May 3, 2024

Tips for Amazing Experience Descriptions in Resumes/Applications

“These are just quick descriptions of what I did, right?”

I hear this a lot from my students. Many of them underestimate the significance of the activity/experience descriptions that go into their resumes and applications.

I can understand why. These descriptions are usually limited to 500-1000 characters, making them appear like a formality that’s far less important than something like a personal statement.

But students should definitely take these descriptions seriously! In most cases, the admissions committees will read these entries before the personal statement, so they do a lot of work in showing your strengths and building context for your overall story.

This article will provide some do’s and don’ts for experience descriptions, give some examples, and explain how to make yours stand out from an average candidate.

Do’s and Don’ts for Experience Descriptions


1. Include all paid jobs, even if they seem unrelated

Admissions committees like people who have worked “normal jobs,” especially if you took the job to help support yourself or pay for college. So don’t shy away from experience descriptions about your job as a barista or retail clerk.

2. Try to use most or all of the available space

Some experiences won’t merit all the available characters/words, but in my opinion, most will. You’ll be competing against other candidates who maximize the space. And when it comes down to optics, you don’t want to be the one who looks sparse/lazy.

3. List an activity twice under different categories (if possible)

Some applications let you do this. For example, maybe you’ve “worn multiple hats” by working as a scribe or medical assistant but also training or supervising new scribes or MAs. This would mean you could potentially list the same job twice under two categories (e.g. “patient care experience” and “leadership”). This can be an especially helpful tip for students who feel like they have a shorter-than-average list of experiences.


1. Include experiences from high school (or earlier)

Many applications explicitly say to only include activities from college and beyond, but even if they don’t say that, it’s pretty much an unwritten rule. Don’t do this. It shows a lack of awareness or comes across as a desperate attempt to boost your activity list.

2. Include minor experiences

Quality is more important than quantity. Don’t bother including an experience if it was a one-day event or a small five-hour commitment. If anything, it’d be best to group ALL minor volunteering roles into ONE entry.

3. Switch up your formatting

Whether you decide to write paragraphs or bullet points, use that same formatting for every single experience description. It’s also wise to maintain a similar order/style in the way that you present the information.

Templates and Examples for Experience Descriptions

Here are the key items for each entry:

  • One sentence/bullet to describe the activity if it’s not clear from the “Experience Name” you entered in the application/resume
  • One sentence/bullet to explain your primary role and its duties/responsibilities
  • One sentence to show your “trackable progress” within the activity (see below for details)
  • One sentence/bullet to highlight your most noteworthy accomplishments or contributions
  • One sentence/bullet to cover any key exposure(s) the activity gave you
  • One sentence/bullet to sum up the major takeaways, new skills, and lessons you gained

Show Your “Trackable Progress” Within Your Activities In the world of admissions, schools love to see applicants who have “left things better than they found them.” So, it’s great if you can show your measurable, trackable impact on whatever groups, clubs, initiatives, companies, etc that you’ve been a part of. These types of sentences or bullets are efficient, powerful ways to show that you thrived within your different roles and were recognized for your contributions.  Here are some examples of “trackable progress”:

  • Earned promotion within first three months of working for Company XYZ
  • Assigned new responsibilities of training recent hires and creating orientation manuals
  • Ran promotional campaign that tripled our club’s active membership
  • Garnered over half of the company’s referrals during the last two years
  • Updated and improved the lab’s protocols to cut costs by more than half

If possible, support these sentences or bullets with quantitative evidence and stats (EX: raised membership by 50%, trained 50+ employees, etc). This data will show a lot about your contributions without taking up too much space. Not all activities will have “trackable progress,” but we encourage you to rack your brain and include this whenever possible because it will help you stand out.

Experience Entry Example (Paragraph Format) - 600 characters

Medical Assistant

After being promoted from a volunteer to a compensated employee, I supported eight physicians and PAs by conducting patient assessments, recording vital signs, and aiding in exams and procedures. My tasks included removing sutures, preparing injections, and educating patients about treatments as I learned how to anticipate the providers’ preferences and the patients’ differing needs. I engaged in treatment plan discussions, enhancing my understanding of clinical workflows and healthcare roles, demonstrating a commitment to patient care and professional growth in the healthcare field.

Experience Entry Example (Bullet Point Format) - 600 characters

Medical Assistant

  • Earned promotion from volunteer to compensated employee
  • Assisted eight physicians and PAs; understood, anticipated, and implemented providers’ preferences
  • Conducted preliminary assessment of patients’ conditions, took medical histories, and recorded vital signs
  • Aided providers during exams and procedures
  • Removed sutures/staples and changed dressings; prepared injections and collected lab specimens
  • Educated patients regarding office visits, procedures, and treatments
  • Discussed treatment plans with providers
  • Learned about clinical workflow and different healthcare professionals’ roles

Final Thoughts

Crafting compelling experience descriptions is an invaluable skill in the application process. These brief narratives offer a golden opportunity to showcase your skills, achievements, and personal growth, painting a vivid picture of your capabilities and potential. Remember, it's not just about listing what you've done; it's about telling a story that highlights your contributions, progress, and impact.

By following the do's and don'ts outlined, utilizing the templates and examples provided, and focusing on trackable progress, you can turn these descriptions into powerful tools that capture the attention of admissions committees and employers alike. Stand out from the crowd by transforming your experiences into stories of success and ambition.

- Ryan

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For over 11 years, Ryan Kelly has guided hundreds of students towards acceptance into top colleges and graduate schools, with an emphasis on standing out while also staying true to themselves. Read more about Ryan here. Or book a free intro meeting with him here.

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