A Step-by-Step Guide to Resumes

Creating a resume for the first time can be overwhelming. A simple Google search for the word “resume” results in myriad samples, templates, and even automatic builders that claim to make the resume-generating process easier for you. Reading all of these can make your head spin. Plus, the information often isn’t customized for people who are using their resume in college applications — so here’s as much of that information as possible distilled into several simple steps.

0. Open a document in your favorite word processor.

I think you can manage this one on your own.

1. Pick a layout.

Most resumes for job applications are laid out in a block format, with each work experience subsection, for example, containing a heading that details the applicant’s position, organization, location, and when they worked there; and the summary of their responsibilities below the heading.

Example

Writer | The Collegiate Blog | Anytown, XY | February 2012–February 2013

Wrote articles about the college application process on a regular basis.
Won an award for an article about how to put together a resume.

My college counselor, however, recommended a table format for a college application resume that mainly details extracurricular activities rather than work experience. This type of layout splits up the information into columns.

Example

The Collegiate BlogAnytown, XY 2012–2013 WriterWrote articles about the college application process on a regular basis, including one about how to put together a resume that won an award.

 

2. Pick a font.

Obviously, you shouldn’t use Papyrus or Curlz MT if you want to be taken seriously. But fonts can play a role in how you end up coming across. Sans-serif fonts (the ones that don’t have little feet, like Arial, Helvetica, and Calibri) tend to look more modern, while serif fonts (like Times New Roman, Garamond, and Cambria) are more classic. Don’t spend more than five minutes on this step. As a self-professed font junkie, I know how tempting it is to go through every font in your font list — but there are more important things to do for now.

As for font size, stay within the 10–12 pt. range. Any smaller and admissions officers will be using a magnifying glass to try and figure out what you have to contribute. Any larger and you just look unprofessional.

3. Fill out your information.

Header

This should include your full name and contact information, usually your mailing address, telephone number, email, and maybe a link to your website if you have one.

Example

Joyce H. Wu
123 Main Street
Anytown, XY 45678
(012) 345-6789
jwu@thecollegiateblog.org

Education

This should only include high school. College admissions officers care very little about where you went to middle or elementary school, and especially not preschool. Include the name or names of any high schools you attended, where they were located, and how long you went to them.

(Work) Experience

This is usually the toughest part to fill out, particularly if you’ve never had a job — a common situation among high school students. Instead, think about your extracurricular activities, such as sports, musical activities, or service work. If you have multiple activities in one category, you can split your experience up thematically. This also makes it easier for admissions officers to see that, for example, you’re a literary fanatic, having been a book reviewer for your school newspaper as well as editor-in-chief of a literary magazine.

Also think about how much space is being taken up by activities that might not have been very important. If you were just in choir for fun one semester and haven’t done any other musical activities, for example, you might want to consider leaving it out entirely. After all, as well as being a place to show your interests, this section is also a good forum for demonstrating an ability to commit to activities.

Honors and Awards

This section is one that often shows up in resume guides, but feel free to leave it out if you haven’t received any honors or awards.

Skills

This is a good section to show off in. What languages have you studied? How proficient are you in them? What computer programs do you know how to use, and what can you do with them? Graphic design? Video production? Web design?

4. Tweak.

By this point, your resume may be well under one page, or be spilling over into the second. Resumes, especially at this level, should be one page long. So mess with font size, line spacing, and margins a little bit until everything fits onto one page. If you still can’t fit everything onto one page, it might be time to cut some unnecessary information. Then tweak again.

What do you think? Have we missed anything? Let us know in the comment box below or email Joyce at jwu@thecollegiateblog.org.