How to Build a Student Résumé

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The college application process is competitive, and a résumé is a great way for you to showcase your experience and achievements to an admission counselor. The key is knowing how to build an enticing and effective résumé that will stand out from the crowd. The Bentley admission team offers these tips:

Start early. Even though you will not likely need to share your résumé with a college admission counselor until junior or senior year, it’s a good idea to keep a running list of your accomplishments and experience throughout high school. Start in the first year of high school, so you don’t forget things along the way. This could include:

  • Academic and extracurricular achievements and awards 
  • Sports and extracurricular activities
  • Leadership positions
  • Relevant group projects and classes (particularly if they relate to a specific major you are pursuing)
  • Community service
  • Paid work experience

Include the basics. The heading should include your name, address, email and phone number, as well as your high school information with your graduation date, GPA (weighted), class rank (if applicable), and SAT/ACT scores.

Use space wisely. Leave off an objective or executive summary to make room for work, relevant coursework, leadership and extracurricular involvement.

 Use consistent formatting. The following should be consistent throughout your résumé:

  • Font style: conservative, such as Times New Roman, Arial or Helvetica
  • Font size: the body 10 to 12 point and your name larger
  • Line spacing: single
  • Margins: top/bottom, left/right
  • Bullets: size, shape, alignment
  • Dashes: size, spacing between text
  • Dates: format and alignment
  • Section headers: all CAPS, bold, underline

Broaden (and tailor) your experience. Admission counselors are looking for well-rounded students: A mix of academic, professional, extracurricular and community-based experience will help demonstrate that. Examples include serving on the board of a student organization; being captain of an athletic team; acting in a school play; participating in the math club; or arranging a local food drive.

Identify your strengths. This can be a challenging task, since you may not yet recognize your strengths. To get the ball rolling, ask friends, family, teachers, coaches, school counselors and others what stands out to them. You may be pleasantly surprised!

Incorporate your strengths. Highlight soft skills such as communication, organization, teamwork, attention to detail and ability to multitask. Sharing these kinds of traits will help admission counselors figure out if you’re a good fit for the campus culture and community. Also include technical skills such as computer and foreign language proficiency. 

Include numbers and figures. Quantifiable evidence makes a much stronger impact than a simple explanatory sentence does. This can seem hard to do as a high school student, so be creative: include how much money you saved a school club, how many events you organized for a local charity or how many students you supervised while working at a summer camp, for example.

Be honest. If you signed up for a school club, but never participated, don’t put it on your résumé. Honesty is key. (Yes, it’s as simple as that.)

Proofread. Ask a friend, family member or teacher to proofread your résumé. Leave absolutely no room for errors of any kind, especially grammatical errors. Spelling and punctuation mistakes stand out as red flags and can make any other information on your résumé, no matter how outstanding it may be, irrelevant. 

Be ready to explain. You should be comfortable talking about any points on your résumé.

Download our tips for building a student resume here!

Building a résumé during high school will prove to be a useful part of your college application process, but also a resource to help you identify areas where you excel and would like to explore or strengthen. It’s also a handy tool to help you fill out college applications. 

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