Writing a resume for working professionals is already daunting, so it’s completely understandable to feel overwhelmed at the thought of building a resume as a high school student.
Part of Prepory’s college counseling services includes writing a high school resume and receiving unlimited support from your coach. We have served thousands of students and have found many students struggle with highlighting their accomplishments in a way that stands out to college admissions officers. High school students oftentimes do not believe they have done much or do not know how to generate results-oriented bullet points. We share some tips on what should be included in your resume and a resume template to help guide you through the process.
Why do you need an outstanding high school student resume?
High school resumes give colleges a snapshot of your work experience, extracurricular involvement, awards, and achievements. Resumes can also be helpful in preparing for interviews or to help your teachers and counselors who are writing your recommendation letters. Your high school student resume will also make it easier to apply for jobs in college because the format for resumes is not different.
What to include in a high school resume?
You can include anything on your high school student resume that you believe shows that you are qualified for the position. Your resume should list all of your prior work experience, but that is not all. A high schooler’s resume with no work experience can still include extracurriculars, volunteer experiences, etc. Keep in mind that your employer will take your year into account. If the resume is for college, you can include a wider range of things – colleges are looking for students that are both capable and well-rounded. However, you have limited space, so you want to be sure that what is included is the best “proof” of your eligibility.
Here are examples of items high schools may/must include:
- Contact information
Your resume for employment should list contact information first: name, phone number, address, and email.
- Academic Information
Along with the name of and address of the high schools you have attended, you should include your GPA (weighted) and SAT/ACT scores (if applicable). You can also include coursework that is either significant (AP or Honors classes), not listed on your transcript (college courses and workshops, for example), or is relevant to the position.
- Work/Volunteer experience.
Your work experience may be the most important section of the resume. These are some of the items on your high school resume that will require the most time and commitment. If you regularly volunteer for community service or other organizations, that can be a valuable addition.
Show admissions officers how you spend your free time. Put down what sports you’ve played (JV and Varsity) (as long as you list the start and end date of your participation), clubs you joined, student government positions, etc. Extracurriculars are also significant, showing off your interests and that you can balance academics with other commitments.
Scholarships, academic honors, publications, and other awards are great things to list on your high school resume. The requirements for these awards are normally available online, so there is no need to use up space explaining them.
You probably want to include skills and level of proficiency. Common skills listed on resumes are languages, programming languages, familiarity with certain computer applications. These are the kind of skills you would usually list or put on a college application, but you may want to list others depending on the position.
This can include making art, playing instruments, sports or athletics (not school-related). Hobbies would be especially fitting for your college resume, as admissions officers are looking for well-rounded students. For other positions, consider what your employers are looking for and if hobbies would be relevant. Regardless, your hobbies should take up little space on your resume if you include them.
Some people will list an “objective” or summary on the resume, as one of the first sections of the resume. This can be there to clarify the position you are applying for, or to briefly elaborate on why you would be qualified for the position. You may want to consider doing this if you have no work experience. Otherwise, this is not necessary and is redundant if the application requires a high school CV or cover letter.
4 steps to write a great resume for high school students
Here’s a breakdown of how to make a resume for a high school student. High school resume skills will be useful for college and beyond. If you develop skills for high school resumes, applying for jobs and prestigious positions will only be easier in the future.
Step 1: Create the outline of your high school resume.
Start with basic parts of your resume – the header and body. Your header will consist of your name and contact information. It is standard to have your name stand out in some way (center it, put it in full caps, bold, etc.). Your name should be clearly visible upon skimming the resume but try not to take up too much space.
You should then outline the body of the resume by creating headings to organize your resume items. Again, you would want the headings to stand out to make the structure clear to the reader. As you begin including items into your resume, you can then decide if some headings make more sense than others. For example, some students group their volunteering experience under the same heading as their work experience, and others might include under the same heading as their extracurriculars. There is no standard – just be consistent.
Step 2: Develop a master resume.
