Your senior year of high school is one you have been looking forward to since, oh, about kindergarten. This is a year of last dances, games and parties as well as your usual classes. It’s your time to live it up with your friends and cruise on through because you’ve already done everything you can to boost your college resume, right?
Wrong. Just because your SAT scores are in and your college list is ready doesn’t mean you should give up making yourself look better on paper. Senior year can be a time to focus on your future, and what you do now can have a major impact on your college career. Here are six ways to improve your resume your senior year, because it’s never too late!
Volunteering is a great way to boost your resume, but it also gives you a chance to give back to your community and make life better for someone else. There are hundreds of volunteer positions available in your community; you just have to look for them!
“Volunteering shows that you care about more than yourself, and that you are willing to take the time to help out others without pay,” said Jennifer Smith, Career Development Coordinator at the University of North Alabama. Choose an organization that you are passionate about, and the work won’t seem like work at all! Make sure you know enough about the organization and its purpose so that you can write about it or talk to an admissions counselor about it. Nikki Williams, Campus Correspondent at the University of Michigan, volunteered at several community events her senior year.
“These [events] not only made great resume builders, but I enjoyed doing them and they are GREAT essay material for college apps, especially if you relate them to your future majors/goals,” Nikki said. So talk to your guidance counselor about finding volunteer opportunities, grab a few friends, and head out to change the world!
2. Get a Job
If you have no work experience, now is the perfect time to get a part-time job. Not only will it help you pay for those new boots you have been eyeing for fall, but it will also give you experience dealing with people and situations that you don’t usually come across within the walls of high school. Try getting a job in a field you are interested in if possible, but any work experience is better than none! Work experience shows that you are organized enough to juggle school and a job, and responsible enough to want to earn your own money.
Many part-time jobs require you to be over eighteen, but many restaurants that don’t serve alcohol, hometown boutiques and shops, and grocery stores do not require you to be eighteen. Whatever job you choose, make sure you take it seriously. Smith said that work experience is good, but what you learned from it is what will really impress the college admissions boards. Another way to show off the knowledge you gain through being a working woman is to make a basic resume to showcase all the activities and experience you have. Check out this HC article for tips on how to make your first resume look professional and impressive.
3. Job Shadow or Intern
If you can’t find a part-time job doing something you’re interested in, try shadowing someone who has the job you want after college. Job shadowing is following (shadowing) a professional in the career of your choice. Job shadowing shows you the pros and cons of the job, and it gives you the opportunity to network with others in that field. Shadowing not only helps you decide if a career is right for you, but it also helps you decide if a career is totally wrong for you. Talk to your guidance counselor, or call local professionals in a field you’re interested in to see about shadowing opportunities.
When I was a senior in high school, I shadowed a local optometrist. Although I was interested in the study of optometry, I realized through the shadowing that the daily details of the job were things that I would rather not deal with every day for the rest of my life. One decision to shadow made sure I didn’t waste years of my life studying for a career I would hate!
High school senior Brittany had the opposite experience when she shadowed an elementary school teacher. “I shadowed third grade, and the teacher and the students were wonderful. I had a great experience, and I'm so glad I decided to shadow because after that I knew for sure that teaching elementary school was what I wanted to do because I got to see what a typical day is like, not just the fun parts but the lesson planning and the organizing."
Another way many collegiettes™ have built their resume senior year is by taking on an internship. Kelsey Mulvey, an HC contributing writer and sophomore at Boston University, told us about how her internship in high school is still helping her today. “I enrolled in a class that required finding an internship for the last two months of school. Although it was unpaid, I am so thankful I started interning then: my senior year internship led me to an internship this summer and a paid position with the company while I'm at school. So ask local companies if they need interns: employers love the idea of ‘free labor.’ And having an internship on your resume, even if it was for a few months, will make it easier to get future internships and even get EBoard positions for a college club,” Kelsey said.
If your school doesn’t offer an internship class like Kelsey’s, check out some websites that show internship opportunities in your area, like Intern Queen, and HC’s Careerette section. Internships not only help you see what it’s like to work in the field you want to go into, but also show college admissions counselors that you aren’t afraid to take initiative and are driven and passionate enough about your future to work hard without pay.
Amber Strazzo, HC Campus Correspondent at Millersville University, also took an internship class her senior year of high school and is still seeing the benefits. “All of the activities I got involved in through my internships gave me countless activities, experience and skills to include on a resume. I can honestly say that I can trace most of my leadership experience and skills back to my senior year of high school when I took that internship class. It was the best decision I made back then,” Amber said. Amber, Kelsey, and countless other collegiettes™ agreed that interning your senior year is a great resume booster and a great way to work your way up the corporate ladder.
4. Take on a Leadership Role
If you’re in a club or organization that you’re passionate about, take on a leadership role! Being involved in clubs is great, but having a leadership role is even better. Being a leader in a club shows that you aren’t just there to sit around and mooch the free pizza—you actually care about the organization enough to lead it! Tarina Quraishi, a contributing writer and sophomore at Harvard University, took on several leadership roles her senior year of high school. “As a senior, you're a great candidate to be a leader because you already have experience from being involved with club, team, etc. in previous years,” Tarina said. If officers have already been elected (in the spring, maybe) ask the officers if you can head up a special project or fundraiser. You can add this to your resume, and see what it feels like to have more responsibility other than just showing up for meetings.
5. Go to a Conference
Going to a conference or seminar may seem like a boring waste of a weekend, but these events can be very helpful to your future. Go to a conference for an organization you’re involved with, like Bianca Ortega, Campus Correspondent at Belmont University, did her senior year.
“I was a member of Girl Scouts and took part in a two-week trip to a Girl Scout World Center in Switzerland. I included snippets of these leadership and global experiences in my resume. I also attended a 10-day leadership conference through LeadAmerica, and I also included that. LeadAmerica and similar programs will often provide a recommendation that you can send to colleges. Participating in a LeadAmerica Business and Entrepreneurship Conference was not only a great way to meet talented high school students with a common love for learning, but it was also a great way to enhance my skills and learn how to be a better leader. From leadership activities and field trips to a busy schedule that required professionalism, the conference helped me develop those professional characteristics and traits at an early age,” Bianca said.
These events can help you find out more about your future career, give you something to talk about during admissions interviews, and give you a chance to meet professionals attending the event.
6. Attend an event sponsored by a college
Many colleges offer leadership conferences to high school students, so check with your college choices to see if they offer programs like this. The college conferences I attended during my senior year allowed me to meet students, admissions counselors and professors from the schools. These conferences are specific to every college, so check with your guidance counselor and check the college’s website for upcoming events for high school students.
If you are willing to give up a weekend, travel to the college, and spend time listening to speakers, you show college admissions boards that you are serious about that college and your education. The conferences may seem like they could get boring, but they often include an overnight stay in a residence hall, dining hall experiences, and free swag (pens, t-shirts, etc.) from the university!
Whatever you choose to do to build your resume, make sure you choose something! Your senior year is the worst time to fall into a slump. Get involved with something you’re passionate about, have fun and make your application stand out in the pile!
Jennifer Smith, Career Development Coordinator, University of North Alabama
Collegiettes™ from across the country.