5 Reasons Why Your College Resume is an Epic Fail


The college admissions resume can be tricky. Within a few pages, you have to dump everything you did in high school into a single document, and it has to make sense. Organization becomes hugely important. Action verbs suddenly are your best friends. And for once bragging is not admonished but necessary. For many, putting all these ingredients together yields not a magnificent concoction but instead a disturbing mess of facts and figures. You probably are staring right now at the mess, thinking that everything is going well. But here are five reasons why your college resume is one big epic fail.

Epic Fail #1: You only talk about your experiences in general terms.

The worst resumes are the ones that don’t get into the details. For example, let’s say you were the president of National Honors Society and hosted several community outreach programs. You should not say this:

“I was the leader of NHS. I hosted meetings and several important events around the city.”

This is better:

“Hosted five rallies to raise money for cancer research.”

This is even better:

“Hosted five city-wide rallies (approx. 10,000 attendees total) to raise over $100,000 for breast cancer research.”

The numbers don’t need to be as large as these, but use specifics to your advantage, especially if they will make your resume more impressive. Nobody will know these small details unless you state them!

Epic Fail #2: You are too wordy and passive with your descriptions.

As I said earlier, action verbs are your best friends when writing a resume. You need to use them for each bullet point and eliminate all excessive and dull phrasing. Here are some ways to revise:

“I researched at the University of Texas in the chemistry lab.”

Change to:

“Conducted groundbreaking research on water toxicity with Dr. Lee.”

Here is another poorly written bullet point:

“Cleaned supplies.”

It includes the action verb, but it doesn’t give a lot of depth or meaning to the action. Not like this:

“Ensured research tools were in pristine condition for effective experimentation.”

Epic Fail #3: You don’t “tell a story.”

Your resume should not be an info dump of your life. It should show how you have evolved over the years. Let’s say you were in yearbook since freshmen year, starting as a lowly staffer, and then worked your way to editor-in-chief by the time you were a junior. That progression needs to show. Colleges want to see your commitment and how you held a position of high rank. Same thing goes for research or even a job. Maybe you started as a sales clerk and then became the day-shift manager. Or maybe you assisted a graduate student in the lab before moving on to conducting your own independent studies. Whatever the case, list your development so individual positions and activities show growth and commitment.

Epic Fail #4: You don’t contextualize your accomplishments.

You’d be amazed how much college admissions officers don’t know. While they may seem like omniscient beings, they aren’t familiar with every award, co-curricular group, or extra-curricular activity. Do yourself a favor and explain (in the briefest way possible) why an award is so prestigious, or why a seminar is so meaningful, or why an internship is so exceptional. Maybe a million people apply and only five are accepted. Maybe it’s hosted by the White House. Maybe it’s for the most profitable company in the world. No context is a given to admissions officers. And they aren’t going to track down the information to make your accomplishments shine brighter. You have to do that work, and it’s really not that hard. Just assume that everything is new information to them.

Epic Fail #5: You include information from middle school.

Ah, middle school, what a wonderful and relaxing time, right? Too bad you can’t put those charming days when you read the Percy Jackson books and coded your first app onto your resume. While it often is a big no-no to state accomplishments or activities from this precious part of your life, you may have something that carried over into high school. That would be okay to mention. Or if you did something really impressive, like code a killer app that’s still used today, then you’d want to mention that too. Otherwise, leave your middle school days in the past, and be happy you don’t have to eat square pizza for lunch every day.

While it’s scary to think how important the college resume may be. It’s even scarier knowing that you scraped together something at the last minute. Take time to make this key document an easy, worthwhile read. Any time you can reveal your personality and passion in your college application, you should. Remember: the resume is a key ingredient to a much larger dish--one that’s best served warm, not cold.

If you are seeking help on building your resume, or on figuring out how to put all the college application ingredients together, then consider having one of B2A’s trained admissions counselors give you some help. They will shape your resume--and whole application--into something engaging and informative. It’ll be a piece of cake.

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