Today’s the day that you’re moving on with your life. It’s graduation day! Cue Pomp and Circumstance and throw that cap in the air.
Congratulations! You’ve made mom and dad proud. But, what’s next?
For many of you, graduation is bittersweet. You’ve finished one chapter of your life, and it’s time to start the next. Figuring out where to start is the hard part.
Well, I’ll let you in on a little secret.
The best place to start is to learn how to make a student resume.
Why? Let me tell you.
If I had to guess, I’d say that the majority of you won’t have some sweet job waiting for you. Even if you have a benevolent fairy godmother and an internship, finding your first job is hard.
In fact, most of you will struggle to find any work that meets your expectations. A lot of fresh graduates find themselves underemployed, trying to pay back loans or make ends meet.
That’s why I’ve put together this article for you.
Learning how to write a graduate resume now will allow you to find your first job, find your second job, and get you on your career path. It’s a lifelong skill that will get you to where you want to go.
And it’s not difficult. Learning how to make a great student resume is as easy as recess. Remember recess? Yeah, it was fun.
Table of Contents
- Why is a Strong Student Resume so Important?
- Which Resume Format and Layout is Best for Beginners?
- Five Quick Tips To Keep Your Resume Tidy and Scannable
- How to Add Contact Information to a Student Resume
- The Art of Writing a Resume Objective as a Student
- Education Before Experience - Structure Your Graduate Resume
- Experience Sections for Students Who Haven’t Worked
- The Most Desired Skills for Student Candidates
- Add Extra Sections to Flesh out Your Student Resume
- Edit and Customize Your Resume for a Nice Finish
- Don’t Forget to Write a Cover Letter - They Are Still Important
- Clean the Skeletons Out of Your Online Closet
- How to Email Your Student Resume To a Hiring Manager
1. Why is a Strong Student Resume so Important?
The current job market is not the friendliest of places. And that’s pretty much true for everyone.
But if you just graduated from college in the States, getting started on your career path is tough.
In a study by Accenture, more than half (51%) of recent grads said they feel underemployed and disillusioned with the reality of the job market. And that’s up 10% from how grads felt three years ago.
Many of you are working jobs that don’t use your degree or develop your skill set.
That’s bad news. According to the American Sociological Review, working a job that’s “beneath you” can look as bad as one year of unemployment on your resume.
As for high school students, having no experience and a minimum level of education also makes it hard to find your first job.
For either party, the answer is to learn how to make a strong graduate resume.
So, let’s get started.
Pro Tip: If you just graduated from high school and plan on attending college, the best thing for you to do is to find work with a lot of transferable skills. If you can work a job related to what you want to do, that’s even better.
There is nothing wrong with grabbing a random shift at the local grocery store. But when you want to grow up to be a Wizard of Wall Street, you might do better starting off in a bank.
2. Which Resume Format and Layout is Best for Beginners?
For starters, what should your student resume look like?
There are three different formats or structures for resumes.
- The Reverse-chronological Resume Format
- The Functional or Skills-based Format
- The Combination Resume Format
All of them cause some problems for students who are trying to figure out how to make a student resume. If you want to know more about resume formats, read our article about how to choose the best one.
In the meantime, there are a couple of things to keep in mind when selecting a layout for your student resume.
First, lay out your resume so that it shows off your best assets. Second, try to strike a balance between flexibility and adherence to a format.
Rearrange the Sections
In reality, you can rearrange sections in just about any order that fits your needs.
For students, placing your education section before your experience section is a wise choice.
Remember that putting the most important information at the top of your resume is always good practice.
Mix Your Skills and Experience To Your Advantage
Let’s say you did have a job during studies. Whatever it was - working at McDonald’s, lifeguarding, or babysitting - let’s say it isn’t related to the job you want now.
You can format your resume to focus on skills that your old posts have in common with the new job.
Start by finding the most important skills from the job description. Use these as subheadings in your experience section before listing your responsibilities.
