Top Tips for a Standout High School Resume
Students should begin working on their high school resumes as soon as possible and add to it at the end of every semester. This high school resume should include extracurricular activities such as involvement with school clubs, work experience, academic achievements, and volunteer work. Other sections can include interests, certifications, languages, and skills.
The advisors at International College Counselors will tell you that resumes have many benefits, including helping a student remember all that they’ve done.
Other purposes of a high school resume include:
• Having one to submit along with your application (many colleges and universities ask students to include a resume).
• Writing, reviewing, and reflecting on your resume may spark ideas for an essay topic.
• Filling out applications will be easier if you have a master list of your accomplishments, organized by date and categorized by activity.
• Sharing your resume with references, such as teachers or outside recommenders, will help them write an effective letter of recommendation.
• Having one to submit to scholarship organizations that require it as part of the application process.
• Using it to apply for internships, jobs, and study abroad programs, which often require a resume in order to be considered.
Your goal should be to create a concise and easy-to-read document that best presents you and your accomplishments. Here’s how to do just that:
1. Start with a list. Begin with ninth grade and write down all activities, honors, memberships, and academic enrichment programs by semester. Don’t forget summers, too, including the summer before ninth grade!
2. Organize your list into categories. Categories should include honors and awards, extracurriculars, community service, summer classes and programs, 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.)
3. Arrange information into subcategories and organize by date. Pertinent details to include are grade level(s) and time commitment (e.g., how many hours per week and how many weeks per year). You should follow each entry with a few sentences describing the activity or accomplishment. Be specific about positions, titles, organizations, and locations. Additionally, you should write out any acronyms so the reader knows exactly what you are talking about. If it’s a common activity, try to focus less on what the activity is (for example, they know what Model UN is) and highlight what role you played in MUN. Quantify your participation where you can—for example if you raised money or increased member participation, include the number or amount.
4. Keep formatting consistent and clear. The document should be organized in a simple and attractive manner. Use an 11-12-point, easy-to-read font such as Times New Roman, Calibri, Arial, or Cambria. At the top of the page, include your name, home address, phone number, and email address. You may also include your school name, graduation year, and GPA (if it is above a 3.5). Try to keep your resume to one page; make sure it does not exceed two pages.
As you create your high school 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. From Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business, here are 843 action words you can choose from.
• If an activity is ongoing, use the present tense.
• Present your activities and accomplishments in descending order—from most central to you as an applicant to least. For example, if you are a dedicated musician applying for a degree in music, do not list your monthly, organized beach clean-ups first. Similarly, if you are applying to major in Environmental Science, do not list your year of junior varsity soccer 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.