How to Make a High School Résumé

Students and parents can help to create a strong record of accomplishments.

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Gains in graduation rates and college readiness helped Miami-Dade win the 2012 Broad Prize for Urban Education.

Résumés aren't just for job seekers; high school students applying to colleges need résumés, too. Here are some tips for making the process an easy one.

JULIE:

We were surprised when Lindsey's high school counselor asked the students—juniors at the time—to complete résumés as part of their college search process. But it turns out that creating a résumé of activities and accomplishments can be a helpful tool when it comes time to apply for college admission and scholarships.

[Find out what to ask a high school counselor.]

In some cases, the résumé may be submitted as a standalone piece of information. Other times, it will be referenced in order to complete an admission or scholarship application.

And if you'll be asking a teacher, counselor, or employer to write a letter of recommendation—and, chances are, you will—that résumé will be a valuable tool for him or her as well.

Here are some things that helped when Lindsey was creating her résumé. They're currently helping her younger brother, a high school junior, as well.

1. Start early: It's so much easier to keep track of information as your student progresses, rather than to try to recreate a high school career late at night, with an application deadline looming.

Start by jotting down a simple list of activities, jobs, honors, and awards, and then add to it when you or your student run across a pertinent piece of information. 

2. Be specific: Did your student help raise money for a charitable cause? Make a note of how much money was raised, and whether that was an increase over the previous years' amounts.

Did he or she organize a school event? Make a note of the budget amount or the number or people who attended. Also, have your child write down every thing he or she did in the process of raising that money or organizing the event.

Have your student be similarly detailed about academics, jobs they've held, or honors they've been awarded. All of those details will make a scholarship essay or application for admission stand out.

[Explore other ways to help your student apply to college.]

LINDSEY:

As a high schooler applying to college for the first time, I didn't think I'd have much to put on a résumé. It turned out, however, that I had more assets to share than I thought.

That being said, I still wish I'd had more information my freshman year of high school about how to build a strong résumé over the next three years. Here's what I've learned since then, which you can use to your advantage, no matter where you are in your high school career.

1. Think quality: It's natural for students to want to fill two or three pages with information, but your résumé should really highlight just a few things with which you are most involved. It's fine to include smaller activities or honors, but what colleges likely want to see most are strong commitments for longer periods of time. 

[Find out how to make extracurricular activities pay off.] 

2. Edit, edit, edit: It may sound harsh, but as soon as a college admissions representative comes across a typo in your résumé, your application automatically has a red flag. College representatives read résumés often; their eyes are trained to spot even the slightest spelling or grammar error.

Furthermore, many application processes are highly competitive. Application reviewers are looking for anything to discredit your application, and typos can be one of those things. Run your résumé past your counselors, teachers, and parents before submitting it anywhere.