College graduate resume example:
You are applying for your first teaching position. The job description lists skills like this:
Classroom Management, Verbal Communication, Resolving Conflict, Presentation Skills, Motivating Others, Listening, Collaborative Teaching - K-12, Dealing with Uncertainty, Objectivity, Confidentiality
You worked at McDonald’s during your studies. What does McDonald’s have to do with teaching? Well, more than you’d think.
Select a skill from the job description that your responsibilities at McDonald’s will reflect.
Responsible for motivating crew members to do well in their current positions so that they can move on to new roles, making them more valuable.
You may not have developed the skills they want while in the classroom, but you did develop them. Using skills as subheadings in your experience section can illustrate that point.
In the end, the layout you choose for your resume should meet your needs and prioritize information in the best way for you.
If you want to make things super easy on yourself, you can always consider using a student resume template or a resume builder.
Pro Tip: The one thing you should never do is copy and paste blocks of text from generic, online resume templates. You will want to write your graduate resume yourself and tailor it to your needs if you want to get good results.
3. Five Quick Tips To Keep Your Resume Tidy and Scannable
There are a few student resume tricks that you may think are no-brainers, but it’s always good to refresh.
- Choose an attractive font that’s easy to read. (Anything that sounds like a Hipster baby name is usually safe. Do a search online to see what’s trendy.)
- Keep your font size between 10 and 12 points.
- Align your content to the left for easy skimming.
- Strategically use italics, bold, and caps throughout the text.
- Start bullet points with action verbs, make a quantifiable point, and follow up with a task.
Student resume example:
Let’s say you were a Swing Manager at McDonald’s in high school.
Action Verb: managed
Quantifiable Point: team of up to 15 people
Specific Task: closing the store
Managed a team of up to 15 people responsible for closing the store on weekdays.
4. How to Add Contact Information To a Student Resume
Your contact information is always going to go at the top of your resume. And while this section may seem like the easiest, there are a couple of potential blind spots for students.
Your contact section needs to include the following:
- Your Name
- Phone Number
- Professional Email
- Social Media Handles (Twitter and LinkedIn)
- URLs to Personal Websites or Blogs
If you’ve been living in a dorm or with your parents, you don’t really have an address yet. And that’s okay. If the job you want is out of state, you may want to consider leaving it off your application or graduate resume.
If you’re applying for a job in your hometown, it’s okay to use mom and dad’s address.
Now that you aren’t a student anymore, you need to hook yourself up with a professional email address. Don’t use your old student email address if you’ve graduated.
And if you’re graduating high school, it’s time to retire that firstname.lastname@example.org email address you thought was so funny when you were fourteen.
Use your name instead - email@example.com - and choose a sophisticated provider like Gmail or Outlook.
If you happen to have a website or blog, put the URL on your resume in the contact section.
Pro Tip: Only add your professional social media handles. These could vary for different types of people. Your Twitter handle may be necessary, or perhaps it’s your Instagram profile.
Just review your accounts to make sure you’ve taken down any unprofessional content like those pictures of you playing beer pong in a sexy kitten costume from last Halloween.
Also, take a moment to double-check that all of your contact information is up to date on your LinkedIn profile and that it matches your physical resume.
Here’s an article on how to optimize your LinkedIn profile to impress hiring managers.
5. The Art of Writing a Resume Objective as a Student
A student resume should start with a resume objective.
A long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, a resume objective was a statement that you put on your resume telling the employer what you want from a job.
Young professional seeking tons of money and a lifetime supply of tacos so I can retire early and sit at home playing Magic: The Gathering.
Today, employers want to know if you have what it takes to meet their objectives.
Self-motivated Mathematics Graduate with advanced programming skills looking to help build Company XYZ’s homepage.
So, a resume objective is one or two lines at the beginning of your resume that state how you are a good fit for the position on offer.
To paraphrase President Kennedy, “Ask not what your company can do for you, ask what you can do for you company.”
Make the statement targeted and snappy. Reflect on what you have already achieved (a degree or a specialized skill), and how you are going to use those achievements to meet the objectives of the company.
If you’ve graduated from university, you will want to lead with your degree.
For more information about resume objectives and student resume objective samples visit our article on the only way to use resume objectives.
You may feel that you’re past the stage where you need a student resume objective.
