How to Write the Perfect Resumé if You Are a High School Student Applying for US Colleges

High school students write resumé / CV for college

One of the biggest mistakes high school students make when building their resumé is to confuse it with a curriculum vitae (CV). When aiming at top universities, such as the Ivy League (Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Columbia, Cornell, Brown, Dartmouth, and University of Pennsylvania), MIT, Caltech, Duke, University of Chicago, and other Top 20 colleges, every detail in the student's application matters. Before we get into the steps of building a good high school resumé, we will clarify what the differences between a resumé and a CV are:

Resumé: Short and concise presentation of the most relevant facts and events about a person's educational background, professional experience, qualifications, and skills.

Curriculum Vitae (CV): Detailed presentation of the entire course of a person's career. Length of document can be variable.

In short, a resumé is a short document meant for job search and professional purposes, while a CV is a long document typically used for academic purposes, such as for fellowship and grant searches or teaching and research assistantship positions in postsecondary institutions. A high school student should write a resumé, whether it is for job search or college applications.

Both employers and admissions officers will spend less than a minute reading a student's resumé. Consequently, the harder it is to read and understand it, the less the reading experience of knowing the student through their resumé is going to be. Students' objectives when writing their resumés should be to:

(1) Organize resumé clearly;

(2) Convey information effectively;

(3) Be concise.

Altogether, follow the steps below to write an effective ONE-PAGE resumé as a high school student:

(1) Create essential sections for your resumé:

Essential sections include Education and Experience.

(1.a) Education Section:

  • Name of the degree-granting institution(s); List most recent first; Focus on high school(s) attended;

  • Degree received;

  • GPA;

  • Graduation date or projected graduation date, or dates of attendance if a degree was not completed ;

  • Overseas academic experience;

  • Relevant coursework if advanced or taken at the undergraduate level (i.e., community college classes, undergraduate courses taken from summer programs).


XYZ High School, Hometown, FL (8/2010-5/2014)

  • Advanced placement includes Calculus (5/5), Biology (5/5), and English (5/5)

  • Salutatorian, GPA 4.0/4.0 (UW)

Oxford University, Oxford, England (5/2013-8/2013)

  • Completed summer program on the Political Economy of Trade and Trade Agreements.

(1.b) Experience Section:

  • Title of position in: paid jobs, internships, volunteering work, community service, academic and extracurricular projects involving teamwork and/or leadership, special academic research or honors projects; List most recent first;

  • Name of the organization, location (country, city, and state), dates (month and year);

  • Responsibilities description beginning with action verbs (see below); Focus on realistic, quantifiable and verifiable accomplishments;

  • If your experiences can be clearly divided into two or more sections, think about calling these sections as Research Experience, Teaching Experience, Professional Experience, Leadership Experience, Volunteer Experience, and so on.


XYZ Math Club, Hometown, FL (1/2011-5/2013)

Founder and President

  • Coordinated campus events to promote science and math

  • Selected to compete in state-, national-, and international-level competitions

  • Led group of 42 students in the areas of Human Resources, Tutoring, and Marketing

(2) Create additional sections for your resumé:

Additional sections may include Interests, Honors and Awards, Extra Activities and Technology.


(2.a) Interests:

Mental health, cooking, dancing

(2.b) Honors and Awards:

Gold Medal at the International Physics Olympiad, Silver at United States of America Computing Olympiad, Best performing calculus student in 12th grade

(2.c) Extra Activities:

Writing short stories, swimming, coding

(2.d) Technology:

AutoCAD, SketchUp, MATLAB, Python, HTML

(3) Action Verbs:

Communication Verbs: Aided, Advised, Arbitrated, Clarified, Co-authored, Collaborated, Consulted, Coordinated, Counseled, Defined, Enlisted, Formulated, Influenced, Informed, Inspired, Interpreted, Interviewed, Mediated, Merged, Negotiated, Promoted, Publicized, Recommended, Represented, Resolved, Suggested

Creative Verbs: Acted, Abstracted, Adapted, Composed, Conceptualized, Created, Designed, Developed, Directed, Drew, Generated, Illustrated, Imagined, Improvised, Integrated, Innovated, Painted, Performed, Planned, Shaped, Synthesized, Visualized, Wrote

Detail-Oriented Verbs: Analyzed, Approved, Arranged, Classified, Collated, Compared, Compiled, Documented, Enforced, Followed through, Met deadlines, Prepared, Processed, Recorded, Retrieved, Set priorities, Systemized, Tabulated

Financial Verbs: Administered, Allocated, Analyzed, Appraised, Audited, Budgeted, Calculated, Computed, Developed, Evaluated, Figured, Maintained, Managed, Performed, Planned, Projected

Manual Skills Verbs: Arranged, Assembled, Bound, Built, Checked, Classified, Constructed, Controlled, Designed, Developed, Drove, Handled, Installed, Invented, Maintained, Monitored, Prepared, Operated, Repaired, Tested

Providing Service Verbs: Advised, Attended, Cared, Coached, Coordinated, Counseled, Delivered, Demonstrated, Explained, Furnished, Generated, Inspected, Installed, Issued, Mentored, Provided, Purchased, Referred, Repaired, Submitted

Organizing Verbs: Achieved, Assigned, Consulted, Contracted, Controlled, Coordinated, Decided, Delegated, Developed, Established, Evaluated, Negotiated, Organized, Planned, Prepared, Prioritized, Produced, Recommended, Reported

Leadership Verbs: Administered, Chaired, Convinced, Directed, Examined, Executed, Expanded, Facilitated, Improved, Initiated, Managed, Oversaw, Produced, Recommended, Reviewed, Supervised

Research Verbs: Calculated, Cataloged, Collected, Computed, Conducted, Correlated, Critiqued, Diagnosed, Discovered, Evaluated, Examined, Experimented, Extrapolated, Gathered, Identified, Inspected, Investigated, Monitored, Proved, Reviewed, Surveyed, Tested

Technical Verbs: Assembled, Built, Calculated, Computed, Designed, Engineered, Fabricated, Maintained, Operated, Programmed, Remodeled, Repaired, Solved, Adapted

Teaching Skills Verbs: Advised, Clarified, Coached, Developed, Encouraged, Evaluated, Informed, Inspired, Motivated, Participated, Provided, Represented, Supported, Taught, Trained, Verified

(4) Don'ts:

Don't include personal pronouns (I, me, we)

Don't include personal information, like religion, pictures, and physical characteristics

Don't write in font size smaller than 10 pt

Don't write more than one page resumé

If you have any questions or would like feedback on your resumé, do not hesitate to reach out to our team. Good luck writing your resumé!