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How to Start Building Your Resume in High School

Written by Nicole Krempasky on Wednesday, 07 October 2020. Posted in College Bound, Helpful Tips

Blank resume on clipboard with laptop.

When you think of a resume, you associate it with job searches. You might think of people starting a job for the first time after college or in the middle of their careers, looking for a change. While that’s still true, resumes can be useful for more than just adults on the job hunt. With teens having more responsibility and trying to enter competitive programs, high school is actually a great time to get started working on yours.

Why start a resume in high school?

For many high school students, now doesn’t really seem like the time to begin a resume. You don’t have a lot of work experience and most after school jobs don’t really require one to be interviewed. This can make the task seem particularly unimportant for you right now. However, resumes aren’t just limited to showcasing work accomplishments. Building a resume in high school can prepare you for the working world, as well as help you when applying to colleges or internships.

How to start a resume

The best way to start a resume is to look at it simply. You might have a lot of experience to add or you may have less. Regardless, you should focus on the most important parts, highlighting your strengths and skills. This can mean work, academics, extra-curricular activities, clubs, and volunteering. There are a few main points to remember that can make resume writing a little less daunting.

  • Make an outline. Start first by thinking about your first experiences, going in order from most recent to oldest, including any volunteer experiences you have. Then, make a list of any clubs or extracurricular activities in which you participate. Finally, make a list of any achievements or awards you’ve earned, whether they’re academic, athletic, or somewhere in between. Once you have your list, think of how you would describe each of them - such as what you did, what you learned, and what you accomplished.
  • Use verbs. Use active language to describe your experiences, such as taught, led, advised, served, inventoried, etc.
  • Keep it short. Though you don’t want to leave anything worthwhile out, you also don’t want to submit something resembling a short story. For a high school student, you should try to keep your resume within one page. That means brevity and staying on point. For instance, if you have childcare experience it’s great to list it, but you don’t need to list every family for whom you’ve babysat.
  • Include Skills. Today’s teens are much more tech-savvy than teens a decade or two ago. Include any special skills you have with technology (think Photoshop or coding), especially if they’re relevant to the position or program to which you’re applying. Your skills aren’t limited to just the technical, though. Do you hold a leadership position within a community club? Are you a captain of a sports team? You were chosen for those for a reason, so include them.
  • List references. A lot of colleges, internships, and employers want to know what others think of you. If you have a teacher or boss with whom you have a good relationship, ask their permission to list them as a reference. While your resume will highlight your achievements, having an experienced professional person vouch for you can go a long way.
  • Proofread. Be sure to proofread your entire resume before sending it out. The last thing admissions officers or hiring managers want to see is a misspelling or grammatical error. Also, get a second opinion. Let someone such as a parent, guidance counselor, or teacher take a look to see if anything needs correction or if you missed something.

Get started with James Madison

Building that first resume can help set you up for a job, college, or an internship. James Madison High School offers self-paced, accredited online courses that allow you to complete your work when and where is convenient, leaving more time to gain those real-world experiences. Call our Admissions team at to get started or enroll online today.

About the Author

Nicole Krempasky

Nicole Krempasky

Nicole Krempasky earned a BA in Communications with a minor in Art History from Arcadia University. Just finishing her MA in International Journalism from Edinburgh Napier University, she is putting her writing and research skills to use as Penn Foster’s Marketing Coordinator. Nicole enjoys baking, traveling, and British TV.