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College student resume tips

What do you put on your resume when you’re still in school? This advice can help you make the grade—and get the job.

College student resume tips

You’re still in school, which means you still have a good few years left before you have to enter the 9-5 world of work, business suits, and commuting woes, right?

Not quite. Even though you’re still a student, juggling college classes with work-study programs and Two Dollar Tuesdays, you need to do a bit of adulting. First up: Write your resume. (Trust us, your future self will thank you.)

Armed with a college student resume, you will be prepared for potential job opportunities, such as seasonal, part-time, and temp work, as well as assistantships, internships, and fellowships.

So where do you start? Here are tips for writing your first resume.

Start with a qualifications summary

A targeted summary of your top qualifications is often more effective than an objective statement, especially if your career goal is undefined. Make the value you’d bring to the table very obvious to the person reading your resume. How can your skills help a company achieve its goals?

Keep your summary brief—a few hard-hitting sentences are perfect.

Give education top billing

Typically, education is at the bottom of a resume, but as a student, you’re often better served by moving your education toward the top. As you gain experience, it can move to the end of your resume.

When filling out the education section on your resume, include the name of the college or university, its city and state, anticipated graduation date, extracurricular activities, and courses related to your job target. 

List academic honors such as dean's list, distinctions such as summa cum laude, scholarships and other awards. As a general guideline, list your GPA if it's at least 3.0 on a 4.0 scale. If you have a low GPA, use your major GPA if it's higher than your overall GPA. Consider adding a list of related courses in your education section so hiring managers can see that you have a strong academic foundation.

Describe unrelated jobs the right way

You probably have part-time, seasonal, or temporary work experience that’s unrelated to your future career goals. Guess what? It doesn’t matter. At this point in your career, employers will view any work experience as a testament to your dependability and strong work ethic, even if the experience is in a different industry.

When describing unrelated jobs, keep the descriptions to a minimum. For example, if you waited tables to help pay for college but your goal is software engineering, you don't need to provide a description of your day-to-day food-service responsibilities. Pull out the most important aspects of your work experience and go into detail about projects you were involved in that show leadership, drive, and determination.

Another strategy is to study job ads or internship announcements that interest you. If an ad says that good communication is important, think about times when your communication skills came into play at your old jobs. If you worked in retail or any other customer-facing positions, you likely relied on these skills regularly. 

Extract these skills and achievements that are most relevant to employers' needs, and highlight them on your resume. 

Include your employer's name, location, job title, and dates. You can briefly include any extra responsibilities you were given as a result of your performance or special recognition (such as Employee of the Month) to help demonstrate your strong work ethic.

Think like an employer

When reviewing your resume, hiring managers want to understand what type of worker you would be if they hired you. 

Describe educational experiences such as internships, practicums, class projects, and even volunteer activities as if they were paid work experiences. If you lack work experience related to your goal, include your internships and practicums in your experience section. Give examples of actual assignments, challenges you faced, your contribution, and the results and benefits to the employer.

Add keywords

Your resume should be optimized for keywords to ensure you are found in an electronic applicant search. Keywords are important buzzwords that an employer would use to find a match for a job opening. 

A great way to start considering the right keywords for your occupation is to review job listings for your ideal position. Look at the requirements, and if you see certain terms used frequently, they should probably be in your resume.

Pick the right resume length and format

one-page resume is plenty long for most college students. But don’t sell yourself short if you have established a track record through internships or work experience. If you need two pages, take two pages.

A traditional chronological resume format, which emphasizes employment history, doesn't usually work for recent graduates. You will need to highlight your academic foundation, motivation to succeed in your field, and the key skills that would help employers achieve their objectives. Many students and new graduates prefer to use a combination or functional resume to relay key qualifications.

Need more help? Download this sample resume for a college student, and get a free resume evaluation today from the experts at Monster's partner TopResume.


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