The Senior Resume for High School Students

by Julie Rains on 2 February 2012 0 comments

As a career-services provider, I have developed resumés for high school seniors to accompany their college applications. Much of this work involved organizing innumerable details of a laundry list of activities, highlighting academic and extra-curricular achievements, and demonstrating leadership skills.

Now, as the mom of a high school senior, I have a different take on the high-school resumé. While learning about the college-application process, I discovered that this document was not supposed to remake my nearly adult child into the most stellar applicant ever (though, certainly, there are students who reasonably have such a goal) but to show who he is. More precisely, its purpose is to shed light on how he spent his time, what novel and difficult situations he encountered, and what he valued (evidenced by how he allocated his hours in high school), whether in sync with his parent's desires or not.

So, I'll share with you the specifics of what I learned, hoping to relieve some stress and improve your productivity during your senior year. (See also: Great Ways to Improve Your Resume Today)

Why a High-School Senior Needs a Resumé

The best reason to put together this type of resumé is to capture what’s relevant about your high school career in order to help you develop your applications to colleges, universities, or technical schools. Specifically, you will use this information for the following reasons:

  • Provide insight to teachers, counselors, supervisors, etc. for letters of recommendation
  • Discuss your background with guidance counselors and college advisors
  • Identify topics on which to elaborate in personal statements and essays
  • Recall information to complete various sections of college applications and scholarship applications

And, unlike most types of resumés, the main purpose of this document isn’t to win a job interview or land a job. However, those who may be pursuing work-study arrangements, a part-time job, or an internship can make adjustments to emphasize work experience, entrepreneurial ventures, and freelance activities.

What to Put on the Resumé

The guidance counselors at your school probably have a form for you to complete or an example to follow. Use that as a guide to make sure you include pertinent information. Depending on your school’s requirements, complete the forms as requested, but feel free to create your own version of your high-school history (or take a look at this example resume I made). Typically, the major categories are:

  • Name and Contact Information
  • College and Career Choices (optional)
  • Academic Record with info on Class Rank, GPA, SAT scores, AP classes, etc.
  • School Activities
  • Community Activities
  • Work Experiences
  • Honors and Awards
  • Other Items of Interest (such as personal interests that are not covered in the above categories or a short personal statement indicating obstacles you have overcome, like a learning disability, personal or family setback, or unexpected change in circumstances)

When you are putting everything together, most of the information will emerge naturally. You’ll remember which years you played soccer or volunteered at the humane society, the fall seasons that you ran cross country or played in the marching band, and the dates that you were in the school play or were inducted into the honor society.

But other information may be tougher to bring forth, so take your time to recall as much as possible, whether you immediately consider an activity relevant or not. Ask your parents, friends, and grown-up advisors (like teachers, coaches, youth group leaders, etc.) about things you may be missing.

How to Categorize, Explain, and List the Activities

Some items, like your name and AP courses taken, will be easy to categorize and need no further elaboration. A few are straightforward, like your participation on the soccer or swim team. But many are more complicated, as certain activities could fall under more than one category plus need elaboration for readers to understand.

Place activities in the category that makes the most sense to you. For example, my son tutored elementary school kids during the off-season and worked on a Habitat for Humanity project as a part of an outreach program organized by the head football coach. Likewise, he completed service hours as part of membership requirements for the academic honor society. Rather than placing these items under “football” or “honors,” he classified these activities as community service.

Explain and elaborate on certain activities. Most people have heard of Habitat for Humanity, so listing the item is sufficient. But the two weeks that my son spent repairing homes and getting to know impoverished homeowners in rural areas with a lesser-known group can use some explanation. And special designations or leadership roles, even minor ones, need elaboration; that is, tell us if you were a photographer for the yearbook or the sports editor for the school newspaper.

Figure out and give time frames for each activity. Specify frequency and over what period of time. Be consistent with each activity, using the same types of references for all items (for example, list junior year or Grade 11, summer after junior year or Summer 20XX rather than a mixture of these formats). Many applications will request hours devoted to each activity, which can be useful but is not necessary for this type of resumé.

Add or adjust categories that best reflect your activities and accomplishments, even if this means deviating from a standard format. For example, consider a heading for awards to list accolades associated with music, science, and scouting apart from academic honors; a separate section for these makes sense even if most people you know don’t have such a heading. Create an experience category if you have held a traditional job, run a side business, or earned money by providing manual labor for neighbors. If you'd like, add a personal statement so that you can have that information handy when you fill out applications.

Senior year should be fun. This mom's advice is to go ahead and put together the resumé as early as you can so that you can move quickly but thoroughly through college applications.

What have you learned about writing a high-school resume? What worked best for you?

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