How to Write an Effective Resume While You’re in College

 In College Life

Graduation sits on the horizon. Maybe you’re hunting for a co-op or internship. Or maybe you’re about to launch your own business and want to communicate your skills and experience with a resume that “wows.” But how do you write an effective resume when you haven’t entered the workforce outside of part-time jobs? With a little inventive thought, you can attract the best companies and partners with your college resume. Include what you can of the following, and you should be set!



The first step to an effective resume is to catch the reader’s attention. Instead of a typical objective at the top of a resume, list your top qualifications for this job so that you stand out. Briefly, describe what makes you different than your classmates and other competing collegiates.



Internships and co-ops will look best when you graduate, especially if you did some impressive work. Make sure to highlight your successes. These may be the closest thing you have to a job when you graduate. The reader will assume you did some less-than-glamorous tasks during your resume, so focus on the tasks directly related to your future career. Choose keywords that appear in the employer’s job description. And be sure to highlight team successes. If your department won awards during your time with them, take partial credit.


Relevant Jobs

You can make any job relevant if you connect what you’ve learned to the skills necessary for the jobs you’re seeking. Maybe your job as a cashier taught you the basics of cash flow when you closed out the registers. Maybe your job at the restaurant taught you customer service skills necessary for client relations and sales. Did you manage to sell every single table a dessert? (If you did, that is super impressive, and I don’t believe you.)


Awards and Achievements

This part should never leave your resume. If you’ve received any sort of recognition for your outstanding contributions to academia, your profession or the community, you deserve to tell the world. You’ve done quality work, and it didn’t go unnoticed. It won’t go unnoticed on your resume either. Did your school recognize you for your entrepreneurial idea? Did you make the Dean’s List? Polish those trophies and let them shine!


Extracurricular Activities

Extracurricular Activities show that you understand work-life balance. According to Bill Lawhorn of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, “The benefits to participants—including making friends, developing skills, and improving academic and employment prospects—are a strong argument in [extracurricular activities’] favor.” Extracurricular activities might include:


Volunteer Work

If you volunteer at the soup kitchen, tutor children, organize charity drives, provide pro bono services to local nonprofits, or any perform other volunteer work you need to include that. Emphasize volunteer activities that display your motivation, commitment or business skills.



Clubs provide a sense of belonging, and companies want to hire someone who will fit in. Do you have a wide variety of clubs to show your varied interests and ability to mingle with many different groups? Maybe you’re in a club that supports your academic/career path (like Epsilon Nu Tau). That kind of involvement can only benefit your job hunt, as Sarah Goldy-Brown writes on Plexuss.


Performances and Presentations

If you took part in the debate team, performed in a play, or presented to large groups, these activities show that you are comfortable in front of audiences. It also demonstrates preparation, sharp thought process and social or emotional intelligence.



Having played collegiate sports tells a lot about you. Note your accomplishments but also what you learned. We all know about the value of teamwork and responsibility. Go further. You work tirelessly for that goal (sometimes literally) while maintaining good grades in your classes. The organization Next College Student Athlete argues that you likely practice time management and financial responsibility (if you’re on a scholarship), too.


School Projects

The most effective resume includes experience. College is your experience so far, so you’ll want to include class projects in which you displayed the skills necessary for a job. Did you create a new business for a project? Did you provide a new business strategy for a real company? Whatever your projects were, include relevant ones that show how capable you are of succeeding at this job.


Be sure to point out any leadership roles in any of the above categories. These show initiative and value. Use action verbs and quantifiable information. Always read over your resume before sending, send it to others for approval, and revise relentlessly. For a great sample resume, check out Alison Doyle’s article at The Balance.


IMAGE: Darwin Lagonzon / CC0 Public Domain

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