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The resume is still essential in selling yourself to employers, and even in our digital age providing a printed one or two pages to summarize what you bring to the job hasn’t gone out of style. We list fourteen resume tips for college students who may be unfamiliar with how resumes are reviewed, who reviews them, and the best ways to highlight a limited work experience history and skill set. Resume tips for college students cover some general territory for all resumes and add a few specific pieces of advice for those just getting started in their careers.

FAQs on Resume Tips for College Students

We’ve addressed a few basic issues surrounding the use of resumes, formatting, and making resumes stand out.

1. What Is a Resume?

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The resume summarizes education, training, work experience, and relevant information about the job candidate. It has changed slightly over the years, but not by much. Your resume should list work experience, education, additional training or certification, your name and contact information, volunteer experience and skills – in a specific order.

The resume summarizes education, training, work experience, and relevant information about the job candidate. It has changed slightly over the years, but not by much. Your resume should list work experience, education, additional training or certification, your name and contact information, volunteer experience and skills – in a specific order.

2. What Is the Difference between a Resume and a CV?

CV stands for “curriculum vitae” which summarizes education, training, and skills but in academic environments. The CV is used by those working in professions where many years of education are required, such as medicine or academia. It lists educational achievements in great detail, including academic papers and completion of internships. Most job seekers will not use CVs but if a job asks for a CV, it is okay to send in a resume in place. Asking for a CV is often code for “you have a high level of education.”

3. Can Someone Help Me Write a Resume?

There are services that will write resumes for you and check all details to make sure it meets professional standards. You supply the information, and someone else puts it into the right format. You will pay, often up to $100, for such a service and the first draft should be attempted by you, the job seeker. You know yourself best. If you don’t want to pay, get help from a trusted friend or older sibling who has a little more experience in the workforce than you do. They will be happy to at least show you their resume as a model.

4. How Long Should My Resume Be?

In these resume tips for college students, we recommend sticking with one page. For those with ten or more years of experience, or who are using a CV, two pages is an appropriate length. Employers prefer one-pagers in entry-level positions. Try to balance the main categories of Education, Work Experience, Skills and Other. Other can include awards, projects, or links to work you want to show.

How We Reviewed

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We chose fourteen resume tips for college students, for those who are attempting a resume for the first time or who are updating one to include college experiences and coursework. The resume tips for college students we’ve listed aren’t meant as a step-by-step guide but should be considered as you approach your first resume. Read the whole list first to use these resume tips for college students selectively or as an overview.

What We Reviewed

  1. Before You Start, Make a List of Your Experiences
  2. Give Education Top Billing on Your Resume
  3. Highlight the Most Relevant Experiences and Skills
  4. Be Strategic in Describing Unrelated Jobs
  5. Show Yourself as a Dynamic Person
  6. Make Your Experiences Sound Impressive and Responsible
  7. Think like an Employer – and Like a Job Seeker
  8. Include Information about the Successes You Achieved in a Certain Role
  9. Appreciate Yourself as an Engaged Learner
  10. Pick the Right Resume Length
  11. Showcase Leadership Skills
  12. Give Value to Community Service
  13. Review and Revise
  14. Share Samples of Your Work

Before You Start, Make a List of Your Experiences

Write a list of all jobs, no matter how small. Include delivering newspapers, babysitting, pet sitting, or fixing neighbors’ computers. Make a list of all volunteer work including church or neighborhood related events. Include school awards or special positions (Editor of the school newspaper, for example), especially any office such as student council. Don’t limit it to academics: sports, travel, and internships count, too. If you are a college student, listing high school activities is entirely appropriate.

Give Education Top Billing on Your Resume

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Because you are in college your most important asset is your education. List the degree you’ve received or the plan to receive, the name of the college, and your major and minor. List coursework relevant to the position you are applying for or that has given you special skills. List both your high school education and college, beginning with the most recent (college) at the top. Be sure to write the full name of both schools. For high school, it is appropriate to write your “major” or main course of study or even list the focus of the school, whether science or arts.

Highlight the Most Relevant Experiences and Skills

After Education, the next category you should address is either Skills or Experience—whichever is your strongest area. If you have several jobs under your belt, move from Education directly to Work Experience. If, however, you have a specific skill set such as computer repair or landscaping, present what you are capable of doing in a bulleted list.

