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10 Tips for Building Your High School Resume

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Resumes are not just for adult job applicants. High school students applying to college, summer jobs and internships need resumes too. 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.

A college admissions officer should be able to read your high school resume and get an idea of your interests, your educational background and your goals.

If writing a resume seems overwhelming, you’re not alone. Most high school students struggle with writing a resume. Before you being, you may have some questions:

      • How do I begin a high school resume?

      • How do I list my accomplishments on a resume without bragging?

      • What is important on a high-school resume? What is not important?

      • How do I put down on paper my abilities and special talents?

      • What type of extracurricular activities should I include?

      • If I’m not applying for a job, why do I need a resume?

These are all valid questions. If, however, you use the 10 tips outlined here and the sample high school resumes and templates, you should be able to write a resume that will enhance your college application, complement your college essays and be useful in securing an internship, job or scholarship.

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.

Here’s one simple step-by-step tool: The Resume Workbook for High School Students, written by the advisors at The Damn Good Resume and Job Search.

3. Build a functional resume.

Remember that a winning high school resume needs to paint a picture of who you are. It should include the following:

      • Your basic information: name, address, phone and email.

      • Education: high school name and address, graduation date, class rank, GPA, specific courses.

      • Activities: extracurricular in and out of school

      • Community service: in and out of school. Make sure you list any leadership roles.

      • Work experience: any summer or school-year jobs.

      • Accolades: academic and nonacademic awards and honors

You can create a basic resume, then tailor it for each specific use. For example, on college applications, put more emphasis on academics, extracurriculars and community service. For internship and job applications, highlight your experience, community service and include references, pertinent skills and possibly your job objective. That might be, for example, to get experience working with animals or to learn business skills.

4. 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.

5. 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.

6. 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.

7. 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.

8. Review sample 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.

9. How to use 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.

10. 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.

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Written by Suzanne Shaffer

Suzanne Shaffer counsels parents and students in the college admissions process and the importance of early college preparation. Her Parents Countdown to College Coach blog offers timely college tips for parents and students, as well as providing parents with the resources necessary to help their college-bound teens navigate the college maze.

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