Writing a High School Resume

Author’s Note: I originally published this Small Town Top College Podcast episode in 2016. In an attempt to make the information from the STTC blog more accessible, I’m moving to Medium.

Tell me about your biggest achievements in the next 20 seconds.

(Give it a shot, I’ll wait.)

How did it go? It’s tough, I know. Resume’s give interviewers and college admissions officers a way to get an overview of your accomplishments quickly. Having a great resume will serve you well in the college admissions process and beyond. This article focuses on:

A resume (also known as a CV) is a document used to showcase your skills, experience, education, and hopefully some of your personality. It’s not just a list of awards and clubs.

Most people don’t learn to write a good resume until they start applying for internships and jobs in college. I didn’t have a good one until one of my fraternity brothers sat down with me freshman year to help me change mine

I wish I had created one in high school.

While the majority of people don’t, creating a high school resume (as opposed to a professional resume) is a great investment. You will look more professional and organized than other applicants who haven’t created one.

You will also give your recommendation letter writers some excellent ammunition. Even though the teachers, mentors, and other notable people writing your letters know you, you know your accomplishments far better. It’s your job, not theirs to remember everything you’ve achieved, and if you give them some reminders, your letters will come back far more powerful and make you look much more attractive as an applicant.

However, building a resume isn’t as easy as tossing all your awards on a Word document. This is what I did in high school, and it was so ugly.

Wow, that’s bad! If you want a good resume to show off to interviewers, start by following these steps.

Step 1: Collect

Most of you have probably accomplished a ton during high school. Have you kept track of it all? It can be difficult. But, if you keep it all together, you’ll make writing your resume a much simpler task.

If you haven’t done this already, immediately start a folder on your computer (and probably a physical one too) where you can store important documents. Things like:

If you win an award that doesn’t have any documentation, record it somewhere in your folder.

If you can’t remember all the things you’ve won, look through old yearbooks, ask your parents, and ask your teachers and coaches. Try to find it all, as you never know what will be the most useful and pertinent.

Step 2: Write

Now that you have your material, you need to begin putting it down on paper. Don’t worry about the length or formatting at this point. What you are working on now is getting everything down on paper, so you can manipulate it later.

Make a list of all the activities that you’ve been a part. Under each one you should try to write two to three bullet points describing the activity in PAR statements.

What are PAR statements?

Glad you asked! PAR stands for Project, Action, Result. This means using a past tense ACTION verb to describe the PROJECT and the RESULTS that followed.

Here’s an example from my own professional resume:

Product Engineering Student/ Member of Team Glow

Notice the use of PAR principle.

Use this strategy for as many activities as you can. It will be more difficult when describing activities in which you were less involved or ones that were less goal-oriented.

To help you out, here is a list of action verbs from To Boldly Go: Practical Career Advice for Scientists, by Peter S. Fiske.

Step 3: Template

Now it’s time to pick a template. You can find a bunch of them online if you simply Google “resume templates” and download a free one. Microsoft Word also has some templates stored internally. Or if you’re a Microsoft Word or Mac Pages guru, you can make your own!

I’ve actually recreated what my resume should have looked like in high school.

Download the template

Hopefully there aren’t any typos, as I harp on that later.

Let’s talk through the categories:

Other categories that you might include

IMPORTANT: This list is not exhaustive, and my categories won’t fit everyone. Depending on your activities and experiences, your resume might work better with a different set of categories. Choose whichever template and category set best illustrates your accomplishments.

Step 4: Format

Now it’s time to make your resume look sharp. For this I will turn it over to the resume masters from theUndergraduate Practice Opportunities Program (UPOP) at MIT. They did an amazing job helping me with my resume, so I will simply post their advice here. Some of it is a MIT-student oriented, but the rest is directly applicable to you.

Download UPOP Resume Checklist

Download UPOP Example Resumes

Step 5: Proofread, Proofread, Proofread!

This is hugely important! A resume with spelling and grammar errors is worse than no resume at all. Once you have everything written, get your friends, family, and teachers to read it to ensure you don’t have any mistakes.

A Few Final Tips

So there you have it. Hopefully you now have a great resume now that will make you look more professional when you ask for letters of recommendation or complete your college interviews.

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