Discover Studying Abroad

Documenting what you've done: the resume and digital portfolio

Summer is a great time to relax and to jumpstart your college applications. In the 4th instalment of our 12-part series on US college admissions, we discuss how to document your achievements
BY Katherine Ernst Mehta |   03-06-2016

Coffee cup, glass of water and sandwich next to a laptop with a video editing program

Who doesn’t love summer? It’s the time to relax, go on vacation, and catch up on your favorite TV shows.  Your summer – if used productively – can also be an excellent opportunity to jumpstart your college applications.  One of the best ways to do this is to prepare a resume and digital portfolio, which will allow you to document all of the work you’ve done so far, and reflect on that work as you begin brainstorming for essays.

Your resume should be a simple, straightforward summary of your education and experience. Keep in mind that most admissions officers will only have a few minutes to review your resume, so your formatting should convey key points, including leadership positions and major contributions to projects. 

On the resume, rather than listing all of your activities chronologically, organize your activities by themes or interests.  For example, club all science-related projects together, make a separate section for all of your athletics, etc.  This strategic organization will create a more dynamic picture of who you are. It helps readers understand what you’re passionate about, and how you’ve built a track record in that area of interest.  If you’ve been involved with an activity for several years, be sure to include descriptions of how your roles and responsibilities have changed over time, to reflect your growth and commitment.

Your resume should be no more than 2-3 pages, should have a consistent format, and should be free of any spelling or grammatical errors.

In addition to a resume, you should also have a digital portfolio to document and share samples of your work. A digital portfolio can take many forms: a personal blog or website, a source code repository, photo or visual arts albums, or music or video clips.  A digital portfolio complements your resume by illustrating your work and interests, and giving better insight into who you are.

Make sure you keep your portfolio up to date.  Starting early and updating frequently will allow you to show growth, progress and learning over the course of several years.  You’ll also always have a current portfolio handy, should you need it for job or internship applications or interviews.

As with the resume, you will want to make sure that your digital portfolio has been thoroughly proofread for correct spelling and grammar, and that the content is appropriate and inoffensive.  (The same holds true for any other social media pages.)

Finally, with both the resume and digital portfolio, less is more. It’s far better to have fewer high-quality works, or list fewer positions to which you’ve devoted significant time, than to try to pad your resume or portfolio with dozens of works, or activities in which you’ve had very limited involvement.  Colleges want to see what you’ve devoted the most time to, to better understand what you’re passionate about, and what you can contribute to their campus.

Katherine Ernst Mehta is CEO and Founder of Edvanta Consulting, which works with international high-school students seeking admission to US universities. She first came from the US to India for research, and now lives in Delhi. You can reach her on Twitter at @EdvantaCo. Previous instalments of her 12-part series on US college admissions are here.



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