CV of life experience?
May 27, 2010 5:34 PM   Subscribe

42 year old man applying to college for the first time. What to put on a resume or CV to reflect life experience as well as work experience?

My friend, at 42, has decided to apply to college for the first time. Yay! The school he is applying to, although traditional in structure and form, is welcoming to older/non-traditional students. A resume or CV is required as part of the application and my friend is a bit confused as to what to do.

He has worked in the restaurant business (mostly as a server) for most of his adult life. He took various community college courses in the arts in his twenties. But he has also recorded and produced a few records as a solo artist and with a band. He has mastered certain academic subjects through self-education and hands-on personal studies traveling abroad. Essentially he has a lot of work AND life experience that he wants his resume/CV to reflect.

So, questions:

1) Which format works better for this: resume or CV?
2) What should he include on it?
3) What shouldn’t he include on it?
4) Whether resume or CV, can you recommend a good way to organize this information so that it is strongly presented? (ie, is a kind of timeline a strong way to present the info, or should it be broken up into work experience/life experience/musical experience or something like that [obviously weak examples]?)

Surely there are some admissions people out there who have recommendations or an older student who has successfully done something similar? Any suggestions are welcome.
posted by greta simone to Education (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Keep the resume simple, and don't sweat it. I can't imagine it will play much, if any, role in the decision to admit him.

I think he should use the resume format, and it should include sections called EMPLOYMENT and EDUCATION. The former should include his artistic career. The latter should name the community college and when he attended, with a brief description of the kinds of courses he took. It'll probably have to mention that he did not complete a degree (if I'm reading you correctly).

His personal statement/essay is where he can shine, though, and explain that he has been a lifelong student of culture, that he's explored his interests informally but with gusto, and that he's now ready to pursue some deep thinking about subjects he's interested in.

If he can mention being drawn to some specific offerings that this college promotes, that would be a plus. That would be my advice. Good luck to him!
posted by Philemon at 5:50 PM on May 27, 2010

Life experience? The school isn't asking for that are they? The reason I ask is that "credit for life experience" has long been one of those dogwhistle terms for unaccredited degrees or diploma mills.

If it's your friend using that term, wanting to put on his best face to improve his chances of acceptance, then please by all means ignore my warning. But, if the school makes even the slightest mention about giving actual credit based on what they find on his CV, tell your friend to take a good long and hard look at the school's accreditation status before giving them so much as a penny.
posted by deadmessenger at 6:04 PM on May 27, 2010

My intuition in this case would be to stick to the traditional resume model when it comes to the formal requirements of the school, and work the interesting life-y stuff into the less restrictive aspects of the application. There must be a personal statement or essay question (or 10) involved, right? Even if the essay directs a writer toward a particular prompt that doesn't allow the friend to convey a great deal, I'm sure he could work in an anecdote or two that would be relevant. In addition, I recall all of the applications I submitted to undergrad left me a space for a sort of catch all "anything else we should know?" response.

I imagine your friend could find a way to include this information as a part of the overall application package without the potential pitfall of appearing unprofessional or unnecessarily outside-the-norm when it comes to the resume/CV requirement.
posted by Rallon at 7:06 PM on May 27, 2010

He has mastered certain academic subjects through self-education and hands-on personal studies traveling abroad.

These seem like good things to put in an essay, not on a resume.
posted by desjardins at 7:10 PM on May 27, 2010

Check out a skills-based resume (article and example here). This format might give him a bit more flexibility to talk about his non-employment experience while still containing the basic info that is typically included in a resume.

I agree with other posters who say that there will be lots of places elsewhere in the application to go into further detail about his specific experiences, but think this format will give him a bit more flexibility
posted by mjcon at 7:21 PM on May 27, 2010

Response by poster: For what it's worth, he's applying to the New School, so, not a diploma mill. And the people he spoke with at admissions encourage him to explore his non-traditional education and life experience in his application. He has excellent essays detailing these aspects, but he's just trying to figure out how (or how not) to add these to his resume/CV so he can provide the kind of 'one-sheet' for them to look at that references these things.

Thanks for the suggestions thus far.
posted by greta simone at 7:23 PM on May 27, 2010

He can also probably ask questions directly of the admissions office at the college he has in mind, especially if they have a dedicated person who handles non-traditional-age students. Obviously, he shouldn't be calling them up every day or anything, but it's perfectly fair to call up and introduce himself and ask specific questions about what they want to see in the applications.
posted by LobsterMitten at 7:26 PM on May 27, 2010

ah, preview, my old friend.
posted by LobsterMitten at 7:27 PM on May 27, 2010

I would leave the self-study out of the resume myself, but - if you really wanted to have a one-pager that might remind admissions about it, I doubt it would do any harm to have a section called SKILLS where, in addition to, say, software & foreign language skills, he could include Research/Study with a little note about what subjects or disciplines in particular he's read about deeply in.

This is unconventional, but if he was felt there was a need to sum himself up in this way, it might do the trick. Anyway I doubt, though I can't be sure obviously, that this would be the cause of a rejection.
posted by Philemon at 7:49 PM on May 27, 2010

yay the new school! has he also considered applying to columbia's gs? they love older non-traditional students.
posted by lia at 9:28 PM on May 27, 2010

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