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The goal of any resume is to succinctly tell the reader who you are and how you spend your time while capturing your strengths. Though this task may sound daunting as a high schooler, this article will help you understand both the content and formatting of a resume by discussing my own high school resume.
Selecting Content for Your Resume
As a high schooler, you may be asking yourself what to put on your resume since you have spent most of your time as a student. Conversely, you may feel like you have done so many different things during different years of high school that putting it on a piece of paper sounds challenging. Start by brainstorming the ways you spend your time outside of your high school courses. You should think about everything you have done since the summer before your freshman year of high school; middle school activities and accomplishments should not be included. Think about community service, family responsibilities, paid or unpaid work, clubs at your school, and sports, to name a few. Even if the items you brainstorm seem disjointed, write them down. A high school resume is all about highlighting your skills, abilities, and interests.
After brainstorming your involvement outside of classes, think about why you are writing this resume — your objective. This will be adapted to the different places you send your resume; while colleges should receive a major and career-oriented objective, a potential internship or employer will receive an objective tailored to them. Not all resumes will include an objective. If you choose to include one, make sure it is authentic, concise, and free of grammatical errors.
When writing my objective, I primarily considered my intended major and career path while emphasizing some of the characteristics of myself that are both integral to who I am and applicable to the field I planned to enter. It is important to note here that I did not ultimately major in chemistry nor pursue medicine; the colleges who read your objective are not going to hold you to this, but they do like to see that you have an idea of what your future may hold.
First and foremost, your education section should include any high schools you have attended, along with your graduation date and GPA. My resume does not have a class rank since my school did not rank students, but this would be appropriate, particularly if you are near the top of your class. Some resumes also include SAT or ACT scores, but I only suggest including these when your resume is being submitted to academic institutions. Employers will be less likely to value them or understand the meaning of the score.
Other significant educational experiences can also be included in your resume. For example, I attended North Carolina Governor’s School during the summer after my sophomore year of high school and felt that this was a major part of my education. I chose to include it under this section rather than the Extracurricular Activities section, but it could have fit in either depending on the narrative path I chose for my applications.
Extracurricular Activity Descriptions
The bullet-pointed descriptions for the items on your resume are among the most important elements of your resume. This is where you attempt to concisely and descriptively explain your involvement in each activity. Your resume is not the place to be humble, because colleges and employers won’t know what you don’t tell them; strike a balance by what I like to call “humble-bragging.” Describe your accomplishments without boasting or exaggerating. I found it challenging at times to remember the details of an activity, the year I received an award, or when I started a job, so I recommend keeping track of this as you go. Start writing these things down now to make the drafting process less overwhelming.
While the applications themselves will limit you to approximately 150 characters, your resume is an opportunity to expand beyond the restraints. But, concision is still key. In place of complete sentences, use action verbs such as “organize,” “coordinate,” “compete,” or “manage” to convey your message. It is important to use the correct tense for these verbs, so use present and past tense appropriately.
Your descriptions should contain a mix of soft skills such as teamwork, communication, time management, and problem-solving, but should also include hard skills such as coding and language fluency. Be as specific as you can while emphasizing the impact and quantifying it whenever possible. How much money did you raise? How many hours did you spend? How many items did you collect to donate?
Two other elements should be included in your activity descriptions. First, if you receive awards connected to an activity, I recommend including them with an additional bullet point rather than the Awards section to make deciphering your resume easier for the reader. Second, highlight leadership roles that you have had, both appointed positions such as Class President and informal leadership you have demonstrated through mentoring or on a sports team.
There is a wide variety of templates to use for your resume, but my advice is to keep it simple and keep it consistent. I chose Times New Roman size 10 font since it is commonly used and easy to read. When formatting each item on your resume, use the same formatting; I chose to center all titles, bold the organization name, italicize my role, and use a square bullet point. While you want to maximize the space on the page, don’t make your font any smaller than a size 10 or compromise readability to fit everything on one page.
When organizing the activities on my list, I ordered them in reverse chronological order. Sometimes, this is difficult to do if your involvement in one activity overlaps another. Another way to organize your resume is by putting your most prestigious and time-intensive activities at the top. Though I considered this structure, I chose to use reverse chronology since my more prestigious activities were during the second half of high school anyway.
Finally, proofread your resume several times to avoid any grammatical errors and use a universal format such as PDF when sending your resume to others or submitting applications.
Professionalism is important on your resume since this could be your first and/or only opportunity to make an impression on the reader. By creating a resume as a high schooler, you will have a tool to continue adapting and modifying as you enter college and start your career. Some colleges will allow you to submit one, many scholarships will require one, jobs applications will request it, and college interviewers will appreciate it!
This informational essay was written by Caroline Marapese, Notre Dame ‘20. If you want to get help writing your Notre Dame application essays from Admissions Experts, register with CollegeAdvisor today.