Writing a College Resume: Tips and Examples

College student interviews at job fair.

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The resume you create as a college student is going to play an important role in securing meaningful summer employment, getting a rewarding internship, or landing your first full-time job after graduation. The challenge, of course, is that you are a college student so you most likely don't have a lot of work experience that seems relevant to your target job. However, you do have course work, activities, and skills that will be attractive to an employer. A good resume presents these credentials clearly, efficiently, and effectively.

Tips for a Winning College Resume

  • Limit the resume to one page
  • Keep the style simple with standard margins and a readable font
  • Define your relevant experience broadly—significant class projects can be included
  • If you have room, add activities and interests to paint a fuller picture of yourself

No one who is hiring a current college student is going to expect to see a long list of publications, patents, and work experience. The goal of a well-crafted college resume is to show that you have the skills and foundational knowledge needed to succeed at your job, and you have the potential to develop into an accomplished expert.

Formatting and Style

Don't overthink the appearance of your resume. Clarity and ease of reading has much more value than a fancy, eye-catching design. If you find yourself spending more time working with colors and graphic design than with content, you're taking the wrong approach to your resume. An employer wants to see who you are, what you've done, and what you can contribute to the company. If you're considering a resume template with three columns, a skills bar graphs, and your name in fuchsia letters, stop yourself and create something simple.

A few general guidelines can help you craft an effective resume.

  • The length: Most college resumes should be one page long. If you can't fit everything on a page, try cutting some of the less meaningful content and tightening the descriptions of your experiences.
  • The font: Both serif and sans serif fonts are fine for resumes. Serif fonts are those such as Times New Roman and Garamond that have decorative elements added to the characters. Sans serif fonts such as Calibri and Verdana do not. That said, sans serif fonts are often more readable on small screens, and you'll find the most common recommendation is to go with sans serif. As for font size, choose something between 10.5 and 12 points.
  • The margins: Aim to have standard one-inch margins. If you need to go a little smaller to fit everything on a page, that's fine, but a resume with quarter-inch margins is going to look unprofessional and cramped.
  • Headings: Each section of your resume (Experience, Education, etc.) should have a clear header with a little extra white space above it and a font that is bolded and/or a point or two larger than the rest of the text. You can also emphasize section headers with a horizontal line.

What to Include

As you think about what information to include in your resume, be sure you're also thinking about what to exclude. Unless you're early in your college career and had an impressive job in high school, you'll want to leave out credentials from high school.

In general, a resume needs to present your academic information (grades, relevant coursework, minor, degree), relevant experience (jobs, significant projects, internships), awards and honors, skills, and interests.

Relevant Experience

"Experience" often means jobs you have had, but you should feel free to define this category more broadly. As a college student, you may have had significant projects or research experiences that were part of a class. You can use this section of your resume to draw attention to these accomplishments. You will also want to define "relevant" broadly. The time management and customer service skills you developed in a food service job may, in fact, be relevant to a job in a museum or publishing company.

Education

In the education section, you'll want to include the college or colleges you have attended, your major(s) and minor(s), the degree you will earn (BA, BS, BFA, etc.), and your expected graduation date. You should also include your GPA if it is high, and you can include selected coursework if it is clearly relevant to your target job.

Awards and Honors

If you won a writing award, were inducted into Phi Beta Kappa, made the Dean's List, or earned any other meaningful honors, be sure to include this information on your resume. If you don't have anything worth mentioning, you don't need to include this section on your resume, and if you have just a single academic honor, you can list it in the "Education" section rather than a separate section focused on honors and awards.

Skills

If you have specific professional skills that will be attractive to an employer, be sure to list them. This includes programming skills, software proficiency, and second language fluency.

Activities and Interests

If you find you still have white space on the page, consider adding a section that presents some of your more meaningful extracurricular activities and other interests. This can be particularly valuable if you gained leadership experience in your clubs and activities, or if you participated in something like the college newspaper where you developed your writing skills. If space allows, the mention of a couple hobbies or interests can help present you as a three-dimensional human being and provide topics for conversation during the interview.

Tips for College Resume Writing

The best resumes are clear, concise, and engaging. To achieve this result, make sure you follow these suggestions:

  • Edit meticulously. One error is too many on a resume. If the document you are using to get a job has mistakes, you are telling your potential employer that you are not detail-oriented and you are likely to produce sub-par work. Make sure your resume has no errors in spelling, grammar, punctuation, style, or formatting.
  • Focus on verbs. Verbs represent action, so place them first in your descriptions and use them to show what you have done. "Managed two work-study students" will be much more engaging and effective than "Two work-study students served under me." Each item in this bullet list, for example, begins with a verb.
  • Emphasize your skills. You may not have a lot of work experience yet, but you do have skills. If you're highly proficient with Microsoft Office software, be sure to include this information. You definitely should include proficiency with programming languages or specialized software. If you've gained leadership experience through campus clubs, include that information, and you'll want to draw attention to your writing skills if you're strong on that front.

Sample College Resume

This example presents the type of essential information you'll want to include on your resume.

Abigail Jones
123 Main Street
Collegetown, NY 10023
(429) 555-1234
abigailjones@emaildomain.com

RELEVANT EXPERIENCE

Ivy Tower College, Collegetown, NY
Biology Research Assistant, September 2020-May 2021

  • Set up and operated equipment for PCR genotyping of bacteria
  • Propagated and maintained bacterial cultures for genomic study
  • Conducted literature review of bacterial infections in large farm animals

Upstate Agricultural Laboratories
Summer Internship, June-August 2020

  • Collected oral and rectal swabs from diverse livestock
  • Prepared agar medium for bacterial cultures
  • Assisted in PCR genotyping of bacterial samples

EDUCATION

Ivy Tower College, Collegetown, NY
Bachelor of Science in Biology
Minors in Chemistry and Writing
Coursework includes Comparative Vertebrate Anatomy, Pathogenesis Lab, Genetic Systems, Immunobiology
3.8 GPA
Expected Graduation: May 2021

AWARDS & HONORS

  • Beta Beta Beta National Biology Honor Society
  • Phi Beta Kappa National Honor Society
  • Winner, Hopkins Award for Expository Writing

SKILLS

  • Proficient in Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint; Adobe InDesign and PhotoShop
  • Strong English editing skills
  • Conversational German proficiency

ACTIVITIES & INTERESTS

  • Senior Editor, The Ivy Tower Herald, 2019-present
  • Active Member, Students for Social Justice, 2018-present
  • Avid racquet ball player and cookie baker
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Your Citation
Grove, Allen. "Writing a College Resume: Tips and Examples." ThoughtCo, Apr. 1, 2021, thoughtco.com/writing-a-college-resume-tips-and-examples-5120211. Grove, Allen. (2021, April 1). Writing a College Resume: Tips and Examples. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/writing-a-college-resume-tips-and-examples-5120211 Grove, Allen. "Writing a College Resume: Tips and Examples." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/writing-a-college-resume-tips-and-examples-5120211 (accessed November 30, 2021).