Page 14 of the Cover Letter Tutorial: Examples of College Experiences
Making the Most of Your College Experience:
Think about all of your college experience including classes and extracurricular activities. What did you do in your classes that helps to qualify you for the job of your dreams?
Consider first your classes. Many lucky students undertake activities in classes that are every bit as valid for providing experience as paid jobs. Such activities include:
- Class projects
- Research papers and projects
- Group projects
- Hands-on assignments and “real-world” experiences
- Laboratory experience
- Study-abroad programs
Look for example at your school’s special programs and relevant hands-on projects you’ve done in classes. For example one university we know has an unusual program in the finance department in which students invest actual money in a stock portfolio. Such a program provides an excellent way to make the most of your college experience in your cover letter as in this example:
- Currently I am involved in a unique program at Ohio University that sets me apart from other recent graduates who apply to your firm. For the past year I have been part of the Johnson Investment Program one of the only undergraduate programs in the United States that allows students to invest real money in the stock and bond markets. The Johnson Program has allowed me to gain practical experience in portfolio management and has enhanced my communication and teamwork skills. I have also fine-tuned my research techniques to make the best stock and bond selections.
In other classes at some universities students create Web sites and work with real clients to critique and improve Web pages. Marketing research students conduct research for actual clients as well. Still other students develop advertising campaigns for local businesses. We’ve seen students successfully construct entire resumes based solely on the real-life experience they’ve gained in their classes and the same can certainly be done with cover letters. Thus you need to ask yourself about all your applicable academic accomplishments:
- Did you write a software program design a Web page?
- Did you excel in any competitions?
- Did you achieve a superlative such as the highest grade the best test score the strongest essay?
- Did you have any creative accomplishments? Were any of your poetry plays stories music art published performed or exhibited?
Next put your extracurricular volunteer and community activities under the microscope:
- What leadership positions did you hold that demonstrate important skills?
- Did members of your group choose or elect you to a certain position based on special skills you possess? Did you choose to take on additional responsibilities?
- What are the kinds of things that your friends and classmates always ask you for help and advice about? What are your areas of expertise?
- What community service projects did you undertake?
- Did you use organizational or managerial skills?
- What ideas did you come up with to improve your organization?
- Did you handle money or budgets? Did you raise collect or manage funds?
- In what ways did you exhibit interpersonal skills?
- Did you train teach or orient organization members? Did you speak in public or write for an audience?
- Did you employ problem-solving conflict-resolution or mediation skills?
- Were you required to deal with the public?
- How did you demonstrate teamwork or individual drive and determination (for example as an athlete)?
- Did you respond to complaints or smooth ruffled feathers? Did you work with the general public?
- Were you required to juggle many projects simultaneously under deadline pressure?
Finally while the responsibilities of work-study positions might not seem relevant to the job you seek at first if you scrutinize what you did you can probably come up with at least one applicable skill. Reliability and a strong work ethic are among the highly desirable characteristics your work-study job can demonstrate.
Once you’ve identified some ways to make the most of your college experience it’s important to relate those valuable experiences to the particular position you’re writing about in your cover letter.
Go back to Page 14 for more on making the most of your college experience.
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