What Common Mistakes Do Students Make on Their Résumés?

Students shouldn't necessarily include résumés in their college applications, experts say.

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A résumé can illuminate some of students' interesting and unique extracurricular activities or jobs and is often considered a no-brainer to include with an application. In this week's column, experts weigh in on the most common errors students make on their résumés, so that you can learn from their mistakes.

Q: What are some common mistakes students make on their résumés?

A: Résumés should help inform an application, not replace it!

Nancy Meislahn, dean of admissions and financial aid, Wesleyan University The biggest mistake I see students make is to write "Please see attached résumé" on their applications. Write a résumé for use in finding a part-time job or summer internship, or for an introduction for interview. Keep it up-to-date with your activities and honors, and use it for reference when you fill out your college applications. Think broadly about your experience, and about how to condense and explain what you do with your time and how you have explored your interests.

[Learn how to find the right extracurriculars for you.]

A: A résumé isn't that important to the college application process.

Ralph Figueroa, director of college guidance, Albuquerque Academy Many students worry about perfecting their résumés. They shouldn't. Though a helpful tool to give to teachers when seeking a recommendation, résumés aren't usually required on applications. The Common Application, accepted by 456 colleges and universities, has a detailed activities section that colleges prefer. Don't clutter the application with extra material. The biggest problems, both on the Common Application and on résumés—should you make one—is using abbreviations that aren't commonly understood and listing activities that aren't self-explanatory. Err on the side of being too detailed in your descriptions. And, don't forget to list your activities in the order of importance to you!

[Learn more about applying to college.]

A: The résumé is not a shortcut.

Eric Furda, dean of admissions, University of Pennsylvania Since you should aim to make your application as easy to scan as possible, I strongly advise applicants not to submit résumés in lieu of completing The Common Application and the school-specific supplement. Writing "Please See Attached Résumé" is simply a bad idea. Beyond this strong opinion, the main mistake students can make is trying to fill their résumés with activities while neglecting to pursue the things that are most interesting and important to them.

Visit the Unigo Expert Network for 20 more experts giving seniors the upper hand in admissions, and to have your own questions answered.