DON’T be gimmicky. This means no video resumes, no perfumed resumes, no glittery resumes, you get the idea. Yes, in Legally Blonde, Elle Woods’ poolside video resume got her into Harvard Law. Unfortunately, in the real world, a video resume will, best case scenario, give the poor overworked admissions officers a chuckle and lower your chances of getting accepted, and worst case scenario, get leaked on YouTube and make you infamous. Stick to the basics—they are the standard for a reason.
DO use action words when you describe what you did in each job or activity. These words make you seem proactive and like you have leadership qualities. They also make it seem like you actually were doing something in your activities and that you’re not just a token member. Some examples of action words you can use are: managed, edited, spearheaded, organized, and coached.
DON’T make the resume too long. The resume should ideally fit onto one page, or two if you absolutely need more room. Please, do yourself and the admissions officers a favor, and leave out your starring role as Queen Esther in the JCC Purim play when you were in third grade. Leave out your dodgeball trophies from sixth grade. A good rule of thumb is to only include things from ninth grade and beyond. Of course, there are occasional exceptions. If you founded a global charity in eighth grade that you spent your high school years leading, you can include that. In general, though, do not include pre-ninth grade accomplishments.
DO give specific examples. This will give admissions officers a clearer idea of what you did in the position, and it will show that you are a can-do person with concrete accomplishments. For example, if you served as the community service chair of your youth group, put in a bullet point about how you organized the dance-a-thon for cancer research and raised 2,000 dollars. The more specifics and concrete details, the better!
DON’T use full sentences or paragraphs in the resume to describe what each position meant to you. That’s not what the resume is for; it’s what the essays are for. The resume should tell what you have accomplished during your high school years. It should list awards, honors, activities, jobs, education and travel programs, and what each of these entailed. Any reflections or analysis should be saved for your essays.