If you’re a budding professional with a well-developed sense of your professional brand, check out our article on writing a resume summary instead.
The resume summary is the sophisticated older brother of the resume objective, and perhaps it’s the one thing your resume is missing.
6. Education Before Experience - Structure Your College Resume
What do you put next after your resume objective?
As I mentioned above, it is often better to put your education section before your experience section. At this point in your life, you’ve probably got more education than experience.
Here is what your education section should include on a college resume:
- Your highest degree first followed by subsequent degrees.
- The name of each school you attended.
- Graduation dates or prospective graduation dates.
- What you studied (major/minor).
Optional things include your GPA, which you should only add if it’s impressive, and a description of your course of study.
If you have no experience, you can tell the story of what you studied to give the hiring manager an idea of the skills and knowledge you have.
College resume sample:
University of Dayton (2005-2009)
BA in English 3.9 GPA
High school student resume sample:
Expected completion date - 2018
Current GPA - 3.7
Student Body President and AP Student
Pro Tip: If you graduated from university, you don’t need to put the high school you attended on your college resume. If you are in the middle of a degree, write it like this:
University of Dayton (2014 - present)
Expected to graduate in 2018 with a BA in Psychology. Current GPA - 4.0
You can also list awards and honors you received and any activities you participated in that you find relevant or important.
7. Experience Sections for Students Who Haven’t Worked
If you’ve had part time jobs before, these go in your experience section first. But let’s say you have never, ever worked a day in your life. What goes in your experience section?
For a student, it’s okay to add internships, roles you had in student organizations, practicums (like student teaching experiences), or volunteer work. It doesn’t matter if these were unpaid positions.
When you list your roles and responsibilities, focus on the what skills you used that will translate to your new job.
Make the experience section work for you even if you have no experience. Check out our article on how to make a resume to find out more about writing a strong experience section.
8. The Most Desired Skills for Student Candidates
When deciding what skills to put on a resume, it’s best to add as many from the job description as possible.
Once you’ve done that, add skills that hiring managers want to see from new college grads. For example, leadership and the ability to work on a team still rank as the skills hiring managers want to see the most from you.
A 2016 study by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) shows that 80% of employers are looking for recent college graduates who display leadership skills.
So, for a student just starting your college years, it sounds like you should end up as team captain of the girl’s soccer team as soon as possible.
The truth is that you should emphasize any leadership role on your college resume.
Were you the president of a two person anime club? Great. Put it on your resume.
Here is a list of the top five skills that hiring managers think are important for a student to have on a graduate resume:
- Ability to Work on a Team
- Communication Skills (Written)
- Problem-solving Skills
- Communication Skills (Verbal)
Whenever you can prove that you’ve learned these skills, i.e. tie them to an experience, do it.
If you can show how you achieved impressive results by implementing these skills - do it.
Hiring managers also said that the attributes that influence their decision the most are:
- your major
- holding a leadership position
- extracurricular activities
- a GPA above a 3.0
- what school you attended
- volunteer work
- fluency in a foreign language
- having studied abroad.
And if it applies to college graduates, logic follows that high school graduates who have the same skills will also do well.
Find out more about how to put skills on your resume and which skills hiring managers value most.
9. Add Extra Sections to Flesh out Your Student Resume
So, you were an honors student involved in a lot of student body organizations who won a lot of awards. Great. What does that have to do with your graduate resume?
For a student, your resume doesn’t need to end when you’ve completed your education, experience, and skills sections. You can add extra sections with additional information to flesh out your resume.
It’s a great way to show hiring managers that your skills and experiences were awarded and appreciated by others.
Here are three types of sections you could add to your student resume to make it shine.
Honors and Awards
You could add a separate section if you received quite a few awards in school. You can also add honors and awards to your education section if you received only one or two.
If you graduated with Latin honors, such as magna cum laude or summa cum laude, or were the valedictorian or the salutatorian of your graduating class, you can put that in your education section next to your degree.
College resume example:
Purdue University 2005 -2009
BA in English Literature - Valedictorian, Magna Cum Laude
Other honors and awards could include:
- Any academic award or scholarship.
