more conservative. Alternatively, content creation or startup jobs tend to be more relaxed—you should feel free to express yourself a little more in those situations.


There is no easy answer to how your resume should look. However, there are some basics that every student resume should have. Once you’ve added the most important information, don’t be afraid to branch out and be a little adventurous with it – after all, you need to stand out in this competitive job market! By utilizing resources you already have, like mentors, advisors, professors, and classmates, you will form the strongest possible safety net to support you.


Resumes are the single most important document you submit when applying for jobs and internships. Update your resume often to keep it fresh and accurate. By following these guidelines, you can be sure to display your best self in the job search process.

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Author: Jenna Spray

Jenna is a second year journalism student at Northwestern University with a concentration in law. She writes about fitness and relationships for Her Campus Northwestern and works on the corporate section of her school’s most popular magazine, North by Northwestern. In her free time, Jenna likes to sail, go to the gym, and eat pasta with her friends.