If you have been out of school for a few years, your resume is a much more important part of your application than it is for those applying to college directly out of high school. It should paint an all-around picture of who you are and why you are a competitive applicant for a college program. It should demonstrate that you are prepared because of, rather than in spite of, your time away from academia.
Attributes, Accomplishments and Credentials
Your resume should include all employment, community service and extracurricular activities in which you've participated, as well as any certifications or special qualifications you've earned. Include anything you have done since leaving college and don't be afraid to sell yourself! Essentially, a resume is a place to brag about yourself. To begin, make a list of your strengths and experiences. This should include personal attributes, such as flexibility, accomplishments, like starting a business, and credentials, such as language course certification. Ask for help from parents, teachers, coworkers, employers and friends. They can point out positive strengths about you that you take for granted or have forgotten.
After you have made a list, subdivide your attributes into sections, such as employment, internships, community service, certifications, languages and academic achievements. Looking at other resumes is always helpful for gaining ideas about categories to include, but don't attempt to copy them or use them as a strict template -- your resume should be your own creation. Include dates -- usually month or season and year is sufficient -- and organize in reverse chronological order. If a particular section is weak, either add more items or combine it with another section.
Make it interesting! Each item should be powerful and help your application stand out. If you have spent your time out of college traveling or otherwise gaining valuable life experiences that make you stand out, don't be afraid to highlight these! An example of a concise, yet detailed job description might read "Adult TEFL Instructor: All levels of English instruction in an active immersion classroom; small group, large group and one-on-one." Let the reader know that your experiences have made you a well-prepared student.
Remember the importance of a resume as part of your application package; it should represent the kind of work you are capable of in the program you are applying for and, as such, should be interesting, well-organized and readable. The style of writing should project capability and conciseness -- use strong, precise words, rather than vague or generic descriptors. Keep it personal but honest. Make the resume read like the best version of you -- someone who is stronger because of their time spent away from school.
Katherine Bell splits her time between Western Montana and New Orleans. She is currently working on a PhD, conducting research on the endangered Blackfoot language. She has an Master of Arts in linguistic anthropology from Tulane University and a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of North Florida.