Now that you have a resume outline, you can begin your master resume, or “brag-list”. The master resume is a document that you will never submit, that contains all of your experiences and achievements. You create submittable versions of your resume from this master copy. This way, you do not have to worry about page limit or deleting information as you tailor your essay for different applications.
Consider all of the kinds of things mentioned above to put on high school resumes and begin organizing them under headings. Because you are not submitting this copy, do not worry about the “weight” or quality of the items yet. Simply have them on a document so you have them available to choose from when you create versions of the resume to submit.
It is best that you start making a master resume as early as possible, adding to it whenever you take on a new commitment, award, etc. along with the start and end date. Having the correct information in one place can save you a lot of time. Slowly growing your resume over your high school years will save you the burden of having to create your resume for college from scratch.
Having a master’s resume may also help with your recommendation letters. If your recommender asks for a resume, it may be better to give them something with more material, since they already have an idea of who you are.
Step 3: Add bullet-point explanations.
You can now start adding explanations in the bullet-point form beneath items on your high school resume. You want the reader to know what kind of skills, achievements, and time commitment each item either requires or demonstrates. Consider what speaks for itself, and what needs elaboration (hobbies, skills, and awards often do not). For example, it makes a big difference if you volunteer an hour a week or fifteen hours a week at a volunteer organization, and your reader will never know that if you do not mention it.
Use bullet point format without complete sentences, with past tense action verbs. Be concise and consider quantifying information. If you have more than one responsibility or achievement for any item, consider using separate bullet points. Here are few examples of typical explanations:
- “Cleaned litter at [location name] for 5 hours a week.”
- “Greeted and assisted customers with locating items.”
- “Completed a 6-page research paper on [topic].”
You do not add bullet points for every item on your final resume, but it may be helpful to write some under most items on your master resume. You can always delete the explanations on the final versions to save space.
Step 4: Tailor your resume to the position.
Once you have a fleshed-out master resume, you can tailor it to whatever position you are applying for. This means deleting experiences that are less relevant, editing or lengthening explanations to emphasize different capabilities, shortening explanations to save space, listing skills you would have otherwise excluded, etc. Whatever changes you make, always save this submittable resume as a separate copy from your master resume.
You will generally want your resume to fit onto one page. In tailoring your resume, you will want to figure out which accomplishments go onto the version you are submitting and which you will want to leave off. Note, it is not “cheating” to adjust the format of the resume to fit more information on other versions of the resume. For example, if you are a couple of lines over a page, it may be better to adjust the formatting rather than removing items.
Key takeaways about high school graduate resume
A good resume for high school students is not just a list of achievements. Because of the one-page limit, everything that goes on a resume for high school students should have a reason. That means resume building is a skill that needs to be developed. It requires you to figure out what is wanted from you and for you to effectively communicate your qualifications. If you have a master’s resume, making these decisions only becomes easier.
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FAQs related to resumes for high school students
How to make a resume for your first job as a high school student?
Use any experience you have volunteering or participating in extracurriculars. All of these involve responsibilities and commitment, so you can still exhibit similar qualifications through them. You can spend more time elaborating what you did for these activities on a resume for a high school student with no work experience.
How to format a high school resume?
Begin with contact information, and then organize your experiences under headers, ordered by importance (work experience, for instance, is generally considered most important and hobbies least important). Under the headers, it is common to organize experiences chronologically. Starting with the most recent or oldest is up to you – but be consistent.
How long should a high school student’s resume be?
Most resumes should be one page long and no more. This limit keeps the resume short and neat. This is not as limiting as it sounds. Use this guideline to decide what your greatest achievements and most defining activities are. Make your explanations concise and to the point.
How do I make a high school student resume stand out?
Shoot for quality and not quantity. Take up responsibilities that require leadership skills or commitment. Search for prestigious opportunities. Regardless of how “unique” your experiences are on your resume, you should state your responsibilities both specifically but concisely. This allows the items on your resume to say something about you.
Does a 15-year-old need a resume?
If you are applying to jobs, you generally will need a resume. Your employer will take your age into account. Whether or not you’re seeking a job, it is always a good idea to start building a resume. Slowly building your resume will make the later stages of the process less stressful.