TeenLife

    High School Resume: Tips for Success

    Posted September 12, 2022, 3:00 pm by Johnathan Kindall
    10-tips-building-your-high-school-resume

    Resumes are not just for adult job applicants. High school students applying to college, summer jobs and internships need resumes too. In fact, a well-written high school resume is more than just a list of accomplishments; it’s a snapshot or a picture of who you are and how you spend your time..

    So whether you’re applying to colleges, looking for scholarships, or searching for internships online, there are many different situations in which a high school student might need a resume. Do you have one? 

    If not, don’t worry: you’re not alone. Many students don’t even know where to start when it comes to resumes. Writing one can be a daunting and overwhelming task, even for adults, and for high school students who’ve never done it before, the process can be even more frustrating. 

    Maybe you don’t have any previous work experience and are struggling with finding items to fill out your resume. Maybe you’re wondering how it’s possible to summarize years of your life onto one sheet of paper. Or maybe you’re struggling to “sell” yourself in general. Whatever your trouble is with high school resumes, TeenLife is here to help. 

    In this article, you’ll find tips for all things related to resumes for high schoolers. Use the guide below to navigate! 

    Why Do I Need A High School Resume?

    Exterior of a high school

    Like in the professional world, a high school resume is an introduction. Potential employers, college admissions officials, scholarship decision makers and more all use high schoolers’ resumes to more fully understand the students they’re considering. 

    A great high school resume can take a student far, providing a snapshot that makes the reader want to know more. A bad resume can end up in the trash within seconds, closing a door before you’ve even had the chance to introduce yourself. For better or for worse, your entire future could depend on the strength of your resume. It’s important to make a good first impression. 

    That should be enough on its own to get you started, but there’s some other reasons why high school students should always have a resume handy. Here’s just a few: 

    It Shows That You’re Serious

    As we mentioned above, lots of high school students don’t even have a resume and, if they do, it’s not doing them many favors. Just having a clean, concise resume can set you apart from the crowd. It shows teachers, employers and other decision makers that you’re taking your application seriously and that you’ve dedicated time to presenting yourself professionally. 

    It Organizes Your Application

    Sometimes, just the act of writing out all of your accomplishments and activities can help organize your thinking. In fact, once all of a student’s achievements both inside and outside of the classroom are laid out on a single sheet of paper, it’s often easier to find a theme or commonality among the items. This can help students find what actually sets them apart and provides a great outline for writing a college essay.

    It Helps Teachers With Their Recommendations

    In a similar fashion, a well-made high school resume can help teachers, coaches or other school administrators in writing their recommendation letters for a student. When the writer has a well-made high school resume in front of them as they write, they’re encouraged to remember all of the student’s achievements in specific detail, which can often lead to a more persuasive letter. You want to give your recommender all the resources they need to make you look great, and a stellar high school resume is a perfect way to do so. 

    It Lets You Show Your “Real” Self

    Most college applications only have a certain amount of space when it comes to describing oneself and their achievements. In fact, some applications let students list an extracurricular activity but have no option that allows them to describe their specific involvement. Your high school resume therefore is a great opportunity to offer just a little bit more detail about yourself and the things that make you the person you are. 

    It Can Be Edited in the Future

    If you put the work into your resume now, it will save you a lot of time and energy further down the road. If you’re creating a resume for a summer job, it will be easy to edit that resume for college. If you’ve perfected your resume for college applications, it won’t take too much to adapt that piece for future internships. Once a student has the structure down, it’s easy to keep a resume up to date. For this reason, it’s encouraged that students start working on their high school resume as soon as they’re comfortable doing so. 

    So, that’s why a student needs a resume while they’re in high school. But now comes the big question: what are you actually supposed to put on it? 

    What to Put On a High School Resume 

    interior of a high school

    To paint the best picture of yourself, it’s important not only to include your interests, goals, skills and education on your high school resume, but also your contact information and other functional items. Below is a list of some of the things a typical high school resume may have (though don't be concerned if yours doesn't have every single item). 

    Contact Information

    This is straightforward, but it can be easy to forget if you’re focussed on your awards and achievements instead. Be sure to include your full name, phone number, email address and location on your high school resume. This should be in a prominent position towards the top of the page. 

    It’s important that your email address is professional as well — if your current email includes any juvenile language, be sure to set up a new one where employers or colleges can reach you. 

    Objective

    Think of this as your “elevator pitch.” Your resume objective should quickly and clearly describe who you are and why you’re the right candidate. This section of your resume should be no more than 3 - 4 sentences and should be tailored to whatever position you are applying for. 

    Be specific here and tie your skills to the position described. If you’re applying to a journalism school, highlight your writing, reporting and editing skills. If you’re applying to a sales position, include information about your mathematical ability and experience with collaboration. 

    Education

    A working adult will usually include this section after their work experience. However, high school students will almost always want to place their educational experiences first, especially if the resume is to be used as part of a college application. 

