Admissions

Building a Resume for College Applications

iStock

Crafting a resume can be an intimidating prospect for a high school student, but it’s a super useful tool in college admissions planning. You’ll have a list of your accomplishments to share with your recommenders, and to which you can refer while you complete applications  and prepare for interviews. You may be wondering what exactly goes on a high school resume -- especially for a student who may not have held a job yet.

Elements of a High School Resume


  1. Heading with your name, address, email and phone number.
  2. High school name and address, along with your graduation date, GPA, class rank and standardized test scores.
  3. Accomplishments: Leadership positions, awards, publications.
  4. Coursework that does not appear on your regular transcript, if applicable -- summer courses, extension courses or any academic experiences you pursued outside of your school.
  5. Extracurricular activities, including the grade level and number of years in which you’ve participated.
  6. Community service or volunteer experience.
  7. Work experience.
  8. Any hobbies not covered in the above sections.
  9. Special skills (CPR certification, second language fluency, etc.).

If you don’t have experiences that apply to every single one of these sections, that’s okay -- every high school student can adapt their resume to accommodate their experience. If you’re thinking about your resume in ninth or tenth grade, you might want to consider finding activities that fill in resume gaps and match your interests. No matter where you live or what resources are at your disposal, you can find opportunities to volunteer, work part-time or shadow a professional in a field that you imagine working in one day. At The Princeton Review, we offer opportunities for aspiring writers in our Student Voices program.

Resume Tips for College Applications

1. Format wisely.

Your resume should be well-organized and easy to scan quickly, but it doesn’t need to be a work of art. Try to keep it to a single page -- certainly no more than two pages. Avoid wacky fonts or getting overly clever with Photoshop.

2. Provide details, but keep them concise.

That might sound contradictory, but your goal is to give the maximum amount of  information to counselors as quickly as possible, and you don’t need to repeat information you’ve provided elsewhere on your application. You want to provide an accurate snapshot, not a flowery narrative. Follow the examples below:

Leadership Positions

Assistant Stage Manager, Oliver, 10th grade

Stage Manager, Hamilton, 11th grade

Supported faculty director with scheduling rehearsals, communicating with cast and sourcing and organizing props

Contributing Writer, 10th-11th grade

Sports Editor, 12th grade

The Beverly Blaze

Assigned, wrote and edited sports coverage for the school paper

Community Service

Lake Street Shelter, 5 hours/week, 9th-11th grade

Helped with meal prep for nightly dinner for shelter residents

Sunshine Daycare, 8 hours/week, 12th grade

Assisted head teacher executing activities and lesson plans for pre-school children

Work Experience

Barista, 20 hours/week, summers 2015-2017

Candy’s Darling Cafe

Responsible for cash register, cafe set-up and drink preparation

Assistant Counselor and Lifeguard, 5 days/week, summer, 2018

Chelsea Day Camp

Supported head counselor in planning activities and swim lessons for 20 children

3. Quality over quantity.

Your resume should emphasize experiences to which you committed over time. If you quit French club halfway through the first semester of your freshman year, you can leave it off your resume. You want your resume to reflect responsibilities you’ve embraced, rather than a laundry list of activities you tried half-heartedly.

4. Above all, be honest.

Admissions officers are skilled at spotting falsehoods or exaggerations on college applications. You want them to see your best authentic self -- and you want your high school counselor to confirm all the information you submit to colleges if necessary. Share your resume with your counselor and review it for anything that is unclear. The conversation might spark some ideas for your application essay!