Be Strategic in Describing Unrelated Jobs

Does your experience consist entirely of delivering pizza a driving for Lyft? Make sure to present these jobs as “transportation” and tie together the common skills and knowledge, such as knowing the local area, professional driving experience, and customer service. You may have three jobs that are entirely unrelated, so focus on the skills needed to do them or the knowledge acquired. In some cases, you may have the same role in each job, so focus on the importance of that role. If you were a cashier at a restaurant, retail shop, and amusement park, highlight your skills at cashiering.

Show Yourself as a Dynamic Person

Use action-oriented verbs to describe yourself and your experiences. For example, if your summer job for two years in a row was McDonald’s, state that you have years of experience in the restaurant industry. Describe your position as, for example, “Managed front counter while multi-tasking in food preparation, payments, and order-taking for a variety of customers on a tight schedule.” This sounds far better than, “Ran the counter and used the register for customers.”

Make Your Experiences Sound Impressive and Responsible

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As you are dynamic, you come across not only as a professional but as emotionally invested in the job. The type of work experience you describe is sometimes less important than your initiative in getting the work done on time, or completing projects. If you mowed lawns for several summers in the neighborhood and recruited a friend to help, you can represent what you did realistically but also give yourself credit for the amount of responsibility. For example, “Independently coordinated multiple landscape jobs, subcontracting work, and task overflow, over a period of two years.”

Think like an Employer – and Like a Job Seeker

Employers are looking for good matches. They are deluged with paper resumes and go through them as quickly as possible searching for specific attributes. The three main attributes are: (1) a well-written, grammatically correct resume; (2) having enough education; and (3) a match in experience or skills, or having a specific skill to perform the basic job function so little to no training is required.

Information about the Successes You Achieved in a Certain Role

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All resume tips for college students need to emphasize specific projects or a role you took own to achieve something extraordinary. This is especially true because including experiences in high school is necessary if you are currently in college. Did you organize an event, lead a volunteer campaign, or take on extra responsibility to help a teacher, neighbor, or employer? Did you re-organize work, alter workflows, or come up with a new idea to improve old practices? Highlight your achievements, even small ones, so the employer gets an idea of what you did and can do again.

Appreciate Yourself as an Engaged Learner

Indicate where and when you’ve acquired education and include experiences that go beyond the classroom. Did you travel and take a course in the local language? Perhaps you shadowed someone in a specific profession to find out more about day-to-day work. A police ride-along, attending a community or city council meeting, or mentoring kids in learning are all great examples of showing an interest in learning. Even online courses show initiative and that you are interested in the field and in acquiring skills.

Review and Revise

Resume writers quickly become jaded and bored with reading and re-reading their resumes. One of the most important resume tips for college students is the polished, professional appearance of the final product. It must be perfect. Every “i” should be dotted and every “t” crossed, or a reviewer may see the error and then all shots at employment disappear. If you aren’t an experienced writer or particularly skilled at highly detailed work, have someone older and more experienced review your resume and ask for feedback, including proofreading. Then read it again for errors. Put it aside for a day, and re-read once more.

Share Samples of Your Work

Include with your resume artwork, published writing, acclaimed writing, code you have written, or a photograph of something you have created. Better yet, share a URL to a link with a webpage where your work is posted. There is a caveat to this tip, however. Do not share work that is racy, irrelevant, or amateurish because it can easily backfire. If you are a tattoo artist or graphic designer, you will probably have a portfolio but if you are a criminal justice major, you may not have work to “show.” Use a well-written essay or an example for a well-reviewed group project that go you an A.

The Verdict

The top three resume tips for college students are: make it perfect, highlight your achievements, and prioritize education. Be sure that your resume is also in a font that isn’t wild, like Gothic. It’s best to stick with the tried-and-true format and used a 12-point font in Arial or Times New Roman. Paper that is somewhat off-color, like gray or tan, is fine—but don’t print your resume on hot pink or sky blue paper. Reviewers will think you are trying to get attention, and not in a good way. Be sure to show the final product to someone—anyone—for feedback, and get as many copies out there as you can.

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