    In this section be sure to include the name of your school, the years you attended and the degree that you will earn. If applicable, you can include your GPA and any academic honors in this section as well. In some situations, students also include relevant coursework like AP classes in this part of their resume. 

    Work Experience

    If you have work experience it can be a great thing to include on your high school resume. Successfully holding a job while in high school shows colleges or other employers that you are a hard-working, dependable candidate. This can go a long way, so whether you were a lifeguard, babysitter, sandwich maker or all three at once, be sure to include such items on your high school resume. 

    If you’re including work experience, list the company name, your position, the time that you worked there, and the specifics of your duties. If you received any recognition or awards at this workplace, you should include them as well. 

    Volunteer Experience

    For students who have yet to find their first job, volunteering experience is a great thing to include. In fact, even if you do have work experience, it’s encouraged to include any volunteering you may have done on your resume, as such items are impressive to almost all colleges and universities. 

    Whether it was organized through a club or something that you did in your community during your free time, volunteering should be a part of any high school resume. Be sure to list the name of the institution you volunteered for, your position, what your specific responsibilities were and how long that you spent there. Even if you only volunteered for a semester, that’s worth including! 

    Extracurricular Activities

    Were you too busy at football practice to make it to many community service days? Were your weeknights so filled with play rehearsals that you couldn’t realistically hold down a part-time job and still get your homework done? Well then this is your chance to shine and show what you dedicated so much of your time to. 

    Colleges as well as employers know how intensive and important extracurricular activities can be in high school, so it absolutely makes sense to include such responsibilities on your resume. Any involvement should be listed, but leadership positions especially should be prominently displayed. 

    This section — as well as work experience and volunteering — is a great place for students who may have struggled academically to show off their other skills and strengths. If your GPA isn’t all that great but your resume shows that you were the captain of the basketball team, then a more well-rounded picture is being shown to the person reading your resume. 

    high school resume close up with pen

    Skills

    This can be a great section for students who may have a wide range of skills but not too much experience putting them into practice in an organized setting. This can include academic skills like writing or mathematics, technological skills like coding or computer building, and even artistic skills such as acting or drawing. 

    Essentially, a skills section on a high school resume is a great place to really showcase the talents and abilities that any one student may have. You can also include in this section any “soft” skills you may have gained from past jobs or volunteer work. Skills like customer service, retail experience and interpersonal communication are just as worth mentioning here as math or science ability. 

    Another great option for the skills section is language ability. If you have any experience in a secondary language — whether you’re fully bilingual or conversational after years spent studying in school — be sure to include it somewhere on your resume. Colleges but especially employers are always on the lookout for applicants who can speak another language, so if that’s a skill you possess, be sure to include it somewhere on your high school resume. 

    Hobbies and Interests

    This isn’t a section you’ll find on many professional resumes for adults, but for high schoolers it can make a lot of sense. For example: maybe you’re super passionate about chess but your school or local community has no club or team for you to be a part of.  That sort of interest can be included in this section. If you spend a lot of time on a particular hobby and feel as if it will help round out your application, don’t be afraid to include it. 

    Be careful though; that bit about rounding out your application is vital. Especially when it comes to resumes sent to employers, we recommend leaving out any hobbies or interests that don’t at least somewhat relate to the position you’re applying for. While your nights spent playing video games with your friends may be a big part of your identity, it’s not necessarily a skill that relates to a sales position or customer service job. In that case, it’s probably best just to leave it off. 

    So there you have it! A detailed look at all the different things that you can include on your high school resume. Of course, the operative word there is can; if every student included every section that we’ve listed above, then resumes would start turning into novels. No, choosing what to put on your high school resume and how to present that information is ultimately up to you.

    High School Resume With No Work Experience

    Group of students looking over their high school resumes

    Beyond your education, what’s included on your high school resume will largely depend on how you’ve spent your teenage years. Contact information, objective and education will be near the top of every high schooler’s resume, but beyond these essentials the format can be shifted to suit your needs and strengths.

    If you have lots of community service experience then you should probably lead with that. If you’ve worked three part-time jobs while in high school, then work experience would be worth placing near the top. If you’re a part of five different clubs, then extracurricular activities should be where you start. 

    The point is that your resume should be used to showcase your strengths. If you don’t have work experience, that’s completely fine. Many teens don’t, and while colleges consider it, it’s not something that will make or break an application. Even if you have no work experience, you probably have other achievements that are just as impressive. It’s the same situation if you don’t have a lot of volunteer hours logged. You can always include other projects you’ve worked on instead. 

    Remember: your resume is your chance to show off. Find what you’re best at, think about how and where you’ve spent your time, and include that above all else. Work, volunteering and other experiences are essential to many students’ resumes, but if they don’t fit into yours, don’t worry about it too much. Simply find what does. 

    High School Resume Tips

    lockers in a high school

    Now that you know a little bit about why you need a resume what to include on it, here's nine extra tips to take your teen's resume to the next level!

