Writing a resume as a high school student may seem like a daunting task. You might be asking yourself, “Why do I need a resume?” or “What will my resume look like if I don’t have much work experience?”
It is important to know that resumes have many benefits:
- Many colleges and universities will require you to submit a resume along with your application.
- Reflecting on what you have participated in and what you have achieved may spark ideas for an essay topic.
- Having a master list of your accomplishments will prove useful when it comes time to filling out applications.
- References may ask for a resume to help them write a letter of recommendation.
- Some scholarships require a resume.
- Internships, jobs, and study-abroad programs typically require a resume.
The bottom line is: You want to create a concise and easy-to-read document that best presents you and your accomplishments. Here’s how to do just that:
- Create a list. Start with ninth grade and make note of all activities, honors, memberships, and academic enrichment programs by semester. Don’t forget summers, too, including the summer before ninth grade!
- Organize the information into categories. Categories should include honors and awards, extracurriculars, community service, sports, enrichment (think summer class or program), special skills (e.g., languages spoken), certifications, and work experience (note: this is last for a reason! Colleges do not expect you to have a TON of work experience, and if you’re busy with other pursuits, you do not have to have paid work experience).
- Organize the information into subcategories and arrange by date. Include details like grade level(s) and write a few sentences describing each activity or accomplishment. Be specific about positions, titles, organizations, and locations. Also, write out any acronyms so the reader knows exactly what you are talking about. Focus less on what the Key Club does (they know) and highlight what role you played in the Key Club the years you participated.
- Format the information. The document should be organized in a way you think is clear and attractive. Use a 11-12-point, easy-to-read font such as Calibri, Arial, or Cambria. At the top of the page, include your name, home address, phone number, and email address. Ideally, your resume should be one page. Make sure it does not exceed two pages. You may also include in the first section your school name, graduation year, and GPA (if it is above a 3.5).
As you create your resume, here are some more tips to keep in mind:
- Begin each bulleted description with an action verb such as created, launched, managed, guided, or assisted.
- If an activity is ongoing, use the present tense.
- Quantify achievements (e.g., increased membership by 60%, recruited 50 volunteers, etc.).
- Present your activities and accomplishments in descending order—from most central to you as an applicant to least. For example, if you are an environmentalist applying for a degree in earth science, do not list your monthly, organized beach clean-ups last. Similarly, if you are a dancer, do not list your year of junior varsity swimming at the top of your resume.
Lastly, make sure to get an expert, like someone at International College Counselors, to proofread your resume and give you feedback.
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