How to Build Your High School Resume and Turn It Into a Golden Ticket

02 Nov 2022

Leo Ulloa-Higuera, a DoD STEM Ambassador, Shares Tips for High Schoolers Seeking Jobs, Scholarships, and Internships

Believe it or not, a resume is the first step in job, scholarship or internship hunting. A well-planned resume might become your golden ticket into your next academic or life experience. If you are thinking that you’re just a high school student with no experience or skills — wrong! This blog post will show how your plentiful experiences and varied skills qualify you for many opportunities.

The following was written by Jesus “Leo” Ulloa-Higuera, a school principal and DoD STEM Ambassador. DoD STEM Ambassadors work with the Defense STEM Education Consortium (DSEC) to advance STEM outreach for students who are underrepresented in STEM and/or military connected. Ulloa-Higuera was selected by the Teaching Institute for Excellence in STEM (TIES), a DSEC partner, as their DoD STEM ambassador for the 2021-2022 school year.

Grandpa George: “The kids who are going to find the golden tickets are the ones who can afford to buy candy bars every day! Our Charlie gets only one a year. He doesn't have a chance.”

Grandma Josephine: “Everyone has a chance, Charlie.”

- Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

You may think that you are just a high school student with no work experience, no certifications, no titles, no trophy or award wall, nothing but interest and curiosity. The truth is you do have experiences and skills that make you employable and worthy of scholarships and internships. However, it is necessary to identify those experiences and document them on your resume, which is like your own golden ticket.

“Cause I’ve got a golden ticket. I’ve got a golden chance to make my way.”

- Charlie Bucket, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Start out by identifying the audience for your resume. It’s important to customize your resume for each opportunity — similar to choosing clothing to fit an occasion. For example, since the goal is to get a job, you’ll need to show how your skills match a desired position. Let’s assume that you’re applying for a summer job at a business that engages with customers, such as a retail store. This position requires clear communication with positive language, cleanliness, punctuality, empathy, patience and self-control — exactly the skills to highlight on your resume if you have them. Don’t worry about the resume structure just yet.

All I really need to know about how to live and what to do and how to be I learned in kindergarten.

- Author Robert Fulghum

The next step is to identify your skills and abilities. This is where most high school students face a brick wall. Do not panic! Focus your attention on relevant and related experiences. Let’s assume that the objective of your resume is to apply for a scholarship. Whether you are applying for a private, public or college-specific scholarship, most likely a resume is required by the scholarship selection committee. For this purpose, your resume needs to highlight your education experiences, relevant extracurricular activities, awards, honors and volunteer experiences. You might not be in the top 1% of your class, however, at this point you can emphasize the classes that you have taken (such as accelerated, honors, Advanced Placement or electives) and educational experiences (summer school acceleration or career exploration) that match the scholarship requirements. For example, let’s say the scholarship is for students interested in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). Your resume needs to emphasize your academic experiences related to STEM. It is not necessary to include your grades, but it is extremely important to expand on learning experiences derived from such courses.

Now let’s explore untapped opportunities such as internships, which are work-like experiences, unpaid or paid, that offer excellent opportunities to practice working, explore careers and gain new skills. Internship selection committees look for candidates with well-rounded experiences (academic, extracurricular) potentiality related to the opportunity. Pay close attention to potentiality, which is defined by the Oxford dictionary as “latent qualities or abilities that may be developed and lead to future success or usefulness.” Grades and awards matter, but individuality matters the most. Make it personal! Expand on the qualities that make you the perfect fit for the opportunity. Be relatable, be curious, be brave and show you are and can be a leader. Everything counts, like the time you helped your neighbor troubleshoot their nonworking Wi-Fi network, or when you helped your uncle create a Facebook profile, or when you assisted your teacher and your classmates with the resolution of a conflict in class. Bring your potentiality to life on a resume created specifically for internship opportunities.

Here are a few last words of guidance to help you create your own golden ticket: Select the best resume structure according to the opportunity, and do not use an online resume builder. Ask your teachers, counselor, assistant principal, principal, parents and trusted adults for feedback and take their advice with a grain of salt. Be comfortable with rejection. As Albert Einstein said, “Failure is success in progress.” If crafted with purpose and passion, your resume will turn into a golden ticket for entering your next life experience. Best of luck!

About DoD STEM and Defense STEM Education Consortium

Defense STEM Education Consortium (DSEC) is a collaborative partnership of STEM-focused organizations dedicated to addressing and prioritizing our nation’s STEM talent. DSEC aims to broaden STEM literacy and develop a diverse and agile workforce with the technical excellence to defend our nation. Through strategic investment in STEM education and outreach activities, the effort will provide students with more exposure to educational and career opportunities as well as DoD research. DSEC is led on behalf of DoD STEM by RTI International.

About Teaching Institute for Excellence in STEM

The goal of the Teaching Institute for Excellence in STEM (TIES) is to work with school districts to ensure that all young people complete their secondary and postsecondary education “STEM ready.” This vision is intentionally inclusive of all students and reflects the inequity of access to learning. TIES defines success not by whether students choose to pursue STEM careers but by whether they have been provided high-value, relevant education that allows them to graduate with the skills and knowledge to make informed choices. TIES’s role in DSEC is to expand partnerships between numerous TIES ecosystem projects and DoD laboratories.