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Here’s What Actually Makes Your High School Resume Impressive to Colleges

The good news: You’ve worked hard in school, you’ve gotten good grades, and you’re king or queen of extracurricular activities.

The bad news: There are a lot of you out there.

That means colleges are becoming choosier when it comes to building a class, and the increased standard of college admission among top schools sends students searching for innovative ways to stand out with their activities list.

So here’s the best news: With a little creativity, your resume can stand out from the crowd.

Your goal with your own resume, whether it’s published on LinkedIn or elsewhere, should be to create a representation of yourself that makes colleges eager to meet you. Beyond really popular extracurriculars like FBLA and NHS, or even soccer and band, challenge yourself to think outside the box to add activities to your resume before applying to colleges. Here are some ideas:

Publish Your Work

Writing a knockout term paper is one thing, but being published shows your professionalism and mastery of a subject. While you are building an interactive resume, earning a byline will always take your resume to the next level.

There are several ways to get this accomplished. Beyond your school newspaper (which is a good place to start), you can reach out to local publications and offer to write articles from a student perspective. You can also do some Googling and find niche online publications that cater to your interests (sports, TV, competitive eating – anything) and pitch articles to them.

If writing for an established publication seems a bridge too far, you can always self-publish. For example, take your summer research program findings to the next level by writing about the experience as a Medium post or on a personal blog. (If you don’t have one, consider starting one!)

Do It For the Kids

Speaking of self-publishing, it takes very little effort to self-publish these days on Amazon or through other avenues. While a full-length book for adults might be out of a high school student’s league, try your hand at writing and self-publishing a children’s book.

For example, a future STEM major could write a book about a child building a sandcastle that collapses to teach readers about engineering, or a budding journalist could write about a kid who starts her own newspaper.

If you’re feeling ambitious, seek out an investor through board members at local nonprofits, who are always eager to help the next generation. Try your local Junior Achievement branch or similar educational organization as a starting point for the right type of people to contact. Use their sponsorship to print multiple copies of your book, and donate your book to the local children’s hospital, non-profit organizations or foster home organizations. This may lead to local articles about your effort, all of which in turn creates an elevated resume.

But remember: Having your work in print is necessary to call yourself a published writer. You can also look into publishing an ebook for children.

And even if none of this works out, you can still go full-on DIY. Write and illustrate (by hand or by computer) your book and check with your local library to see if you can read it during story time. That you’re publishing and sharing your work will be impressive on its own, even if it’s not widely distributed.

Raise the Bar on Fundraising

We’ve all seen the Facebook birthday dedications, asking friends to donate to someone’s favorite cause. While this is a commendable act, there is very little effort involved. However, creating a more sophisticated fundraiser for a cause will show your future school that you are creative, socially aware, and organized.

Here’s one example of how this could go: Join together with friends to create a fundraiser for a national nonprofit like Make-A-Wish. Brainstorm a unique event to host in your community, create a public page and promote your event using social media, and be able to quantify the money raised on your resume.

Publish your results on the page and reach out to local media sources for coverage. Link every article that mentions the event to your resume to use for future college applications. Planning the experience with your friends will be fun while allowing you to learn about event management, and it may even provide you with future essay content on supplemental college essays.

3 Things You Should Learn Before College That High School Doesn’t Teach

A Healthy Ambition

There’s no need to wait for a summer research camp if you’re planning to go into the medical field, exercise science, or nutrition field. There are many ways to think outside the box and create your own individual project to boost your resume.

For example, you can show off your project management skills by starting a local exercise group. Research what type of exercise program you want to follow and create a Facebook or Meetup group so that workouts can happen regularly. Lead each session, and also facilitate engagement online via the social network. Are you more skilled in the kitchen than in the gym? Then do the same thing, but with a healthy cooking club. Creating a group such as this will not only show your initiative, it will hone your leadership, digital marketing, and community management skills, which will enhance your ability to succeed in your future career.

Creativity and compassion can take your activities list to the next level and increase your chances at admission to your top school.

Build Something Online

If you are technologically inclined, reach out to small nonprofit organizations and offer to help them create a professional website or develop an app. There are so many great organizations that simply cannot afford to pay for professional creative services, so you’ll be potentially making a huge difference in their organization. Plus, these opportunities will give you the experience of working with a client of your own and provide you with a product to showcase on your resume.

The approach you take should match up with your skill set, whether that means creating a full website, social media page, or individual marketing materials, but don’t be afraid to challenge yourself and take on something you’ve never tried. You can list this as volunteer work on your resume, and every piece you create can be showcased.

The Bottom Line

There are an infinite number of ways to help worthy organizations in addition to adding compelling content to your resume. Creativity and compassion can take your activities list to the next level and increase your chances at admission to your top school.

Remember, there is nothing wrong with wanting to beef up your resume, but there are ways to add involvement while also benefiting your community.

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Author: Michaela Schieffer

Michaela Schieffer is a former admissions counselor and now independent college counselor, guiding students through their college applications and essays through Moon Prep's specialty lies in the Ivy League, direct medical programs (BS/MD), and highly competitive universities.