High School Student Resume: Building a winning resume for your college applications

College admissions time is hectic for both students and parents. There are forms to fill out, essays to write, records to request, financial aid to consider, and schools to visit. To get a head start on the process, sophomore or junior year  is the time to begin gathering information for your child’s application. College may seem far away to a sophomore, but application deadlines will be here before you know it.

Why have a resume at all?

  • It’s the quickest way to tell college admissions officers all they need to know about a person, according to Acceptedtocollege.com. A standard college application doesn’t always give a student room to highlight all of his or her accomplishments and experience. A resume will help bridge that gap.
  • It will help your child keep track of his or her accomplishments, says The College Board. When the time comes to fill out college forms, it’s easy to forget one or two things from the list. A written resume will help remind the student of every pertinent detail.
  • It can spark a college admission essay topic. Schools want to learn about an applicant through his or her essay. Reflecting on experiences from summer jobs, volunteer work, or school activities may lead to a unique essay topic that will make your child stand out.
  • Activities and achievements can lead to scholarships. Scholarship committees look for participation in extracurriculars, and some require that recipients must be involved in a particular activity. Identifying areas of interest will help your student find the best scholarship opportunities.
  • An impressive resume can lead to summer internships, jobs, or study-abroad opportunities that will strengthen your child’s college applications.
  • With a comprehensive resume, your child can organize his or her priorities when deciding where to apply. University life is full of opportunities, in and out of the classroom, and the choices can be overwhelming. If your child participates in something like competitive rowing, which many universities don’t offer, he or she may want to seek out the schools that do, says collegeapps.about.com. Listing activities and accomplishments can help a student figure out what he or she wants to continue doing after high school, and which colleges will offer the greatest opportunities.

Why start during sophomore year?

  • It can help your child target non-academic areas that need improvement long before sending out college applications. Although genuine interest in an activity should always be what ultimately inspires participation, according to collageapps.about.com, it’s a fact that colleges look for students who are well rounded and have good time-management skills. If your child hasn’t participated in many extracurriculars, for instance, there is plenty of time to get involved in something new before application time.
  • It can help your child identify academic areas to boost. Ecampustours.com recommends that students list their GPA, but only if it’s above 3.0. If it’s lower than that, an early resume will give your student an idea of what needs attention before it’s too late to bring those numbers up. It will also get your child thinking about the importance of high SAT and ACT scores.
  • A resume is a great introduction to a college recruiter. College fairs don’t always allow for long talks between recruiters and students. A quick introduction and resume hand-off will give your child the chance to connect with as many recruiters as possible.
  • It will get a student thinking about potential references. College applications ask for recommendation letters from teachers, coaches, mentors, and employers, and it’s never too early for your child to line these up.
What should be included on the resume?
Resumes are as unique as the people who write them, but certain conventions should be followed. Here is a checklist of what to include, from acceptedtocollege.com:
  • Name, address, email, phone number. (Some schools may also want to see a Social Security number, but if you are concerned about identity theft, it shouldn’t be a problem to leave it off.)
  • Education information. This includes the name and address of the student’s high school, GPA (if it’s brag-worthy), and class rank (if the student knows it). College courses can also go in this section, if the student has taken any.
  • Activities. These can be in or out of school—for example, marching band, intramural basketball, or youth group at the student’s church or temple. Especially important are any leadership roles the student has taken in these groups.
  • Other experience. A part-time job, participation in a walk for cancer awareness, or contribution to a science fair are all pertinent details.
  • Accolades. Academic awards or awards in extracurricular competition—state wrestling champion or member of the top-ranking marching band in the region, for example.
  • References. Names and phone numbers of teachers, coaches, employers, or internship directors don’t necessarily have to go on the resume, but it’s good to have these people lined up in advance.
  • Anything else that makes your child shine. A resume is the one chance a student will have to tell college recruiters everything they need to know. If something makes the student unique and interesting, by all means include it. Fluency in a foreign language or proficiency in advanced computer programs may qualify here. A word of caution, however: Don’t go overboard. The resume should contain only what a specific school will want to know, according to The College Board.

Other tips

  • A poorly written resume can be worse than no resume at all. It should be proofread (more than once) to ensure correct spelling, grammar, and punctuation.
  • The resume should be in a professional-looking and easy-to-read font, such as Times New Roman or Arial. The formatting should catch the eye of the recipient and bring attention to key items.
  • Be honest. When students lie—or even stretch the truth—on their resumes, it can come back to haunt them later, particularly when it comes to things like GPA and test scores. Read your child’s resume carefully to ensure all of the information is accurate.
Resume resources
What does the perfect resume look like? Check out some samples and templates (for high school students in particular) on the sites below.
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