Crafting the Perfect Resume for College Students

College Student working on the perfect resume

College is coming to an end, and it’s time to step out into the real world and start the job search. Or perhaps you’re looking for a part-time internship. Either way, creating your resume is the first step, and it might seem like a daunting task. But, in the competitive job market, resumes for college students are more important than ever. 

How can you craft a resume that highlights your skills and helps you land that first post-grad job or college internship (especially when your experience is minimal)? We break it down below. 

Why is a College Resume so Important? 

Resumes for college students or recent grads are all about education. These important little documents should focus on the skills you’ve learned throughout school, internships or trainings and how they’ll be applicable in the workplace. Your resume is all about marketing yourself and making your experience relevant to a potential employer. 

As far as mechanics, make sure to include four main components:

  1. Contact information: this should be professional, no emails with jokes or inappropriate words. Create a new Gmail account if need be.
  2. Summary: a short “about me” section that summarizes your experiences and goals. 
  3. Education, experience and skills: the key here is to use keywords that will help applicant tracking software pick you from an applicant pool (many companies use digital solutions to weed through first-round candidates). Learn more about resume keywords in this article.  
  4. Extracurriculars: a summary of relevant hobbies, interests, publications and associations. This area can help show you as a well-rounded individual, especially if you don’t have a lot of working experience. 

We know that #3 might be challenging for some college students and post-grads. If you played a sport or were involved in campus associations, maybe you didn’t have time to get a part-time job or internship. This brings us to our next sections. 

Maximizing Your Experience: the Importance of the Summary

The summary is a few sentences featured right under your name and contact information that gives companies an idea of what you bring to the table. A solid summary helps you stand out in a sea of other applicants, but only if it’s optimized. While it’s always a good idea to have a ‘boilerplate’ summary for a resume, plan to adjust it accordingly for each job application. 

We’re also going to let you in on a secret that you can use for the rest of your career—under your name and summary, list a few bullet points that show how your experience matches up with the job description. It makes it easier for recruiters and human resources representatives to see that you’ve got the skills needed for the job without having to scan your resume, essential in today’s competitive job market.  

What does this look like in terms of a resume for college students? Say you’re applying to a marketing job, and the job description says something like “social media experience necessary, experience with paid campaigns and basic website management a bonus. Looking for a motivated self-starter that thrives in a fast-paced environment.” Your summary would say something along the lines of:

Marketing graduate with a passion for social media.

  • Paid and organic social media project experience.
  • Website management experience.
  • Self-starter, passionate about helping clients achieve goals.

Listing your relevant skills is especially important if you’re applying to a job that’s not directly related to your college degree. Suppose you did a degree in English Literature, for instance, and you’re applying for a job at a local newspaper or marketing agency. In that case, you want to highlight your proficiency in writing and language mechanics. 

Don’t be afraid to think outside the box with experience in your summary. Even if you did social media for a student group (i.e., not a paid position and a smaller project)—that still counts!

Selling Yourself When You Don’t Have Much Experience

It’s all fun and games when you have plenty of experience and internships to add to your resume. But, what if you don’t? 

  • Lean on your education: your education is your greatest asset right now, so don’t let your lack of work experience spur on a case of imposter syndrome. For example, if you had a high GPA, made the dean’s list, graduated with honors or received any academic awards, be sure to mention that. Educational accomplishments are relevant for applicant that are new to the working world.   
  • All experience matters: if you worked at any point during your college career, it’s worth mentioning, even if it’s not related to the job you eventually want to get. Don’t be afraid to be creative. For example, f you’re involved in a sports team, you have experience with teamwork to achieve a common goal. Perhaps you were a teacher assistant in an art class, you have experience working creatively and conceptually. Babysitting, lawn cutting, all of these things count—so don’t sell yourself short.
  • Highlight volunteer work and extracurriculars: even if you didn’t work during your college career, that doesn’t mean that you didn’t gain experience. Highlight the volunteer work, the organizations you were a part of or any leadership positions you held. If you studied abroad during college, that’s also worth mentioning. This information helps to build a more holistic picture of what you bring to the table for employers. 
  • Don’t discount design: in a digital world, you’ll need to try harder to stand out from the crowd. A well-designed resume shows employers that you’re technically proficient and not afraid to go the extra mile. Canva has a fantastic free resume designer. However, if you’re looking for something a little more involved, don’t be afraid to try some of the sites mentioned in this How to Geek article. 

Other Useful Things to Note

Now that you’ve formatted your resume, we’ve got a few more housekeeping tasks before you hit submit:

  • Your resume shouldn’t be longer than one page, so edit as much as you need.
  • Keep formatting consistent.
  • Proofread—more than once! Then get someone else to proofread it. We all miss mistakes; a different set of eyes is a must. 

Crafting a great resume is just the first step. You’ll still need to wade through the interview process. But remember, this is an exciting time. Reach out for help from mentors or fellow colleagues, if you need it. Don’t be overwhelmed or intimidated. You got this. 

Happy job hunting!