High School Achievements

Almost without exception, you should not put high school achievements on your resume. Unless you cured a disease or saved the world from certain destruction and have the newspaper articles to prove it, leave this stuff out. Why? Because things were different in high school. You were competing against a hodgepodge of 16- and 17-year-olds thrown together by the caprices of geography. Many of those teenagers had no interest whatsoever in competing with you for grades, awards, honors, etc. Some others dropped out altogether to (pick one) join a gang, deliver pizza full time, follow Phish around the country, or smoke cigarettes at the mall.The fact that your accomplishments bested those of your above-mentioned peers five years ago is not impressive to a present-day employer. It’s not that you can’t still feel good about it. Hey, I still treasure my high-school discus medals and that time I took third out of 150 competitors in an English Literature competition. But I don’t put it on my resume, because no one who sees my resume would care.The reason you don’t include that stuff is that you’re into a much higher level of competition now. Everyone you’re competing with wants exactly the same thing you want: the open job. And there aren’t any slouches competing with you anymore – those guys smoking cigarettes at the mall (yes, they’re still there, five years later) are not the ones competing with you now. Everyone you’re up against has a similar background, education and skill set. Because of that, it’s important that you emphasize your recent accomplishments – ones that you’ve carved out for yourself against your current crop of competitors, rather than people from the past who weren’t really breaking their necks to compete with you in the first place.

Yes, but: “What about major accomplishments, like becoming an Eagle Scout?” There are indeed some accomplishments that mark a person for life, and garner praise for many years – even decades – after they’re earned, even if they’re earned during a person’s high school years. In this case, I’d make an exception to the above rules and include the accomplishment on your resume. For example, there’s no way I’d leave “Eagle Scout” off my resume (especially since I dropped out of Cub Scouts the first time they asked me to tie a knot).

There may be other awards that carry similar weight, but I’m not aware of them, so your decision whether to include such an award in your resume will be up to you. But before you take the natural step of assuming your award or accomplishment is prestigious enough to include, ask yourself one question: When you tell people who don’t know you about your award, do they have to ask you to explain what that is? Or is it an accomplishment, like Eagle Scout, that everyone instantly recognizes? If it’s the former, then it probably doesn’t belong on your real-world, job-market resume.

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