8 Ideas for Strengthening your High School Resume!

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By Marsha Twilley

It may be December, and while preparation for mid-term exams is in full swing for high school students, it’s time to start thinking about plans for the summer.

Part of developing a strong high school resume is spending summers doing activities that count both personally and academically. Colleges are looking for well rounded students who show evidence of exploration and growth throughout their high school years. (The last thing you want to do is waste your summer Netflix binging.)

Many summer opportunities have applications that open in early January, so planning ahead is only in your favor!

Below are some options to consider:

  • Get a job: Colleges are impressed when students have jobs, whether they are working for family income or just for fun. Your work history demonstrates your initiative and responsibility.
  • Find a summer camp-counseling opportunity: If you enjoy working with younger kids, finding a summer camp where you work or volunteer can be a very rewarding experience. Not only will you make amazing friends and memories, but you will gain life-skills and leadership skills that are unmatched. From church camps to YMCA camps to sports camps, conducting a little research will show you the many opportunities available to teenagers to work at summer camps.
  • Volunteer in your community: Colleges would rather see continuity and commitment to a community service activity instead of a bunch of one-offs. Start now, and volunteer two hours a week through your senior year. For example, you could visit residents at nursing homes a few days a week. Or, spend your Saturday mornings feeding animals at the animal shelter.
  • Participate in a specialized high school program: Specialized summer programs are held on college campuses all over the country. At MIT Launch, students start real companies. Students at UCLA’s Mock Trial Summer Institute train in public speaking and learn how attorneys prepare a case for trial. And the National Student Leadership Conference offers programs on campuses like Harvard Medical School and Georgia Tech, where students explore a future career, develop leadership skills, and get a taste of college life. Take some time to research opportunities for specialized programs. Many colleges offer summer programs where high school students come to campus to take courses and live in the dorms. Taught by real college professors, these classes are extremely competitive for high school students and require an application (with letters of recommendation). Start looking now! You’ll be amazed at what’s out there!
  • Take a college class: Even if your high school already offers opportunities for dual enrollment and AP classes, taking a college class over the summer shows you are ready for the rigor of what’s ahead. Simply inquire with the admissions office of any college or university and communicate that you are a high school student looking for summer college class opportunities.
  • Find an internship: Many students don’t realize that all you have to do is make contact with someone who is in a profession you are interested in. Talk to friends of your parents or reach out to local professionals and businesses and find out if they would be willing to let you “shadow” at least one day a week in the summer. This is an outstanding way to build your resume and to show initiative. It’s also a great way to find out what specific careers are “really” like!
  • Take a free online class: Sites like edX and Coursera offer free college courses that are taped or streamed from universities. With tons of subjects from robotics to American poetry, you get to participate in real-time or watch past lectures from professors at places like Stanford and Harvard.
  • Become an entrepreneur: Start a business with friends that offers a service in your community. Some examples are starting babysitters' clubs, walking dogs for the neighborhood, or even teaching technology to people who are older. If you’re crafty, make your items and sell them on Etsy.

Planning in advance for summer will not only strengthen your resume, but it will give you confidence and provide more opportunities as you move toward college!

Marsha Twilley, College and Career Consultant at Olive Orchard Lab, would be happy to help you in any of these areas in addition to the consulting services she provides. Contact her at marsha.oliveorchardlab.com.


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