Jeff of Lynbrook, NY writes:

I am completing my junior year in high school. I've been hearing quite a bit about high school resumes, and how critical they have become to the admission process. Just how important is the high school resume, and what should it contain?

The College Whisperer responds:

Remember when your teacher told you that your high school record would follow you throughout your life?

While most of us are still waiting for that record to catch up with us, the high school resume, on the other hand, will -- and, by all rights, should -- follow you, at least through the college admissions process.

Your high school resume is, quite literally, a snapshot of your achievements and activities, and the astute applicant will make it part and parcel of his or her college application. [HINT: Attach your resume to the Common Application. Your college planning counselor will show you where it goes.]

Aside from grades and standardized test scores, over which you do not have complete control (admonitions from both parents and teachers aside), there are two areas where you, as college applicant, can showcase your talents, abilities, and accomplishments. The personal essays (more on those in future posts) and your high school resume.

Remember, to the college admissions officer, you -- and the thousands of applicants just like you -- are little more than a matrix on the computer monitor. Your four years of high school life, from the classroom, to the playing field, to the community, are condensed and reduced into a single screen shot.

More and more, college admission officers are looking at the big picture -- the whole person, so to speak -- to distinguish one applicant from the other.

That which you can control -- and, as an applicant, that on which you must focus your efforts (beyond the SAT, ACT and AP exams) -- requires a particular acumen as, to put it succinctly, this is your one chance (barring an admissions interview) to stand out from the crowd.

In terms of your high school resume, to paraphrase, "build it and they will read." Form and format matter, almost as much as content and substance.

Just as a professional resume is more likely to help one land a job than is that hodge podge of words upon the page, the high school curricula vitae must appeal as much to the eye as, once gleaned, to the mind.

Brevity counts. Keep it to a single page, unless you've found a cure for the common cold and need to elucidate. Keep it neat. Nothing tells an admission officer that you're not college material (at least not for her college) like sloppy. Spelling counts. [You do have spell check, don't you?] Proof your work, then have someone else (Mom, Dad, your college planning counselor) give it the once over.

Include academic honors and awards, employment history, clubs, sports and extracurricular activities, community service, and, of course, anything that would naturally set you head and shoulders above the rest.

Should you enlist the help of others in creating and refining a high school resume? Absolutely. This is your voice. You want it to sing, not cackle. In this highly selective college market, the competitive edge is a necessity, not a luxury. The best of the best have a coach!

At College Connection, we will help you build and present a resume that shines a spotlight on the significant endeavors and achievements of your high school years.

Of course, prudent planning also means getting an early start (think Freshman year) in plotting out your future. The electives you take. The community service you undertake. The clubs and activities you engage in. For your high school resume to become you, you must become your resume. Once you are starting your senior year, it's "woulda, shoulda, coulda" for the things you should have, could have, and, had you given it some thought, would have done.

Ahh. The places you will go. Provided, of course, your high school resume eloquently, proficiently and vividly highlights the places you have been!

The views and opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of The College Whisperer.
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