With college admissions decisions continuing to roll in and with the May 1st commitment date less than two months away, you will be making important decisions of which college to attend
Getting this decision wrong won’t necessarily make the difference between
long-term success and failure, but it will affect your trajectory.
So, above and beyond the things you will already be thinking about, this post is designed to provide you with another way of thinking through your choices.
“What you do today can improve all your tomorrows” - Ralph Marston
When my daughters were growing up I used to tell them there were two modes of existence when thinking about one’s own destiny. Life is like a river: you can either let the currents take you where they will, or you can steer your own course and navigate the waters with purpose. Planning ahead and taking control by arming yourself with the information you need in order to make good decisions is a key ingredient to improving all your tomorrows.
One way to do this is to look at each of the colleges you have been admitted to and think about what your resume could look like in four years given the offers you have been made and the specific opportunities the school will provide. While there are many different factors that will ultimately shape the decision of where you will matriculate; i.e. finances, geography, culture, academic programs, your best friend is going there, etc…understanding how to forecast your resume to the time when you will be graduating should bring additional clarity to your decision making process. Not all of the sections below will necessarily apply to you but pick your spots and look into the future to the time when you will be graduating from college.
Tip: Create a different future resume for each school you are considering. You don’t need to create an actual resume for each school but rather a list.
So what will the relevant components of your resume be?
- Clubs and Organizations
- Study Abroad
- Honors College
Internships & Student Organizations
So think of it this way, if you play your cards right, by the time you are graduating from college, you will have a minimum of two summer internships on your resume. Getting hired for that second summer internship between Junior and senior year will be that much easier because you already had real-world experience working a summer internship between Sophomore and Junior year. So the question becomes how do you land that first summer internship?
Hiring companies understand that most students won’t have prior real-world experience going into the summer between Sophomore and Junior year so they look to student organization experience which is why you will want to join some in Freshman year that will provide you with experience in developing the necessary soft skills such as:
- Problem solving
Explore summer internship experiences at the schools you are evaluating that students in your major area of interest, if you know what that is, have secured so that you have a sense of the companies and experiences they have had. If you are still undecided, look at internship experiences more generally.
Also, look at the full list of student organizations and think about those that will help you develop the necessary soft skills to be successful in a summer internship. Keep in mind, most people join student organizations for two reasons, professional development and to have fun. Either of these can provide the soft skills. Student organizations that you join for professional development purposes will certainly provide the soft skills but will also provide some of the hard skills that employers will also be looking for.
Most colleges have student organization fairs where you can walk around and meet people in those clubs and decide which ones you want to join but now is the time to do some research so that you are able to evaluate school by school if they offer the kinds of opportunities that align with your interests and goals.
Put the student organizations and internships you are contemplating on your forecasted resume for each school.
Research is another component of a strong resume that will have the potential to set you apart. Keep in mind, research is not just for STEM-focused students. Undergraduate research occurs across many different subject matter areas beyond STEM such as in: Language Arts, History, Sociology, The Arts, etc….
So as you are evaluating your various college options consider the following:
- R1 Research Institution: Determine if the school you are considering is an R1 research institution and specifically how much research they are funding.
- Look for the presence of undergraduate research programs in your major area of interest or more generally if you do not yet have one. Then look at the specific kinds of opportunities the school provides.
- Lastly, look at the faculty in your major area of interest to see what kind of research they are pursuing and if you can establish and build a relationship with those professors you may be able to get an offer to support their research. While this article focuses on the steps high school students can take to land college research experiences, the steps will be very similar once you arrive at college.
For each school you are considering, plot out your potential course and add the one or two of the research opportunities that align with your interests and goals to your resume. Of course, once you are in college you are going to have to make it happen but you have the roadmap.
Studying abroad will provide yet another differentiator to add to your resume because of the various hard and soft skills that you will be able to demonstrate as follows:
Studying abroad will expose you to different cultures and ways of life, making you more culturally competent and adaptable. This can be valuable for companies that operate in a global marketplace and work with people from diverse backgrounds.
Studying abroad often involves learning a new language or improving existing language skills. This can be beneficial for companies that have international clients or do business in non-English speaking countries.
Independence and self-reliance
Studying abroad will require you to navigate new environments, overcome language barriers, and adapt to different cultural norms. This can develop your independence and self-reliance, which can be valuable traits in the workplace.
