The secret to building a great resumé & stand out

Want to get a head start? Building a resumé is an important first step in getting together your future Personal Statement in time and in good shape. Start thinking about the WHO, WHAT and WHY of YOU today.

Even if university is still far off, it is never too early to begin thinking about your resumé. The word resumé sums it straight up, aka it should be a summary of you. It should reflect who you are, what you do and – crucially - why you do it. Lastly, and you can save this part for later or last indeed, what it is you want to do.

Before putting pen to paper, have a long (and honest) look in the mirror. You may find you are doing and liking a lot of different things, but not one thing stands out. Resumés should take care of some streamlining of activities and looking at this early will make you feel much better prepared for when it is time to really put it together, later in VIth Form.

Don’t let others beat you to a head start

International applicants to American universities often only start thinking about their resumés by the age of 16 or even 17, whilst pupils in the US education system will most certainly start about 2 years earlier. Don’t be late to the party. An early start will help you in building a coherent story and help you understand how to get most out of your schoolyears and all it has to offer.

How to achieve a remarkable resumé?

Grades are the founding stone of any resumé and matter greatly, whatever you plan to do. What you do besides obtaining good grades, is what will provide ’contextuality’. Grades will reflect what your academic capabilities are. Everything else will shine a light on what sort of a person you are.

Context is mostly provided by your ‘non-curricular’ activities. We have coined the recurrent themes that Admissions departments look for in a resumé (other than grades) as PACT: Perseverance, Authenticity, Community service & volunteering and Time management.


Your resumé or personal statement will undoubtedly raise the question why you are excited to study your chosen subject. The person reading your statement or resumé will search for ‘proof’ that you did not think of the subject yesterday. They will want to find out how ‘your’ subject is evident in your life other than the good grade you achieved in it. For example, did you win any prizes? Have you attended summer-courses? Have you written about it in your school-magazine? Did you do work experience? All of this to demonstrate that you have persevered with the subject, giving universities reassurance that you are likely to finish your degree (after all there is a good level of dropouts each year).


In everything you write or do, be genuine. Don’t be tempted to tick off boxes by engaging in activities that you think ‘look good’ on your resumé, or in pursuing subjects you don’t really like. Being authentic in your choices goes a long way. In fact, the only way to be truly convincing is when you mean what you say; it will shine between the lines and the experts in the Admission offices will pick up on these tiny, intangible, clues and it will make your resumé stand out.

Community service and volunteering

Being active and volunteering in your community, will demonstrate empathy, initiative and humility. Volunteering can be anything, from helping out at your local primary school, library or football-team, to raising funds for charities or setting up campaigns and getting people involved in things you care about. A good place to start is to check out the Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme (see our article on DofE). The way you are ‘off-piste’ - so to speak - provides insight in your personality, and shows that you are allegedly an interested, engaged and productive student and may very well be considered an asset to the university you apply to.


Lastly, time management is key. How much do you fit in a day? Have you achieved those good grades whilst simultaneously being a player of the first rugby or tennis team; or having achieved a high level (and no, that is not Grade V) in playing a musical instrument; or having set up a side hustle on Tiktok or writing for the school magazine? Whatever your ‘thing’ is, being good or fabulous in things other than your studies, will demonstrate that you are energetic and able to manage your time effectively and, most important of all, that you have discipline.

In conclusion: the best resumés will show good grades + a structured reflection on the Who, What and Why about you. The secret to getting these pieces of your resumé together and to arrive on time with a genuine ‘product’, is to start now. It will give oxygen to your busy VITH Form schedule. Get pact’ up, your future self will thank you.

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