As a college student, you’re working toward what’s next. Whether that’s an internship, grad program, or full-time job, it’s important to find ways to stand out among the other candidates. One way to accomplish that is through a personal website.
The good news is, creating your own website has never been easier. Read on for step-by-step instructions on how to start a student website.
Why Should You Start a Student Website?
According to a 2018 survey by CareerBuilder, 47% of employers said they were less likely to contact a candidate if they couldn’t find them online, and 20% said they expected candidates to have some form of an online presence.
With a student website, you can tailor your online persona specifically for the job market. Having your own website helps you:
- Build your professional brand: A curated website displaying your achievements, skills, and personality gives employers a strong sense of who you are and what you’ll bring to their company.
- Connect with potential employers: You never know how a potential employer might find you. Having an online presence that you control is another way to put yourself out there to companies who are searching for candidates.
- Create an online portfolio: Your personal website is a place where you can provide detailed descriptions of your skills and easily share your online portfolio.
- Learn transferable skills: Starting your own website is an easy, low-pressure way to learn basic web design and dabble in other in-demand skills like writing and editing, SEO, and social media marketing.
What to Include on Your Student Website
The exact type of content you include on your website depends on your career field, professional goals, and interests. For example, a website for an aspiring photographer will look different from that of a future teacher. Researching other student and professional websites in your career field can help you determine the look and functionality of your site.
Generally speaking, you want your homepage (your site’s main landing page) to be engaging and informative, without being overwhelming. Introduce yourself to your visitors with a professional photo and some key facts about yourself.
Other common site features to include are:
- Resume/CV: You can use the resume or CV you submit with job applications, but be sure to remove any personal information like your address and phone number, so that it’s not visible to strangers on the internet.
- Portfolio/Projects: This section varies based on your specific field and experiences. You can include work samples, projects from classes or internships, and information about relevant volunteer or extracurricular activities. Photos and videos are an engaging visual way to share this content.
- Contact information: Create a contact form so potential employers and others can easily connect with you.
- Social media: If you choose, you can also connect your website to your social media accounts. However, be sure that potential employers won’t find any questionable content if they visit your Facebook or Twitter account as this can affect their hiring decisions.
- Testimonials: Give potential employers a sneak peek of what your references will say about you by including a few quotes from other employers, professors, coaches, or co-workers.
- Blog: A blog can help you share updates about achievements, events, ambitions, and insights with your site visitors, while showcasing your personality.
5 Steps to Starting a Student Website
1. Choose a Website Platform
First, you have to decide which platform you’ll use to build your website. Unless you’re a web designer or computer science major who knows how to code a website from scratch, your options are either a website builder or content management system (CMS).
A website builder is a tool that provides customizable templates with all of the essential elements for creating a website, including a domain name, web hosting, and an easy drag-and-drop editing interface. Platforms like Squarespace, Weebly, and Wix are examples of website builders.
A CMS is a software that lets users create and manage a website without needing advanced coding skills. WordPress is a popular CMS. It’s a free, open-source software that powers nearly 40% of the world’s websites and blogs. Sites built with WordPress need to get web hosting separately.
For users who want to create a website with WordPress, we’ll discuss web hosting more in-depth in the next section. If you’re unsure whether a website builder or WordPress is the better option for you, here’s a brief look at the pros and cons of both approaches:
Pros & Cons of Website Builders
- User-friendly interface; most use a drag-and-drop editor
- No coding skills needed
- Web hosting is bundled
- Gives the most control over site design and functionality
- Free to download and use
- Easier to change hosting providers later on
- Slightly less control over design and functionality
- Switching web hosts means rebuilding blog from scratch
- Form editor has a learning curve for some users
- Must purchase web hosting separately
2. Select a Web Hosting Plan
All websites need web hosting, which is space on a physical server where your website’s information is stored. If you decide to use WordPress or a different CMS, you’ll need to select a web hosting plan.
There are several different types of web hosting, but as a student starting a small, personal website, a shared hosting plan should be more than sufficient to support your site’s traffic.
