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Building a College Resume

by Jason M. Smith

Pick a college, any college–and build a college resume. That school wants to be able to say that it had so many qualified applicants that it couldn’t accept them all, because schools that accomplish such remarkable feats are called “competitive.”

How will you get competitive colleges to accept you? You have to be their ideal student and build a college resume that demonstrates you have what they want.

A college resumé is a list of extracurricular activities that you did during high school. In a close decision between who gets in and who stays out, the resumé could make or break your application. That’s because, when it comes to the final decision, colleges are increasingly looking to add value to your GPA and test scores. The problem with those scores is not that that they’re unimportant, but that they’re not specific enough. They don’t show effort and motivation. Colleges are looking for activities that indicate you’ve got the qualities to succeed—initiative, drive, dedication, time management, and the ability to work under pressure.

6 College Resume Questions

Here is how you show that:

  • Do you play sports? Try to captain the team—that shows leadership and initiative. Can’t captain? Try to be MVP at least once—that shows drive and dedication. Other players on your team too good to let you get MVP? Stick to the game for several seasons—that shows persistence and determination.
  • Do you like music? Choosing a more unusual instrument can get you into college. Other things being equal, if the band or orchestra lets the admissions office know they need a certain instrument and you play it, you will get priority consideration.
  • Are you involved in your community? Volunteering is good; organizing a volunteer effort is better. Look for a need, and then approach your local government and ask if you can help them meet that need.
  • Are you a member of a debate team or chess club? Competitive mental activities like these demonstrate that you can think under pressure. If there aren’t activities like these in your area, start something yourself. Initiative, initiative, initiative!
  • Do you like outdoor activities? Get involved in Scouts and stick with it until you earn the rank of Eagle. Colleges know that Eagle Scouts have had training in many practical areas of life and have developed the qualities they are looking for in their “ideal student.”
  • Do you have a job? Work at it as if you are working for God, and you’ll make yourself the most valuable employee there. Do you work for yourself? Expand your operations until you’re working with or managing other people. Don’t have a job? Get one, especially if you’ll be paying for part of college yourself. A college will want to know that doing work-study at college won’t ruin your grades.

So find activities you enjoy, and then take them to the next level. Demonstrate initiative, dedication, persistence, leadership, critical thinking, and time-management skills. When you have done that and kept your grades up at the same time, you will have become the ideal student.

Former homeschooler Jason M. Smith graduated from the College of William & Mary. He is a technical writer and also publishes works of fiction and poetry under the pen name J. Aleksandr Wootton. Part of Jason’s application to college was the question, “What will you bring to this school that no one else can?”His extracurricular activities enabled him to answer that question. This article appeared in TVHE, Fall 2016..

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