Should You Have Your College Activities And Coursework On Your Resume?
Should you have your college activities and coursework on your resume? Your initial impulse may be an unequivocal, “Yes!” You spent an incalculable amount of time and energy—not to mention a very calculable amount of money—studying your major. Listing activities and coursework demonstrates your competence. But that’s not always the case. Some recruiters view college work on a resume as a sign of inexperience, while others view it favorably so long as it doesn’t squeeze out real-world work experience.
Your answer should actually lean more toward, “Sometimes” and “Not forever.”
What Specific College Activities And Coursework Can You Safely Include?
The short answer here is anything that shows you have the skills necessary to perform at a high level. If you’re applying for a programmer position, it makes sense to include coursework that produced a functional example of your coding skills. But the recruiter does not need to know you were voted treasurer to the badminton club.
Here’s a short list of activities and coursework to consider:
- Your degree
- Club memberships
- Studies abroad
- Leadership positions
- Volunteer work
- Extracurricular activities
- Awards and scholarships
- Coursework that produced a functional product or service
Obviously, the more impressive or unique, the better it reflects on you. Getting on the dean’s list is nice, but a lot of people are on that list. Graduating with cum laude honors is better, and winning a much-coveted grant or scholarship in your field is better still.
A Couple Of Caveats
As previously mentioned, don’t let college work crowd out work background. Recruiters generally prefer work experiences that either qualify you for a position or prove you have the soft skills necessary to succeed.
Also, don’t make the recruiter connect the dots between an activity and the skill you want to represent with it. Yes, you learned public-speaking playing Abigail Williams in your troupe’s production of The Crucible, but will the recruiter understand that’s what you are trying to plug? The connection between the activity and the qualification needs to be apparent, or you should leave it off.
If you’re fresh out of college and don’t have much work experience, don’t let these caveats worry you. There are plenty of ways to prove your potential value. You can create a functional, targeted, or achievement-oriented resume to headline your skills over your work history. You can also tailor your resume to every application, mixing the best combination of skills, work history, and college activities to prove you’re the best fit for the position.
When Should You Remove College Activities And Coursework?
The longer you’re out of college, the less you’ll want to rely on coursework and activities. Recruiters are going to want you to replace these with skills and successes earned through job experience. If your degree is important to the position, you’ll want to include it on the resume regardless, but feature it less prominently than work experience in your field.
There’s no hard-and-fast rule, though. If you attain post-graduate success quickly, you may be able to remove college activities and coursework sooner than your peers. If not, it’s possible to create a standout resume with little to no experience.
Remember: The goal of any resume is to make you stand out to recruiters. Whether or not you include college activities on your resume will be in response to this question: “Does it give me a competitive edge against other qualified candidates?” If the answer is no, drop it. If the answer is yes, include it (but not if it means removing actual job experience).