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Five Simple Steps to Writing a Strong Resume for Your College Application

Posted by: Katie Nagel, ’10, Career Planning Professional Get Free College Essay Tips
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If you’re working on your college applications, you have probably discovered that some colleges encourage you to include a supplemental resume as part of your application. Others, like Meredith, state that it’s optional, and still others tell you not to include one. (When in doubt, check with your admissions counselor.)

Having a well-written resume that effectively conveys your experiences and skills is essential for those colleges that do request one, as well as when you’re applying for jobs, internships, and even scholarships. But it can be challenging to translate your experiences and skills into words.

My part-time jobs in high school included a lot of babysitting, house-sitting, and dog-sitting, as well as helping my dad with his accounting business. During the summers, I worked for eight to ten weeks as a cabin counselor and lifeguard at the YMCA Camp Seafarer. I learned a lot from these experiences. But what is the best way to explain what I learned?

Here is a step-by-step process to write a resume that tells colleges, employers, and others about what you learned from your experiences and, just as important, what you would bring to their organizations. Meredith’s Office of Career Planning Career Workbook also provides sample resumes, cover letters, and more to support your resume writing journey.

Let’s start with my job as a summer camp counselor.

Step 1: Identify what you achieved or learned from the role.

Head Counselor for 130 campers and 36 counselors for 12 weeks. (When in doubt, quantify!)

  • Facilitated every aspect of camp life and program planning
  • Developed and led weekly staff meetings for nine weeks
  • Monitored daily swim lake camper check-in process for 130 campers 
  • Edited 100+ weekly drafts of reports to parents and families of campers from senior in charge counselors for nine weeks
  • Evaluated counselors on a bi-weekly basis on their strengths/weaknesses for cabin management/ activity involvement over nine weeks

Step 2: Determine if you missed any competencies from your initial list. 

College admission offices and employers pay attention to how students have built skills in the following competencies: problem solving, oral/written communication, teamwork/collaboration, digital technology, leadership, professionalism/work ethic, career management, and global/intercultural fluency. 

Here’s what it looks like if I review my experiences through the lens of these competencies.

Competency: Critical Thinking/Problem Solving 

  • What it means: Exercise sound reasoning to analyze issues, make decisions, and overcome problems. The individual is able to obtain, interpret, and use knowledge, facts, and data in this process, and may demonstrate originality and inventiveness.

Competency: Professionalism/Work Ethic

  • What it means: Demonstrate personal accountability and effective work habits, e.g., punctuality, working productively with others, time and workload management, and understand the impact of non-verbal communication on professional work image. The individual demonstrates integrity and ethical behavior, acts responsibly with the interests of the larger community in mind, and is able to learn from his/her mistakes.

Step 3: Add the missing competencies to your resume. 

Here’s how I might translate my experiences as a camp counselor into “resume language.” 

  • Experience: Safety was always a top priority while I was babysitting, house-sitting, pet-sitting or especially as a cabin counselor and lifeguard. 
  • Resume language: Ability to diligently troubleshoot situations to resolve issues or troubling matters efficiently and effectively.
  • Experience: On opening and closing days as a cabin counselor, all counselors were expected to interact and connect with campers families and friends. We were always instructed to be “on time, on target” and provide the best “snapshot” to a parent of what a cabin counselor emulates.
  • Resume language: Demonstrate professionalism, strong work ethic, and dedication to camp mission and vision.

Step 4: Share your resume draft.

Ask a family member or close friend who is willing to provide meaningful and realistic feedback to review your resume. Make your revisions.

Step 5: Submit resume. You did it!

While my resume has evolved and grown over the last ten years, I’ll be forever grateful for the skills that I learned as a camp counselor and babysitter. Those skills were the foundation for effective problem solving, professionalism, and much more. Your experiences have taught you similar skills - and now you know how to capture them.

Apply to Meredith.

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