- Academic Honors - participation in an honors program, making the Dean’s List, or acceptance into honors societies (campus, national, or international).
- Work related awards or honors (these can go in an honors and awards section or under the relevant job in your experience section).
Activities and Associations
Adding an activities and associations section is good for high school students and for recent college graduates who have little to no experience.
It gives you a chance to show where and how you developed certain skill sets. Pick those activities that reflect the type of work you’ll be doing and illustrate skills you found in the job description.
Student resume example:
Boy Scouts of America Assistant Scoutmaster 2005 - present
Provide guidance and assistance for scouts wishing to achieve a higher rank.
Your activities can range from on-campus student body organizations, publications, and clubs to volunteer work, athletics, and other activities off campus.
Hobbies and Interests
Adding a hobbies and interests section boosts just about any resume.
And it’s a super easy section to put on a student resume because you probably have a lot of hobbies and interests beyond your school activities.
The key is matching your hobbies to your future company’s work culture.
Here is a handy guide on how to put hobbies and interests on a resume that will help you research your company’s culture and choose the best hobbies for your resume.
10. Edit and Customize Your Resume for a Nice Finish
You wouldn’t turn in a term paper without proofreading it first would you? No!
You were a first-class student who never cheated, came to every class on time, and got straight A’s. You wouldn’t dream of turning in shoddy work.
Well, you don’t want to turn in an unedited college resume either.
Here’s a quick checklist for editing your resume:
- Edit your resume so that it fits on one page. A student resume should stick to the one-page resume rule.
- Use an app like Grammarly or Language Tool to proofread your resume.
- Have a living, breathing person proofread your resume.
- Get feedback about how you’re selling yourself.
- Give the file your name when you save it - john_smith_resume.pdf
- Save and send your resume as a PDF unless otherwise instructed.
11. Don’t Forget to Write a Cover Letter - They Are Still Important
It is still important to include a cover letter with your resume, even if you’ve heard otherwise.
The only time it wouldn’t be prudent to include a cover letter is if a hiring manager has explicitly told you not to send one.
Need a more in-depth approach to cover letter writing? Here’s our full guide on how to write a cover letter that will get you sorted.
12. Clean the Skeletons Out of Your Online Closet
If you’re a student, you probably don’t remember the days before the Internet. That means you’ve probably connected your whole life in some way to the wonderful world online.
But what would happen if someone searched for you online?
Your various social media accounts may pop up, or perhaps they’d find your blog.
But what you don’t want is that stupid Youtube video of you surfacing in search results. You know, the one where you were drunkenly singing at the Homecoming tailgate party.
So how do you do a quick cleanup job of your online presence?
Start by checking the settings on your social media accounts. You want your LinkedIn profile to be public and your Facebook profile to be private.
View your profiles as “public” to see what content is visible.
Then do a search on your name to see what comes up in the results. For information on how to remove unsavory content from the Internet check out our guide on how to make a resume.
Just remember, Dorothy, you’re not in school anymore. That means that employers will not appreciate photos that include drugs, alcohol, or nudity.
13. How to Email Your Student Resume To a Hiring Manager
Now that you have a bright and shiny graduate resume, it’s time to send it!
If you already know who will read your resume, start by writing an attention-grabbing subject headline.
As a student, it’s a good idea to start by pitching yourself. Try to keep your headline under 60 characters.
Subject: Award-winning Yale Med School Grad
Great. Now, what?
You should write a personal email. That means using the hiring manager’s name in the salutation and referring to your knowledge of the company’s culture, competition, and brand in the body of the email.
Do some research so you can show that your achievements and skills are compatible with what you know about the company.
You’re not in school anymore, so you can go ahead and relax your style. Use a natural and likable tone. Don’t be afraid to show who you are.
If you don’t know who will read your resume, check out our guide on how to email your resume and how to find a hiring manager’s name and email address.
Getting your first job is hard work. Preparing your graduate resume shouldn’t be.
As a student, you’ve got the skills and education it takes to do a good job. It’s just harder to convince a hiring manager that you’ve learned to apply them.
But if you take the little bit of time and effort to create a strong student resume, you will find that getting that first job isn’t that hard after all.