Students, you should begin a high school résumé draft by the end of freshman year. It makes things so much easier when you suddenly have to construct a résumé for college during the frenzy of the summer prior to senior year.
How do you begin to build your résumé as early as 9th grade?
[A] Sample three or four interesting clubs in school or activities outside of school (a job, internship, community outreach, research; blogging; writing a book; starting your own online magazine or organization for a cause you believe in, etc.) while you’re a freshman. This is the best time for exploration because soon you will be on a difficult, standardized test-oriented road with varying numbers of AP courses to sample throughout the rest of high school. By end of 9th grade, you will have a good idea of which among these activities will stick with you and vice versa. You will have had time to gauge both your interest in, and inclination for the type of work involved in each activity, and slowly, in the spring, you can begin deciding which will be cut for the following high school year, and which will become part of your academic and extracurricular history.
[B] By sophomore year, be sure to begin serious involvement towards leadership in one or two of these organizations, clubs or your own business. Without such focus, admission officers can’t see a thread of passion or leadership skill over a long period of time. You must be able to bring qualitative success to the group or club you lead; or, if you are founding an organization, we would want to know the details of your process. It shows a great deal about you if you are confident and adventurous enough to put yourself at the helm of ANYTHING at the ripe old age of fifteen. Keep notes on all the steps it took to create that nonprofit, open a bank account, and pitch your mission successfully to scholarship organizations. Give us context for how you raised funds or took the organization one step up.
[C] By junior year, Admissions will be looking for how you have scaled up your leadership or entrepreneurial pursuits.
Most impressive is out-of-school leadership because it demonstrates moxie and fearlessness—that you followed your heart and founded an organization or social enterprise; or became the leader of an advocacy group for education or the environment. Here is the wonderful part: if your program has success and wins regional, national, or international awards, or even receives media coverage, that will be positively noticed by admissions and will give you an advantage over other applicants.
However, if you can discuss obstacles and demonstrate the community organizing or general fervor with which you went after your dream, and it still failed to come together—that will also be positively received. Now, you have done something interesting in your young life; shown leadership; attempted to overcome obstacles, and failed (which we all know is the first step towards future success!). Now you have a great story for an essay or personal statement—one that shows a little vulnerability and character. Now your application will stand out from among others. As it says on the International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) website: “If you do not fail part of the time, you are not working hard enough.”
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