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5 Ways to Build a Strong High School Resume

Updated: Feb 1

In the sometimes tricky dance of college applications, a strong high school resume becomes a powerful partner. It is more than a list of accomplishments; it is a testament to your growth, commitment, and passion. As you embark on the journey to higher education, remember that your high school resume is your opportunity to tell your unique story. Colleges today want more than just a high GPA and strong test scores.  They want well-rounded humans who will contribute to an active student body.  And the more prestigious the school, the more crucial a robust resume becomes.  

More than simply compiling a vast list of meaningless activities to bolster your chances of getting into the “perfect” school, try approaching your resume as a means of exploration.  If you don’t love violin, debate club or soccer, don’t engage in those activities simply to pad your resume. Your high school years should be the beginning of a life-long quest to learn about who you are, what you love and what you want to do.   

So I have compiled a list of 5 ways to build a strong resume that is a reflection of your true potential:

  1. Unique Activities and Interests.  Unique activities that showcase compelling aspects of your personality or talents will help you stand out from the crowd and give you an edge in the admissions process.  Honors and recognition you received, particularly at the national level or that demonstrate a fascinating interest, are more likely to get attention.  And besides, choosing activities that  accurately reflect who you are and what you are passionate about will also help you make the most of your high school years.  Have fun with it and see what you discover about yourself in the process.

  2. Leadership Opportunities.  Leadership roles indicate a willingness to go beyond what is simply expected and shows that you’re not just a passive participant but an active contributor.  Leadership, teamwork, communication, and problem-solving abilities can be demonstrated through your involvement in various activities.  This is your opportunity to show that your actions can make a positive impact.

  3. Community Service.  Volunteering in the community with an organization that you believe in serves many purposes.  It showcases qualities such as empathy, compassion, and a willingness to give back in a meaningful way.  Colleges look for well-rounded citizens who will build vibrant and engaged campus communities through community outreach.  They are building socially responsible adults.  You also get the added bonus of personally feeling good by helping others. 

  4. Work Experience.  Having work experience, whether it's a part-time job, internship, or other employment, showcases your ability to handle responsibilities and adhere to work expectations.  For students applying to specific majors or programs, relevant work experience can strengthen their application.  While not as crucial as academics and extracurricular activities, work experience rounds out your resume.

  5. Career Exploration.  The ultimate end goal of education (High School and beyond) is to prepare you for the world of work.  Why not use the time in High School to explore possible career directions. This will have the added benefit of creating unique entries in your resume.  For example, if you feel drawn to pursue a career in business, or the health fields, or engineering, etc, etc, reach out and talk to professionals doing the work you are interested in.  Offer to shadow them, or possibly spend some time in an internship or paid work capacity.  Try on a few different roles and experiences.  It often takes some trial and error to find what works for us, and our first idea is not always the best one.

  • Bonus tip:  It is much more impactful to consider quality over quantity when you are building your resume.

Each student's journey is unique, and the high school resume allows you to tell your story. It provides a platform to highlight your passions, interests, and the diverse range of activities you've immersed yourself in. Whether it's leadership roles in clubs, sports achievements, or volunteer work, your resume tells a narrative that goes beyond academic transcripts.


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