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How to Write a High School Student Resume

Two young women with light skin and black hair sit at a desk looking at a computer.

This post is from a student, parent, or professional contributor. The opinions expressed by the author are their own and do not necessarily reflect the positions, viewpoints, or policies of Niche.

Once you start high school, you enter the age when you’re legally allowed to have a job. The federal starting working age is 14, but many states and companies have their own policies concerning age limits.

16 is the most common starting point for most entry-level part-time jobs, with regulations limiting possible hours per week, usage of certain equipment, and times of day that you’re allowed to work. These restrictions aside, most high schoolers seek part-time work for a variety of reasons.

From helping to support the family to saving for college, beginning work in high school is a great way to get a head start on your life skills. Plus, having some extra cash can be a confidence booster that also aids independence and teaches you about life in the workforce.

Beyond that, more teens than ever are seeking out jobs due to an increasing amount of financial instability both in the United States and the wider world. For all these reasons, it’s important to have a resume that stands out to potential employers.

But, as most teenagers who have begun their job search have surely noted, there’s a major catch-22 in this process. The vast majority of hiring companies, from retail to food service, have experience required.

Even if they don’t explicitly list it in the job posting, a resume is essential to be taken seriously and hired. This is where many encounter a problem–how are you supposed to gain experience if you don’t have any experience?

How are you supposed to write a resume to get hired and gain experience, when you don’t have any experience that you can list on that resume? Luckily, for your first resume, you don’t have to list job experience.

If you’ve ever acted in a play, or played a sport, or volunteered, or simply did well in school, you can list that. Here’s a rundown of some key non-work items you can put on your resume:

1. Personal information

Don’t forget to put your name, address, email address, and phone number on the top of your resume. This seems obvious, but you’d be surprised how often this gets overlooked.

Most importantly, make sure the information is correct and up-to-date! Beyond objective personal information, include the subjective too–what skills do you have? This can be anything from “memorization abilities” to “proficient with Microsoft Excel.” 

2. Academic information

Assuming you’re still in high school, make sure to make an “Education” section that lists your school, start date, and expected graduation date. Taken a lot of honors and AP classes? Don’t be afraid to brag! Add your GPA and any other academic recognitions you may have received.

Even if you’ve never held a job before, by bringing attention to those facts, you’re able to show your dedication, smarts, and hard work in the education department. This highlights and provides proof of qualities that employers are looking for, despite not being a job. After all, school is basically an unpaid job.

How To Write A Resume With No Work Experience

3. Extracurriculars and volunteer work

As with academic information, extracurriculars show your dedication to projects that you believe in. Unlike the academic information, extracurriculars help show your true interests and more specific qualities.

For example, if you’re involved in theater, that shows teamwork, memorization or technical abilities, and creativity. If you play a sport, that also shows teamwork, commitment, and the ability to stay cool under pressure.

This field is especially helpful if you have a leadership position, which shows exceptional people and management abilities. Volunteer work is also helpful, since most of it is organized under a command structure similar to most entry level positions in the workforce. That shows you’re good at working hard and following instructions, producing results that better your community.

4. References

References are key! They are people that can vouch for your character. The most common examples for high schoolers who haven’t yet had a job are coaches, guidance counselors, and other forms of advisors.

You write their name, their relationship to you, and some contact information. The hiring manager will then contact them (probably) to get a review of your performance and character. This helps them decide if you’ll be right enough for the position to keep the process moving along to the interview.

Now you know what to put, here are some suggestions on how to arrange your resume to keep it looking sharp. Use a standard, legible font! It’s okay if it’s a little boring–simplicity and clarity are key. A pop of color can help, but keep it limited.

On my resume, I have my name in a nice blue that looks pretty and prints well, but retains legibility. Keep it limited to one page, and don’t forget your name and contact information at the top.

For extra professionalism, I keep mine in a clear plastic folder when I hand it over at the interview. There are many free templates you can download from various websites that already have everything you need arranged. In those cases, all you have to do is replace the filler text. Under each entry for past experience, be sure to list your responsibilities and any specific areas you were trained in.

That is a lot of information to cram on one page! The stakes feel high, and you probably feel like you’re missing something. That’s a normal feeling to have.

The workaround I’ve discovered is that it’s okay to have slightly different resumes for different applications. I keep things like personal information and references the same, but I emphasize different areas of my experience.

Since my work career has started, I’ve gained experience in food service, maintenance, retail, and online work. I pick and choose what I think are the most appropriate examples.

If I were to apply to another retail position, in the food service sections of my job history, I would be sure to touch on how I was also register-trained and assisted customers on top of my food duties.

I would do the opposite if I were applying to a food service position. I would emphasize the cleaning, organization, and attention to detail my retail positions demanded. This helps you save space and cut the excess while also providing an appropriate portrait of your experience.

As you enter the workforce, remember that it is okay to feel scared and overwhelmed. New job jitters are no joke!

A nice, polished resume will help you feel confident in your abilities. Be proud of yourself–even applying to jobs requires bravery and commitment. You’ve got this.

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Author: Rebecca Hanson

I'm currently a sophomore English major at Lewis & Clark College in sunny Portland, OR. Alongside my writing for Niche, I also contribute to LC's student newspaper and radio. I'm passionate about writing, playing bass, and taking care of my dog, Howie (not pictured).