What is an Academic Résumé and why do I need one?

So you may have heard of what a job résumé is – a well formatted list consisting of your personal contact information, the last three job positions you’ve held including with whom and where they were located, a list of your schooling with dates, and any other pertinent information regarding your work abilities, such as any viable skill training, certifications, awards, professional organizations you belong to, etc. This is how employers get to know at-a-glance if you might be a possible fit for their business employment needs. Similarly, you could say the same expectation for pertinent information is desired for the admissions process into colleges and universities as well.

This is where an academic résumé comes in.

An academic résumé is a list of all your extra curricular school activities, community volunteering, hobbies and interests, travel, and work experience. When colleges are deciding amongst the thousands of students applying to their school each year, they look for individuals that stand out to them through activities that give them more insight into who you are, what you care about, and why you’d make a great new interesting addition to the student body at their institution of higher learning. Diversity and uniqueness are highly encouraged.

So what exactly should be on an academic résumé?


Your cumulative grade point average (GPA)

This is the averaging of your total final grades. In the case of applying to colleges you’ll want to supply your most current cumulative GPA at the time of application, so have this information handy and keep it current.


Extra curricular activities involving school

This means keeping a running list of all the stuff you’ve participated in, such as: Theater/choir productions in any active capacity; active academic club participation like math club, science club, debate team; non-academic club participation like formal dance planning committees, student leadership, leadership camps and/or clinics, spirit or glee club, etc.; any nationally recognized student organization such as Future Farmers of America (FFA), 4-H, Future Business Leaders of America (FLBA), etc.; sports, each year played, position, and any other information of note such as whether you were team captain, a leader for certain special teams, etc.; Cheerleading; Drill Team; Color Guard, ROTC, and on campus peer tutoring where you were the tutor.

Extra curricular activities outside of school

These include volunteering anywhere for anything at anytime. Whether it’s tutoring younger students on campus or at the local library under the direct supervision of their parent or teacher, volunteering with your church, for other local organizations such as walking dogs at the animal shelter or participating yearly in community cleanup initiatives for Earth Day, these opportunities get you off your butt and thinking about someone other than yourself where you are investing a little time, love and care back into your community to the betterment of society and your character. Colleges eat this stuff up. If you are a high school student and aren’t doing any volunteering of any kind, I highly suggest you reconsider this and get involved in something you’re comfortable with and can get enthusiastic about.

Hobbies and Interests

This can be any activity from woodworking as a hobby to being active in the martial arts. Dance, playing an instrument, crafting, coin or stamp collecting, genealogy, cooking, baking, yoga, weight lifting, fishing, practicing wilderness skills, running, pageant participation – all of these are examples of hobbies and interests you enjoy on your own time. Mention if you participate in anything with a group, like you meet up with other people as part of an improv troupe, a sewing circle, or a scouting organization.

Travel

This is another area to keep track of too - especially if you are fairly well traveled. Mention any out-of-state travel, (airport layovers don’t count!) and travel abroad. Experiencing other places away from home gives you insight into other standards of living and other cultures, expands your awareness of yourself and your place in this world, and creates appreciation for things you might’ve taken for granted otherwise. Colleges eat this stuff up too. If, however, you aren’t well traveled, don’t worry about it. It probably won’t make or break your chances alone of getting accepted into your top university picks.


Jobs

I know this is an academic résumé we are discussing here, but job experience to college admissions people can be an important factor into perceiving who you are on paper too. Anything from babysitting and yard work for the neighbors to working retail or fast food is noteworthy and pertinent to you as an individual. Work shapes you by adding to your ability to take on multiple responsibilities and empathize with most of the planet because most people out there work too. This kind of expanded view of the world adds to your character. And, you understand hard work not only in an academic sense, but also in an employment sense as well.


So now we’ve covered what things you as a student should keep a running list of as you make your way through high school. When it comes to applying to four-year colleges this list will come in handy, I guarantee it. Now how you choose to keep your list is up to you. You might not necessarily be physically handing in your academic résumé with your college application. So this means that a log of your activities and volunteer hours could be kept on your computer, smart phone, or on paper. If you do use paper DON’T LOSE IT. There’s nothing more frustrating than when you’re ready to sit down and work on your application process only to have to stop and spend time to communicate with previous contacts for dates, hours, records, etc. and sit there racking your brain trying to remember everything you’ve done for the past 4 years. And if your ISD or school keeps track of things for you through an app or through their website, take advantage of it while making sure accurate records are kept. Remember we humans are flawed, so we need help with accuracy from time to time.


Okay, so now that you understand what an academic résumé is for, what it should and could consist of, and how important it is to keep it up-to-date. And now you’re completely over-whelmed, right? If so, try not to be. The purpose of this article is to be a tool and offer some insight into successfully applying for college with a fighting chance of getting accepted. If you’re reading this at the beginning of your high school career then you’ve got a heads-up and plenty of opportunity to take advantage of getting involved now. If you’re toward the end of your high school career and your reading this with some panic because you haven’t really done much other than attend class and get decent grades, don’t fret, all is not lost. The important thing is to do something about it ASAP. And, you don’t have to do it alone! Get a few friends and volunteer together or join a club. Not feeling super social? Look for something more behind the scenes like organizing at the local food pantry where you aren’t really dealing a whole lot with the public. Shy? Volunteer to help little kids read, (they’re probably just as shy as you!). Not feeling up to anything outside of school because you already do so much there anyway? That’s okay. A day or two here and there getting involved in community activities scattered throughout your high school career is just fine – it’s certainly better than nothing.


Now let’s say you’re feeling really anxious about looking as well-rounded as possible to your chosen universities, so you feel the need to over achieve and do a little bit of everything to look as active and ambitious as possible. This is fine; it will work to your benefit. But don’t underestimate the attractiveness of only volunteering at one place regularly for an extended period of time as well. This can show dedication, dependability, and commitment – traits colleges and employers really desire in a candidate. So whether you are involved in a lot or a little, both can serve you well.


Now, the important thing to keep in mind throughout all of this is: don’t overdo it. Know your limits and keep your priorities straight – good grades first, commitments like sports and work next, then volunteering. Rest is very important so you don’t wear yourself out and get overly stressed. Find balance, keep track of your time and schedule in some down time on a regular basis to chill and just hangout with your friends and family too.

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