Flexibility and resilience
Studying abroad can be challenging, and you often have to deal with unexpected situations or setbacks. This can develop your resilience and flexibility, making you better equipped to handle difficult or changing circumstances in the workplace.
Studying abroad provides opportunities to meet people from different countries and backgrounds, building a diverse and international network. This can be valuable for companies that have international clients or do business overseas.
Studying abroad can help you develop a global perspective. This can be beneficial for companies that operate in a global marketplace and need employees who understand different cultures and markets.
Studying abroad shows that you are willing to step out of your comfort zone and take on new challenges. This demonstrates initiative and a willingness to learn, which can be attractive qualities to future employers.
Evaluate the various study abroad offerings at each school you are considering. Add the relevant study abroad program you would pursue to your resumes. The following article should be helpful in doing your research.
There are two types of scholarships to think about here.1. Merit scholarships for first year students
If you have been a high performing student during high school, and if you have applied to and been offered a competitive merit based scholarship from certain schools then this is an element that belongs on your resume and that will add to your story and help set you apart. Some examples:
- Boston University: Trustee Scholarship
- Duke University: Robertson’s Scholars
- Tulane University: Paul Tulane Award
2. Postgraduate fellowships
If you aspire to apply to a prestigious postgraduate fellowship such as the Rhodes Scholarship, Marshall or Fulbright Scholarship programs while you are in college you should think of this as a four-year process to prepare yourself.
Evaluate whether or not the schools you are considering provide the advising infrastructure to help navigate and support you through the process.
Have you been offered admission to an honors college at any of the colleges where you were admitted? If so, consider the following:
- Enhanced academic opportunities: Honors colleges often offer smaller class sizes, more rigorous coursework, and access to research opportunities. This can provide you with a more challenging and engaging academic experience.
- Prestige: Graduating from an honors college will add prestige to your resume and demonstrate your academic achievements to potential employers and graduate schools.
- Personalized advising and support: You will receive personalized advising and support, including assistance with course selection, career planning, and graduate school applications.
- Community and networking: Honors colleges often create a tight-knit community of high-achieving students who share similar academic interests and goals. This can provide opportunities for networking and collaboration with other motivated students.
- Access to distinguished faculty: Honors colleges often attract distinguished faculty members who are leaders in their fields. This would provide you with access to top-notch professors who can offer mentorship, research opportunities, and letters of recommendation.
- Priority registration: And last but certainly not least, it is hard to overstate the value of having access to priority registration for classes. This will enable you to secure spots in high-demand courses before they fill up.
If you have been offered a spot in various honors colleges, evaluate each of the programs and the various opportunities that come along with it. Not all are comparable. Add your admission to the honors college to your appropriate resume.
The first thing employers will look for in a resume is your GPA. If you finish college with a high cumulative GPA and honors (Dean’s List, Cum Laude, Magna Cum Laude or Summa Cum Laude) will almost always get the first look from would-be employers and grad schools. But there is more to it than simply pointing this out. Similar to high school, with each passing semester of college it will be more and more difficult to move your cumulative grade point average up or down.
For this reason, getting off to a quick start in college and maintaining your GPA will be critical. Conversely, getting off to a slow start will make it equally difficult to recover. So while you should always be strategic in making your course selections, it will be particularly important to do so during Freshman year. Take courses that you are genuinely interested in and that will both satisfy requirements but that you also feel you can do well in.
So evaluate the four-year curriculum plans at each of the schools you are considering so that you can plot your course forward. Ask yourself, who has the most interesting curriculum offerings that align with my interests and goals. Also, take a look at the faculty who teach these courses. You can find out their students feel about them at Rate My Professors.
Give yourself a goal and add your GPA and honors that you will work to achieve to each of your resumes but this will be a function of how you feel about the different curriculum offerings at the various schools.
This probably feels like a lot of effort just to help you choose a school but if you do the work it will be worth it. Your future awaits!
Remember, ”what you do today can improve all your tomorrows!”
If you’re ready to dive deeper into your college application, check out the guide that our college admissions experts put together to help you navigate all the criteria admissions committees look at.
Second, if you are interested in more personalized guidance on how to manage the college planning and preparation process, PCC is here for you. Get in touch with Princeton College Consulting today.