Putting your child’s high school career on paper.

In my summer planning guide I mentioned creating the high school resume, also called the activity sheet. By putting it together now, your student can see their strengths and how best to present them. Something here might spark an essay topic, too.

Though some colleges allow a student to submit their high school resume as a separate item, most prefer the information is transferred to the Activities and Honors sections of the application. But it’s important to create this sheet so your student has all these details easily accessible in one place.

After sitting through many college information sessions, I’ve learned that colleges don’t necessarily want kids involved in “everything.” They’re looking for the academically successful student who participates in at least one activity outside the classroom that reveals commitment, responsibility and/or a special interest. The activity sheet creates a clearer picture of your teen and how well they might fit in at a particular college.

Keep in mind that on the Common App, students have a 50-character limit for the activity name and 150-character limit for the activity description, so full sentences aren’t necessary. Your student should set up their activity sheet with these guidelines. A maximum of 10 activities can be included on the Common App and eight on the Coalition application. That said, your student should put every activity and honor on their high school resume and then decide which to move to their application later.

Setting up the high school resume Start by checking out the resume of a recent graduate or two from your school—most parents are happy to share—to get an idea of what it should look like. The top of the page should have your child’s full name.

Port Chester Marching Band 2011The general breakdown my kids used included four main categories: In-School Activities, Out-of-School Activities, Work Experience and, finally, Other. Your student might find a different format more suitable for his interests.

Each item should include the years your teen participated, as well as any leadership positions they held, such as president, treasurer, captain or founder. Note: colleges only want to see high school activities, so disregard anything prior unless your teen was involved in a high school program in eighth grade.

In-School Activities This section comprises all extra-curriculars, as well as any and all academic honors, committees, etc. This category can be broken down into subcategories like Arts, Sports, Clubs, Organizations and Academic Honors.

Organizations encompasses student government, committees, National Honor Society, community service groups, etc. In Academic Honors add years on the Honor Roll, any honor society inductions like foreign language, science, math, college book awards and similar citations. National Honor Society can go here if your child prefers.

My daughter used this main category to include that she was invited to feature her work in a local college art show her freshman year.


In-School Activities


Outdoor Track             9, 10, 11, 12                Varsity, Captain 11, 12

[Describe what was involved, including frequency of practices, meets & what role of captain entailed.]

DSC03271Out-of-School Activities Put Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, club/travel teams, community center activities, dance classes, music lessons, conferences attended, community service activities and similar endeavors under this category. Here colleges do care if your student started participating in the activity when they were six years old. Include details, if applicable. Under Dance, my daughter included Community Service Performances and listed the fundraising events where she danced.


Out-of-School Activities

Girl Scouts      3rd grade-present          Gold Award (GS highest honor)

                                                                           [Briefly describe project here]

Church Service Group 9, 10, 11, 12      [list highlights here]

Work Experience Colleges look favorably upon students holding a job, although don’t make your student get one just to impress admissions counselors. Work shows another level of responsibility and can include everything from grocery store cashier to babysitter to doctor’s office receptionist to tutor. This category is important for teens who couldn’t be involved in extra-curriculars because they needed to work to help out their family or who chose to work to learn more about a possible career path.


Work Experience

Math tutor for elementary and middle school students            9, 10, 11, 12

Other Include anything significant that doesn’t fit into the previous categories. My son used this space to mention that he successfully petitioned the athletic director to change a policy that penalized certain seasonal student athletes.



In senior year, started a 1-week summer clinic for incoming freshmen cheerleaders conducted at my house to smooth the transition to the high school squad

Hopefully by completing their high school resume your student will appreciate what they’ve accomplished in the past few years and feel more confident as they apply to college.

Share your advice and thoughts on the high school resume in the comments section below.