There are a few things you’ll want to look for when selecting a web host, including:
- Bandwidth and storage space: Bandwidth refers to how much data can be transferred over an internet connection in a given amount of time. Storage space refers to how much disk space your web host gives you to store the data that comprises your website.
- Uptime: This is the measure of the amount of time your website is online and accessible to visitors. You want it to be as close to 100% as possible.
- Security: Your web hosting providers should offer security measures like SSL certificates, virus and malware protection, and firewalls.
- Free domain: All site owners have to pay to register their domain name, but as a perk for new users, many web hosts provide a free domain name for an introductory period, typically one year.
- Email account: A custom email address connected to your website’s domain name is another way to signal your professionalism, and many web hosts include an email account with their plans.
- Available upgrades: While a shared hosting plan, which has the most limited resources, is usually sufficient for new websites, it’s good to have the option to upgrade to a more robust hosting plan, if your website starts generating more traffic.
Free Plans Versus Paid Plans
While it can be tempting to host your website using a free plan, there are a few reasons why a paid shared hosting plan is worth the minor expense. In general, free hosting plans:
- Have the least amount of resources, fewer features, and a limited amount of customer service.
- Do not include the ability to connect a custom domain name for your website. Instead, users typically only get a subdomain, which they may or may not be able to customize.
- Will include their own advertisements on your site, which can detract from the professional look of your website.
Luckily, there are several web hosting companies and website builders that offer student discounts, or low-cost plans:
3. Register a Domain Name and Set Up an Account
Once you select your web host and plan, you’ll need to register your domain name, if you haven’t already done so.
Every website has a domain name, which is the web address users type into the address bar of their browser when they want to visit a website. If you’re looking at a URL like https://example.com, “example.com” is the domain name. Your domain name should contain your site’s title and end with a generic TLD like .com.
You can register a domain name at any time, even if you don’t immediately connect a website to it. As long as a domain name registration is valid, no one else can claim that particular domain name. Keep in mind that registering a domain name means paying an annual fee (usually $10 to $20). If you wait until you sign up for web hosting, you may find a plan that includes free domain name registration for a year.
Since this is a personal website, your domain name is ideally your first and last name. If this is already taken (you can find out by checking a domain name registrar, or Googling it), you may have to get a little creative, but try not to overcomplicate things. A good domain name is unique, descriptive, relatively short, and easy to type and remember.
The other steps you will take at this point vary slightly based on whether you are building your website using WordPress or a website builder. WordPress users will need to install the software, unless you select a web host that comes with WordPress pre-installed. Either way, your web host should provide you with instructions for setting up WordPress.
If you are using a website builder, you will not need to install any software after signing up for an account. Because site builders are web-based tools, you’ll have access to all the tools you need to start creating your website.
4. Design Your Website and Add Content
Both website builders and WordPress offer a multitude of tools for customizing the look and functionality of your website, including pre-made templates or themes that can be tailored with your own text, images, videos, fonts, colors, and more.
Your first step will be to browse through the available templates to find one that best suits your needs. When choosing, focus on what you’re trying to project with your website — you want a site design that demonstrates your professionalism, enthusiasm, knowledge, and personality.
You can also extend the functionality of your website with apps and plug-ins available from WordPress or your website builder. Some of these tools are meant for back-end use, like search engine optimization and security widgets. Others are front-facing, like contact forms, calendars, and social media buttons.
When it comes to content, strike a balance between quality and quantity. A potential employer won’t spend hours on your site reading your life story. Make it easy for visitors to find the information they need and choose the most relevant, impactful experiences to highlight.
5. Maintain Your Student Website
Building your pages, uploading content, and adding plug-ins will take a fair amount of time. However, once all of that is done, you can’t forget about your website completely.
Update your website as often as you can, so when a potential employer visits, they’re getting the most accurate information about your current school, job status, achievements, and skills. At the very least, you should refresh your website at the end of each term, to reflect any new projects or internships you completed, and skills you learned.
Add your website link to your resume, LinkedIn profile, and other social media accounts. This will help drive traffic to your website, raising your profile and hopefully connecting you to the perfect employment opportunity.