University of Iowa students sprucing up their résumé in the hunt for summer jobs should not overlook a free online tool provided by the university to help them track and promote their accomplishments.
More than 3.8 million students and alumni at more than 250 colleges and universities nationwide have created a Merit Page, a personalized web page listing their school achievements and work activities. These profiles differ from résumés and online services such as LinkedIn in that the student’s university can add achievements, awards, and other accolades to the student’s profile, effectively verifying the accomplishments.
Angi McKie, senior director of operations at the Pomerantz Career Center, says it’s important for students to keep track of their accomplishments.
“Students do so much during college that they may overlook but that are really valuable experiences to showcase their abilities when it comes time to apply for internships and positions post-graduation,” she says.
Marisa Powers, a third-year student studying accounting in the Tippie College of Business, first made her Merit Page as a freshman when her mother, a UI employee, introduced the platform to her.
“To be honest, as a freshman in college, I was just doing what my mom told me,” says Powers. “But I’ve learned how it can be used as tool to market yourself to employers or for grad school.”
Powers is one of 41,277 current and former UI students with Merit Pages. All incoming UI students receive an email during their first semester that gives them the opportunity to create a Merit Page or to opt out. Though fewer than 1 percent of students opt out, about 44 percent update and maintain their Merit Page, becoming an “active engager,” of which UI has about 18,570.
Powers has updated her profile with her work experience as a bank teller and mentoring at-risk teens about finances, among other things. This summer, she will update her Merit Page with her soon-to-be internship experience from PricewaterhouseCoopers, one of the largest auditing firms in the world.
The UI has updated Powers’ profile to reflect her participation in Dance Marathon and her four-time inclusion on the Dean’s List. The university’s updates appear on Powers’ page as badges with accompanying text explaining the accomplishment and a “Verified by the University of Iowa” caption.
“I also have a LinkedIn profile, but one thing that I do find interesting about Merit Pages is that those things are verified by the school,” says Powers, “whereas with a LinkedIn profile, anybody can put anything they want on there.”
The university has awarded badges for more than 11 achievements across six categories since last April, including most recently the Hawkeye Caucus, and has plans to expand recognition to include things such as scholarships, awards, and certificates.
Employers, high schools, and parents can subscribe to follow a student and receive email notifications when the Merit Page is updated.
Though Powers didn’t use her Merit Page when applying for her internship at PricewaterhouseCoopers, she still tells her sister, a UI freshman, to start and maintain a Merit Page. Powers says that her page has definitely been useful as an archive of her activities.
“That’s kind of the biggest thing that I use it for,” she says, “to remind me what I’m doing. Sometimes we get so involved in different things that you kind of forget. You think you will remember, but you really don’t.”