Anatomy of a High School Résumé

What is a résumé?

A résumé is a document that summarizes your knowledge, skills, abilities, experiences, and accomplishments. Think of a résumé as an introduction, helping people get to know you. A high school résumé outlines your interests and goals so people know what you enjoy and where you see yourself going.

Do I need a résumé in high school?

Yes! High school is a good time to begin putting your résumé together. Whether you’re thinking about getting a job, going to college, or doing volunteer work, you may be asked to provide a résumé. A common use for a résumé is to screen applicants for potential jobs. Employers can look through a résumé to quickly determine if someone’s skills, experience, and interests match what they’re looking for. In addition to employers, colleges often invite applicants to include a résumé. Therefore, having a résumé that’s detailed, properly formatted, and up to date is important.

Where do I begin?

Résumés have many acceptable résumé templates and formats─including both paper and digital versions. When choosing the format you want to use, think about what the standard is for the job or organization you’re applying to. Many places have preferred formats.  Follow any guidelines provided to improve your chances for success. Look for résumé examples online to see how other people have crafted their résumés, and apply what you like to your résumé. However, keep in mind that format is less important than content. Focus most on what you’re sharing, not on document design.

How do I write my résumé?

Typically, a high school résumé consists of these sections:

  • Header: Include your name and contact information.
  • Education: List schools you’ve attended, including graduation dates (if you’ve graduated). Include special courses or areas of interest, particularly if they’re related to the job, school, or opportunity you’re applying for. Include academic honors and awards.
  • Skills and Experience: List and skills you learned or demonstrated in paid employment or unpaid volunteer work. Put everything in reverse order, adding start and end dates. List relevant extracurricular activities, as well as club or organization leadership roles.  Show the reader your accomplishments, not just responsibilities. Presenting data such as the number of people you served, projects you completed, or awards received can help tell your story.
  • Special Skills: List skills that could be a benefit to the school or employer. This could be languages you speak, computer programs you know how to use, or personality traits (e.g., good with kids, comfortable talking on the phone, enjoy public speaking).

Résumé Writing Tips

If you’re new to résumé writing, it can feel overwhelming. Take your time and be patient. Here are some tips to get started writing your résumé in high school:

  • Write your résumé in reverse chronological order. Put your most recent experience and schooling at the top. Then work your way backward.
  • Make sure that everything you’ve included is relevant and worded concisely. Limit the résumé to one page.
  • Don’t worry about making your résumé flashy. It’s better to keep everything simple, clear, and easy to read than to use unique fonts, images, or layouts. 
  • Remember to be accurate. Never exaggerate or bend the truth.  
  • Make sure to proofread your résumé more than once, looking for typos, misspellings, and incorrect grammar and punctuation. Then have someone else look over it. Mistakes can make the reader feel you’re not as thorough, careful, or detail oriented as they’d like you to be. 
  • Add new experiences and skills to your résumé as you gain them. As time passes, delete the oldest and least relevant experiences. It’s okay to revise your résumé as your interests and goals change.