Ask Admissions Girl: When should I start writing my high school resume? How do I write a high school resume?
Writing your first resume can be a daunting task, but a high school resume is a great way for you to show your academic and extracurricular experiences to prospective employers and colleges. Generally, we recommend keeping a running list of activities you are involved in starting in 8th or 9th grade, and writing your first resume in 10th or 11th grade when you plan on applying for your first job, or as you start your college search.
Why? There number of cases where having a high school resume will be beneficial as you are preparing for college. A high school resume is beneficial when:
- Applying for a summer job, or internship
- Signing up for pre-college courses or programs
- Applying for scholarships
- Attending college fairs
- Filling out college applications
Now that you know when you may need a high school resume, brainstorm a list of what you can include. Write down everything that you have been involved in during your high school years. This list should include extracurricular activities (volunteer, club, sports, or work), classes you excelled in, honors you have achieved, languages you learned, computer skills, and high schools you have attended. Spend some time getting together the dates that go along with these activities, and then you will be ready to start organizing, writing and designing your high school resume!
Step One: Organize
The first step to writing a high school resume is determining which accomplishments to include and how to best organize them!
Start with your contact information. This includes your name, address, phone number, and email address. Your name should be the first and most prominent part of this section, but we’ll get into formatting later.
In this section include your high school’s name and address, your expected graduation date and GPA, honors or AP classes you are taking. If you have a field of study you are focusing on, you can include that here as well. It is okay if this section is rather short, there is no need to include anything before high school. Honors received can be a subheading in this section, or it can be its own section (see below).
The next section should be your work experience. It is okay to include an under-the-table job like babysitting or mowing lawns, or a retail job – work experience doesn’t have to relate to your academic work. You can even include volunteer and unpaid positions you may have held, especially if the experience shows leadership. If your list of activities and jobs is extensive, you can separate some experiences into other categories labeled “community service” or “volunteer experience.” Or, if you have less experience, feel free to combine all of these things into one section.
Organize the experiences in each section starting with the most recent and work backwards. Next to the job title, include the company, and the dates you held the position. This can be done in several formats. If it was a summer job, you can write “Summer 2010″ or “May – August 2010.” Under this, in a bulleted or short paragraph format, describe your experience, highlighting what you learned by working or volunteering there, and what you did.
Honors & Awards
Include any honors and awards you may have achieved. This can be a variety of things such as National Honors Society, volunteer awards, honor roll, etc.
Skills can be one general heading or can be separated into computer skills and language skills (in some cases you will want these to be two separate headings). Computer skills can be “Expert in Microsoft Excel”, or “Proficient in Adobe Photoshop.” Language skills will include languages you speak and skill level (Beginner, Conversational, Fluent). If you are a skilled fencer, or accomplished downhill skiier, you can add these skills to a section labeled “Interests” or can add them into your extracurricular section. The skills section tends to be more technically related, but it is your resume, make sure it best portrays the qualities you want to show employers or colleges. If you are not sure what category your experience or skill fits into, ask a counselor or teacher for help!
Extracurriculars are important to include on a resume because they show that you are involved in things outside of the classroom. In some of these activities, perhaps you even held or hold a leadership position such as team captain or president of a club. Include all of the organizations or groups you belong to, as well as dates you participated. If it is a sport you can include the level (JV, Varsity) and years on each level, you can also include highlights such as “state champs” or “helped establish first girls hockey team” or “raised over $20,000 to send team to training camp.”
Step Two: Writing and Designing
So that’s just what to include, now you need to know how to include it. In this section I will be giving you some tips on the best ways to write/ phrase your high school resume, as well as how to design it!
Grammar and Punctuation
Do not use slang. Your resume is a professional version of you so do not include slang, curse words, and abbreviations (for professional things like GPA, that’s fine, I’m talking about saying “probs” instead of probably, for example).
As a rule, stay in one tense; if you held a position in the past, write it that way. If it’s ongoing/a job you currently hold, it’s okay to switch tense and write in the present. i.e. you provided excellent customer service last year vs. you currently assist customers and handle incoming inquiries.
You’ll also want to keep your description short. While they can be bulleted and not in complete sentences, make sure that however you punctuate, you remain consistent (note: grammatically, it’s not necessary to use a period at the end of a bullet point, though you can)
As for the writing style, make sure to use strong action words and avoid ambiguity. For example, use words like created, developed, utilized, and performed. It sounds more impressive than saying “I served customers”… Additionally, try to avoid using words like “things”. Whenever possible, give concrete examples rather than alluding to something vague.
Unless you’re a graphic designer (which I am assuming you are not) stay away from using images, logos, or color in your resume (at least for now). There are entire fields of study dedicated to how to layout pages with fonts and graphics, so unless you know how, it’s better to avoid it all together.
Here’s what to do instead…
- Make sure each section is clearly defined- Bunching all of your words together makes it hard to read, and if it’s hard to read, people probably wont bother.
- Don’t use crazy fonts! (or Times New Roman)- Typography is the study of type, i.e. fonts, so there’s a science and method behind when and where to use a certain one. As a rule, don’t use anything too showy or hard to read (like papyrus, lucida calligraphy, or comic sans, and yes, comic sans is only good for comics). You might think these look cool, but they come off unprofessional. On the other hand, Times New Roman is too ordinary (since it is the default font on most computers), and you want your resume to stand out. Instead, consider using fonts like Helvetica, Calibri or Century.
- Utilize sizes, bolds, and italics- To separate things of importance, make them stand out by bolding. You would use this in places like your name, section heading and positions or awards. You can then make the next row (like date or company) Italic, saving the regular old formatting for the real content.
- Utilize the whole page- Don’t just cram everything on the left side of the page, make sure to spread things out, even if it’s just the heading.
- Organize- Typically, the order of each section can change depending on the job you want and what skills you want to display. As a rule, the most important sections always go first. This usually means work experience and education, but again use your judgement on placement or search similar resumes online to get some hints.
- Use a template- While all the above tips can be helpful for students starting from scratch, I should point out that Microsoft Word (the newer versions) has built-in resume templates you can choose from. This can be a great tool for students just starting to develop their resumes.
To help you understand all of this a little bit better, I’ve also put together an example resume. Keep in mind, this is just one example, there are many ways to write one, so do a little research to see which styles you like, and which you dont.