Master Your High School STEM Resume for College Applications

If you plan to pursue a STEM degree in college, creating a STEM-focused resume for your college applications may be the way to go. It allows you to showcase what you’ve been doing during high school and describe what makes you unique as an applicant. It also lets you show colleges how you might contribute to the campus community, both academically and interpersonally. 

A resume will also be helpful later when you apply for scholarships, internships, and jobs.

Have you worked on STEM projects outside of school? Worked a part-time job like teaching kids to code? Done volunteer work? Had an internship? Conducted research? Learned new skills in the process? A STEM resume is a great way to share these experiences with the colleges you are applying to.

It is important to note that while most colleges do not require a STEM high school resume, some will allow you to upload a resume to complement the Activities section of the Common App. The Common App limits how much you can write in the Activities section, so adding a resume gives you more space to discuss your pursuits in detail.

High School Student on Laptop

When to Submit a Resume with Your Common App

I talked with Abby Maguire, Director of College Counseling for Collegewise, the nation’s largest college counseling organization, about the benefits of including a STEM resume in your college application. Abby explained there is very limited space on the Common App for students to go in-depth about their STEM accomplishments. In fact, students only have 150 characters to describe each activity they are involved in. The optional resume is a great way for students to highlight their experiences when they feel the Activities section of the Common App does not give them enough space.

She cautions that this doesn’t mean you can ignore the Activities section and submit a resume instead. Students should always fill out the Activities section with as much information as possible. You’ll need to use the space thoughtfully and craft your descriptions so that you’re providing new information about the activity.

Abby said, “I encourage students to submit a resume when they have significant responsibilities or accomplishments that won’t fit anywhere else on the application. I had a student who conducted research every summer since freshman year. His responsibilities in the lab increased every year and by the time he was a senior, he was able to create an independent research project. We realized there wasn’t enough space on the Common App to share this experience and his progressive responsibilities, so he needed to put together a resume.”

Abby’s rule of thumb: if you feel like you are repeating information that appears in the Activities section or another part of the application, you probably don’t need a resume. She said that her student clients don’t submit a resume very often, but when they do, it is usually pretty clear that the student needed the extra space. 

If you feel you want to say more than the Activities section allows but don’t have enough to justify a STEM resume, consider using the Additional Information Section on the Common App. One advantage of using this section is that every college will see the content, not only those who accept a resume.

Ready to Create a STEM Resume? Follow These Tips!

1. As a guideline, high school resumes should not exceed one page. If it’s longer than one page, admissions counselors won’t have the time to go through it, and you’ve wasted time and energy preparing it. Design a resume that is short, sweet, and to the point, and keep the formatting simple so that counselors don’t have to search for information, only including what you think is important for them to know.

2. Before you start to fill out a resume, be sure to write down all of your STEM activities and achievements. After you have a comprehensive list, start distilling it down into your resume.  If you need ideas on how to compile your activities, read about how to make your activities stand out on the Common App.

3. Choose a resume template! Using a template makes starting a resume from scratch a lot easier. There are many free online resume builders you can use to get ideas. Two popular resources are Canva and Google Docs. 

  • Canva has hundreds of free templates and layouts you can customize in minutes.
  • Google Docs Templates. Go to your Google Drive, click “New,” then hover over “Google Docs,” click “From a Template,” and proceed to the resume templates. For more helpful info, read these instructions from Indeed

4. Get ideas from examples of STEM resumes. As a starting point, this example of a standard high school resume format shows the type of content you might include. More importantly, these two examples of STEM-oriented resumes demonstrate how you might showcase your STEM activities and accomplishments. Note that you may need to provide some context in case the admissions counselor is not familiar with the program or award.

5. Make your STEM accomplishments stand out! Your STEM resume should include the following:

  • Specific STEM classes that are relevant to your interests and potentially what you plan to study in college. If relevant, include proficiency in computer science languages.
  • STEM work experience or internships
  • STEM-related volunteer experience
  • Specific technical and scientific skills and interests. Remember that so-called “soft skills” like teamwork, coordination, and communication/presentation skills are as valuable to mention as technical skills.
  • Links to samples of your work or portfolio
  • Awards, honors, and other accomplishments. Be sure to provide some context of the award for the admissions counselor.

How to Submit Your Resume in the Common App

The option to upload a resume will vary from college to college. It can usually be found in the school-specific questions. Students can check if their college allows the submission of a resume by adding the college to their Common Application, navigating to the My Colleges tab, and clicking through the college-specific questions. See an example.

A Note on LinkedIn

I am seeing a trend where some students with work, internship, and volunteering experience create LinkedIn accounts in high school or freshman year of college to display their experience. LinkedIn is a professional networking site used originally by the business community, but it is increasingly being used by a much wider range of people who want to connect with each other for many different reasons. 

It doesn’t hurt to start documenting your professional experience early. Once you have created your resume, you can create your LinkedIn profile. However, Abby Maguire suggests that high school students only create one if they have enough professional experience to highlight or showcase there. She also cautions that there’s no guarantee that an admissions counselor will click on the LinkedIn link in your Common App, so it’s a better bet to attach your STEM resume and fill out the Activities section. However, if you have already built out your LinkedIn profile, the platform has a helpful feature called Resume Builder that helps you create your resume automatically. 

Laying the Groundwork

Remember, a STEM resume will benefit you throughout your college career—when you apply for scholarships, summer internships, and jobs and if you apply to graduate school. Consider your resume a constantly evolving work in progress. Plan to keep track of what you do during college and update your resume yearly or even every semester.

Planning to Study STEM in College?

Read my tips for applying to college as a STEM major.

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