When Should You Start Building Your High School Resume
Whether your goal is to get a job, to apply for a scholarship, or to get into a competitive summer program, your key to success will be the same—you’re going to need a standout resume. Many high school students wonder when to get started on writing a resume. Many more don’t start to work on theirs until they actually need one.
At CollegeVine, we recommend that you start working on your resume as soon as possible. If you’re in ninth grade this may seem early to you, and it might even seem like you don’t have anything to put on it at this point, but we assure you, that’s not the case. Starting early and including your experiences outside of professional roles will give you the leg up that you need when your called on to submit a resume.
To learn more about why you need to start working on your resume now, and how to get started, don’t miss this post.
Resumes Aren’t Just For Job Searches
Many high school students think of resumes as something that you present when you apply for a job, but this is really only a narrow image of what we use resumes for in the real world. While it’s true that the primary function of a resume is usually to get a job, that’s not the only thing it’s used for.
You should think of your resume as a one-page written highlight reel that touts your strengths and greatest accomplishments. If presents a polished image of what you can offer, not just at a job but also to any selective program, community, or other position. Your resume gives a quick but strong first impression of the skills and personal qualities you have to offer.
How to Get Started on Your First Resume
Most students struggle to come up with material for their first resumes because they believe that without “work” experience, they have nothing relevant to include. Try to think more broadly about your accomplishments.
You can include volunteer positions, leadership roles, and achievements in school and extracurriculars when you’re first getting started with building a resume. For more information about how to frame these experiences on a resume, see our post Five Things to Put on Your Resume in High School.
Resume Tips for High Schoolers
1. Keep It Short
While it’s tempting to list every accomplishment and award you’ve received, you need to fine-tune your resume down to a single page. This is mostly because most hiring committees or admissions committees have limited time. Imagine a lengthy list of candidates and a heaping pile of resumes. These busy people have their work cut out for them.
You can make their job easier and increase your own chances at success by keeping your resume brief and to the point. While it’s likely that the first page of your resume will at least get a few glimpses, it’s unlikely that a busy hiring or admissions committee will bother wading through additional pages. Furthermore, at this point it’s unlikely that you have enough experience to truly warrant such a lengthy resume.
2. Target Your Audience
Contrary to what many teens believe, a resume is not a universal tool. Instead, you need to target your resume to each position and experience you’ll be using it for.
This means that you should consider each position specifically and think hard about what skills and accomplishments would be most valuable to it. Tailor the experiences and skills that you highlight to maximize your chances and to present your best side for each unique position.
3. Use a Second Set of Eyes
It should go without saying that your resume needs to be free of any typos, grammatical errors, or other mistakes. You should proofread your own resume at least twice, ideally reading it aloud to further identify any mistakes.
Then, you should have someone else proofread it for you. A teacher, guidance counselor, mentor, or friend are great options. Having a second set of eyes review your work makes careless errors more likely to stand out.
4. Discuss References in Advance
While it’s common to close a resume with the clipped, “References Available Upon Request,” this is a fairly redundant option. You can be assured that if an admissions or hiring committee wants to speak to a reference, they will ask, whether they’ve been given the option or not. Instead, it’s a good idea to list references and their contact information on your resume so that anyone interested will not have to go through the extra step of requesting them.
If you list references on your resume, you should discuss this with the people you are listing ahead of time. Let them know the positions or opportunities that you’re applying for. Discuss the skills and accomplishments that you hope to highlight on your application so that your references will be able to speak directly to them. It appears unprofessional if a hiring committee happens to contact one of your references, and he or she has no idea why they’re calling.
Building your first resume and putting it to use can be an intimidating feat, but if you start early and think outside the box about broader experiences and accomplishments to include, it’s a task that can be tackled with grace. For more about building a resume, gaining experience, and establishing yourself as a strong student and community member, consider the benefits of the CollegeVine Near Peer Mentorship Program, which provides access to practical advice on topics from college admissions to career aspirations, all from successful college students.
To learn more about writing a resume or getting a job or internship, see these posts:
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.