    1. Start Planning Early in High School

    If you wait until senior year to start your resume, the odds of remembering your accomplishments, honors and activities over the last four years will be slim. When you start high school freshman year, begin to keep track of everything you will need for your resume. As you keep track, you will identify areas that might need more attention: your GPA, your extracurricular activities, teen summer programs or your community service and volunteer work.

    2. Prepare Before You Begin Writing

    Start thinking about your skills, abilities and special talents. Gather all the information you’ve saved throughout high school and use this to put your thoughts and accomplishments down on paper. Preparing to write the resume is similar to brainstorming before you begin your college application essays. Sometimes it helps to talk with someone else about what might stand out among your activities or high school experiences.

    3. Use the Proper Format

    As with any resume, a high school resume should not be wordy or difficult to read. The best is a one-page resume; but it’s not uncommon to add a second page if you have a lot of activities or job experience. Make it any longer, and the reader gets bored and stops reading. Employers always recommend that job applicants keep the resume concise and to the point. If readers don’t see something to grab their interest on the first page, it’s unlikely they will keep reading.

    The resume should be written in an easy-to-read font and look professional. Use correct spelling, grammar and punctuation – ask a teacher, parent or other mentor to proofread it! The contact information should be at the top of the resume and specific area should have a bold heading: Education, Activities, Work Experience, etc.

    4. Use Action Verbs

    Use action words when describing your experiences, especially words that imply a skill or good attribute, such as “organized,” “created,” “designed,” “drafted,” or “led.” Incorporating action verbs paint you as a doer, not a spectator. These are attributes colleges and employers look for when considering your resume.

    female student with successful high school resume

    5. Be Consistent and Show Commitment

    Colleges look for consistency and commitment on high school resumes. A spattering of activities, volunteer work, and a long list of extracurricular activities will not impress college admissions officers. When college admissions officers look at your resume, they should see a student who demonstrates commitment to a few activities while keeping an academic balance.

    6. Don’t Pad Your Resume

    Your resume should be an extension of your college application and essay. Don’t pad it by pretending to be someone you are not. Present yourself honestly and don’t add activities for the sake of creating a long list. The resume should be an extension of who you are and what you will bring to the table if you are offered admission. Also, college admissions officers can often spot a fake.

    7. Review Example High School Resumes

    It’s helpful to review resume examples when working on your resume. About.com is another source for helpful writing tips and resume examples. You can find resume templates in Microsoft Word and Google Docs. You high school guidance office may also have resources on how to write a high school resume.

    8. Consider Using a Cover Letter to Introduce Yourself

    A cover letter is not necessary when you apply to college since you have the college essay to introduce yourself. But if you’re applying to internships or summer jobs, a cover letter can play a key role in encouraging the reader to look further at your resume. The letter is an introduction, outlining your reason for applying, along with a brief summary of the experience and qualifications that make you a good candidate for the job.

    9. Use Your Resume as a Marketing Tool

    A resume is one of the most important marketing tools you can use to sell yourself to colleges, impress scholarship judges, and get a part-time job or an internship during high school and/or college. You can also use your resume when asking for recommendation letters. It gives the people who are recommending you a reminder of your accomplishments.

    Put your best effort into your high school resume. It is a valuable tool for all students and will make life easier whether you are applying to college, for a job or internship or trying to win a scholarship.

    High School Resume Examples

    a male student with a successful high school resume

    There are hundreds if not thousands of sample resumes out there for students to use and base their own high school resume off of. Many of these templates are well crafted and have great tips to start building your own, and we encourage any student looking for inspiration to browse the web until they find a template that works for them. 

    We want to be sure and emphasize though that, while formatting your resume in a clean, concise and readable manner is very important, it’s not the end-all-be-all that some resume templates may suggest.

    For starters, there’s no one right way to build a high school resume. As we talked about, some students don’t have any work experience, so it wouldn’t make any sense to use a resume template that has that section built in. Other teens may not have much volunteer experience, so resume templates with that included should also be avoided. 

    Additionally, using a template may make it harder to edit your resume down the line. The resume you use for a job application may end up being completely different from the one you use to apply to college, so it’s important not to tie your resume to just one style or template. 

    No, the content of your resume is ultimately what’s important. Your achievements and skills are far more valuable to a college or employer than the color or font size of your resume, so don’t stress too much about the formatting. Find a template or structure that works for you, and tweak it to match your strengths. 

    In conclusion: no one else can write your resume for you! It’s not waiting out there for you on a template or sample. You know your strengths, skills and achievements better than anyone, so take the tips we’ve given you and get to work on your high school resume today!

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    Johnathan Kindall

    Johnathan Kindall is the Content Editor at TeenLife Media. He attended Boston University’s College of Communications, graduating with a Bachelors of Science in Journalism. Johnathan is dedicated to launching teens into life by providing a number of resources that help teens navigate the world of college, enrichment learning and more.

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