How to build an impressive college application resume (and love doing it)


I started feeling the pressure to build my college application resume before I even got to high school. At first, making a college resume sounded dull and difficult. But once I realized it was really about doing what I loved, it came easy. Here’s how to impress colleges and enjoy doing it.

1. Start. Like, now

The sooner you start finding activities and organizations you like, the more substantial and developed your college application resume will be. As an upperclassman, you’ll face the burdens of standardized tests, college applications, and more. The last thing you want is to have to start figuring out more stuff to do in the midst of all that.

2. More does not mean better

Resist the temptation to build your college resume by dabbling in every club ever. If you haven’t taken a peek at the Common App — spoiler alert — they ask you, on average, how many hours a week and how many weeks a year you spend on each activity you list. If you’re counting on your one-hour-a-week-for-two-weeks-a-year activities to impress colleges, don’t hold your breath.

3. Choose your passions. Choose wisely

You’ll get a lot more out of your experiences if you’re not thinking to yourself, “Man, I hate this, but at least it’ll get me into college.” If you’re passionate about something, get involved in it somehow. Like photography? Develop a portfolio. Like music? Learn to play an instrument. Like talking? Join the speech and debate team. You have interests. Take two or three of your interests and really develop them.

4. Stick with it

Once you’ve chosen a couple interests that you can develop over time, stick to them. You don’t have to do the exact same clubs or activities for years on end, but sticking to an interest shows colleges that you are dedicated to personal growth and development. Colleges love that stuff.

5. Do it with friends

Whether you’re volunteering at a soup kitchen or running track, you’re going to have more fun if you’re with friends. Also, studies show that doing active, task-oriented projects and activities strengthens relationships. You’ll enjoy activities more, build tighter bonds, and have more accountability.

6. Get to know a teacher, mentor, or coach well

Believe it or not, teachers and coaches are real people. From my experience, if you’re real with them, they’ll be real with you. Beyond the personal growth that they can inspire, adults are also instrumental in the college application process. Not only will you feel less awkward when asking for a recommendation, they’ll have more genuine, personal things to say about you.

7. Don’t waste any of your summers

While wasted summers don’t necessarily get held against you in the college application process, completely unproductive summers are indeed wasted time in a stage of your life when there’s so much to do. Get a job. Volunteer consistently somewhere. Go to a camp. Create something you can be proud of. Get a head start on your application essays. Do something during every summer — colleges will love it and so will you.

8. Resist the urge to compare resumes

Comparing your college admission resume is only going to stress you out. Your passions and interests are going to be different than the passions and interests of everyone else. During the college application process, your job isn’t to compare yourself to others — just to be the best version of you.

At the end of the day, your college admission resume is a depiction of your passions and abilities. When you think about it, you’ll find that the time you spend building your resume is really just time building you.

About the author

Stephanie HongStephanie is a sophomore industrial engineering major at Clemson University. In her free time, she loves to sing, teach English as a second language, and listen to musical soundtracks obsessively. Oh, and eat. She loves to eat.

Save time. Let us search for you.

Narrow down over 1,000,000 scholarships with personalized results.

Get matched to scholarships that are perfect for you!