Five Things to Put on Your Resume in High School
If you’re like many high school students, writing your first resume can seem like a catch-22. To get experience, you need to build a strong one, but to build a strong one, you need experience. What’s a teen to do?
Don’t worry. Everyone has to start somewhere, and if you think outside the box it’s likely that you actually have a lot of experiences and skills that are already worthy of being on your resume. So, whether it’s for a part-time job or a summer program, in this post, we’ll outline why you need a resume and the five essentials you should include on your first resume.
What Is a Resume?
A resume is a concise description of your unique skills and experiences, as related to professional skills. It is usually one typed sheet of paper that outlines your experiences, whether they be work or otherwise, in a career-oriented way. This includes both things you have done and skills you have learned.
There are many different formats for resumes, and the format you use will vary more and more as you grow into certain professions or career fields. For example, in the service industry you might include a photo of yourself on your resume, whereas in a STEM field, you’ll include a list of specific programs you’re experienced running. For a high school student, though, it’s fine to keep your resume brief and fairly general.
Why Do I Need a Resume?
For most adults, resumes are just another part of a professional persona, but for teens, resumes can provide a valuable edge. In fact, they are absolute necessities for many selective summer programs, job applications, internships, and more. Even if you’ve never needed a resume in the past, there’s a good chance that you’ll need one soon.
Resumes are often requested when you are applying for a job or internship. Even in application processes where they are not requested formally, they are nearly always appreciated since they provide a focused summary of who you are as an applicant.
Resumes aren’t just for work, either. Sometimes you will need a resume for a scholarship application, a summer program, or even to secure a volunteer position. Many students even include them in their college applications or make them available at college interviews.
While you aren’t guaranteed that you’re going to need a resume anytime soon, they are simple enough to build and valuable enough to have that you should devote a few hours to putting together a strong one. You should always be prepared with a resume rather than regret that you don’t have one.
To get started on yours, be sure to include these five essentials:
1. Work Experience
This is the most obvious component of a resume, but many high school students struggle with it because they believe they don’t have relevant experience to include. This is why you need to broaden your definition of work experience.
Of course you should include any recent jobs you’ve held, but you should also include less formal experiences too. If you’ve helped your neighbors look after their pets or plants while they’re away, babysat for younger siblings, or even volunteered at the church nursery, you should include all of these things. Volunteer work and unpaid internships are also great experiences to include.
When you describe each of these experiences, try to include the time commitment, skills used and built during this experience, and any quantifiable results or summaries. For example, if you have looked after your neighbor’s dog and house consistently over the past two years while they’re on vacations, you might outline your experience like this:
(January 2016-Present) House and Pet Sitter:
Responsible for overseeing neighbor’s home and pet for periods ranging from two days to two weeks. Met all obligations consistently including walking and feeding the dog, watering all plants, reporting any changes or concerns immediately to the homeowner, and maintaining the home through general tasks such as bringing in the mail and shoveling the driveway. Exhibited trustworthiness and responsibility throughout.
In addition, if you can think of any specific ways in which this experience relates to a potential job or internship, be sure to state them. In the example above, if you are applying to volunteer at your local animal shelter, you might include that you developed confidence and comfort around unfamiliar pets.
Want to join over 14,000 students and parents receiving our exclusive high school and college admissions info? Sign up for our email list:
Activities are another way to demonstrate your unique skills and interests. If you have a few solid experiences to include under the work experience heading on your resume, you can simply list your activities and include the time commitment and duration of your participation for each.
If you don’t have much by way of other experiences to include on your resume, you can pad it out a bit by combining the work experience and activities sections. In this case, you can list your extracurricular activities in much the same way as your work experiences, taking extra care to point out the most relevant skills demonstrated and built through these experiences.
It’s important to explicitly outline specific skills that are relevant to the positions or activities you’re applying for with your resume. For example, if you are applying for a summer program in robotics, you should list the programming and codes you’re familiar with using. You might also note more general skills like teamwork and leadership, but if you do so you should be sure to qualify these with specific activities or examples in which you’ve built these skills.
For example, if you were applying for a summer program in the visual arts, you might list skills as follows:
Familiar and skilled at using common photo and video editing software such as Adobe Photoshop, Lightroom, and Final Cut Pro.
Comfortable participating actively in peer reviews, both receiving and delivering constructive criticism.
Adept at working with multiple mediums including oil paints, watercolors, charcoal, and pastels.
Each time you use your resume, you should review your list of skills to ensure that it is tailored specifically for each program or activity you intend to try.
4. Achievements and Honors
In this section, you can list specific achievements and honors in a simple bulleted list. Try to keep your list direct and concise, limited to no more than 10 achievements. To select which ones you include, think about which are most impressive and which are most directly related to what you’re using your resume for.
5. Links to Your Online Presence
Your online presence can be a double-edged sword, but hopefully you have mindfully built your social media presence with some consideration for the future. You never know when a potential boss, supervisor, mentor, or even college admissions officer will decide to look you up online. When this happens, your own posts and those of your friends or acquaintances can come up. For more about building an online presence in high school, see these posts:
Because it is easy enough for anyone to look you up online these days, it is sometimes helpful to provide a direct link to some examples of your online presence. If you are applying for a program in the arts, computer science, or a similar field, you can create an online portfolio of your work using sites like Weebly and Crevado.
Even if you don’t have online portfolio, LinkedIn can be a great way to highlight your skills and accomplishments. Providing a LinkedIn profile link shows that you have taken some initiative in planning for your professional future and that you take your work seriously. For more about building a LinkedIn profile, see these posts:
For more about extracurriculars, college applications, and how to choose activities that best suit you and build up your resume, download our free guide for 9th graders, and our free guide for 10th graders. Our guides go in-depth about subjects ranging from academics, choosing courses, standardized tests, extracurricular activities, and much more!
Want access to expert college guidance — for free? When you create your free CollegeVine account, you will find out your real admissions chances, build a best-fit school list, learn how to improve your profile, and get your questions answered by experts and peers—all for free. Sign up for your CollegeVine account today to get a boost on your college journey.
Want more tips on improving your academic profile?
We'll send valuable information to help you strengthen your profile and get ready for college admissions.