A résumé is a one-page document listing your education, experiences, skills, and employment history. It is submitted to potential employers or schools as a way to summarize everything you’ve done and to help you stand out from the crowd. Even if your résumé isn’t required as part of your application, it is a handy reference. You can think of your résumé as a snapshot of your academic, extracurricular, and personal accomplishments over time. As you grow in both experience and age, your résumé should grow with you. What is acceptable to have on your résumé as a high school student would seem juvenile as an adult. Use these tips to construct a résumé worthy of recognition.
To begin your résumé, compile a list of all the important things you have done (awards you’ve won, extracurriculars you’ve participated in, and jobs you’ve worked) either since your freshman year in high school or within the last ten years. What have you accomplished that matters to you and makes you feel proud? Ask your family, high school counselor, or academic advisor to look over your list to make sure you haven’t left anything out. If you can’t decide whether you should include something, it’s better not to list it. Focus on highlighting the things that are important to you instead. Separate your accomplishments into categories with headers: Activities, Honors and Awards, Community Service, Education and Travel Programs, Work Experience, and Special Skills. Additional categories may be necessary depending on your personal history.
Tips for all résumés:
- Your header should include your full name, a professional-sounding email address, and personal phone number.
- List all activities, awards, work experience, education, presentations, etc. in reverse chronological order, with current activities listed first.
- Include the year(s) you are/were involved in each activity or received an award.
- Use numbers when possible. If you are a volunteer, share how many hours you volunteer each week. If you held a fundraiser, mention how much money you raised.
- Mention any leadership positions you held.
- Use bullet points to add brief descriptions. Begin each statement with an action verb.
- Do not use acronyms or abbreviations.
- Try to keep it to one page. Don’t include meaningless commitments or activities, jobs, awards, or education that is no longer current (older than a decade). The exceptions to this rule are that you should always list your most current education, no matter how old it is; and it is okay to list outdated work experience if it is related to the job for which you are applying.
- If a second page is absolutely necessary, make sure your name, contact information, and the page number are on it.
- When submitting a résumé to a college, it is not necessary to include your GPA, college entrance exam scores, or class rank, since this information is already included in your application. However, consider adding this information when applying for scholarships or jobs if the tests aren’t outdated and you haven’t yet completed your education.
- Proofread, proofread, proofread! Have a trusted friend, parent, or counselor, look over your rough and final drafts.
Consider reading “The Three Building Blocks of a Stellar Résumé” for more tips relevant to all students.
Tips for high school students:
Your résumé is unlikely to have too much on it because you haven’t had much time to build up experiences. You may choose to add an objective to your résumé, stating the purpose for which it was written. This will change; if you are applying to college, your objective could be something like “to be accepted to a research university with the intention of studying chemistry.” If you’re applying for a scholarship or a job, your objective should be tailored to reflect that adjustment.
Instead of going back a decade (colleges don’t care about what you were doing when you were eight years old), only list extracurricular activities, community service, jobs, and awards from when you were in high school. If there is an activity that you participated in during middle school, and you have continued your involvement through high school (Girl Scouts, for example), you may also choose to list that activity on your résumé.
For reference, here is a sample high school résumé. This blog post also offers a look at two high school students’ résumés and shares advice on how to make them better and more appealing to an admissions officer.
Tips for transfer students:
As a transfer student, you are in a unique position. If you have completed an associate’s degree, it is perfectly acceptable to list only the institution from which you graduated in your education section. If you have not yet graduated with an associate’s degree, or are transferring before you will graduate, you should include both your current institution (and current GPA) and your high school. If you studied abroad, that should be listed as well.
If you are transferring into a specific program (arts, engineering, etc.), consider listing any completed coursework relevant to your prospective degree. You can then continue to add to this section as you progress through college and use a similar version of the same résumé when applying for early career opportunities. You may choose to list an objective as well, but it is not necessary. If you don’t have enough room for your other activities, skip it.
For reference, here is a sample college résumé. This blog evaluates the strengths and weaknesses of two college students’ résumés and offers advice on how to make them stronger. Depending on how far along you are in school and how many activities you participate in, you may want to model your résumé off of either Student Caffé’s college or high school example.
Tips for returning or adult students:
As a returning or adult student, you have the unique experience of having been away from school for a number of years. While the tips for all résumés listed above apply to you, you want to take extra care constructing your résumé. First, if an activity, job, experience, or award is over 10 years old, leave it out. Fill your résumé with relevant and current activities. If you’ve had the same job for a number of years and are worried about filling up a page, there are some steps you can take:
- Go into detail about the jobs that you do choose to include. Instead of just one bullet point describing your responsibilities, list two or three.
- If you’ve held different positions with the same company, separate them. This sample résumé lists two separate positions with the same employer and goes into detail about how the responsibilities differ between the two.
- Add information about career development or job training that you’ve completed. This can either go into your education section (if it was formal) or as a bullet point beneath a position detailing informal training that you’ve received while on the job.
As for the education section, you should list the highest education that you’ve achieved, regardless of when it was completed. If you only have a high school diploma, list your high school and the year you graduated. If you completed a high school equivalency exam, list which one and where and when you earned your certificate in place of your high school. Students who completed some, but not all, of their postsecondary education should list the institution and number of credits completed. If you have a degree, list your institution, your degree, and your graduation date.
Because you’ve been a part of the workforce longer than other students, your résumé should highlight work experience over education. Organize your résumé so that your education section is closer to the bottom of the page than the top. You may also choose to list any professional memberships that you hold, any awards or honors you’ve received through your job or other activity, or a career summary or objective. Again, this sample professional résumé shows one way to organize work and education, but there is no one correct way to write a résumé.
Page last updated: 05/2019