Experiential learning resources for the innovative educator
Summer is a great time for 21st-century learners, especially high school students, to bolster their resumes for colleges and careers, and this post has the best resume builders for students out there.
Resume building is even good for younger students, not necessarily in terms of college and career readiness, but for developing life skills such as work ethic, team work, and responsible citizenship.
Summer is a great time to take advantage of resume builders for students simply because there is more time and there tends to be more opportunities available for young people, as it is assumed they aren't in school over the summer.
This is obviously not the case for everyone. Resume builders for students don't have to take place over the summer, nor do students have to be on break to work on personal growth and bulking up their resumes.
There are the obvious resume builders for students to build their high school resumes such as gainful employment, volunteering, and a decent GPA or academic narrative, but there are many less obvious ways.
I think it's really important for students to branch away from the typical or expected points on a resume for a couple reasons: 1) They will want to stand out amongst other college and/or job applicants, and 2) The skills desired in an employee have drastically changed from as recently as 20 years ago.
I've listed resume builders for students to do over the summer and added resources that might go well with each. All of the suggestions are student-directed and experiential.
Note: Many students that are trying to build their resumes may be college hopefuls. Money.com has a page on their site with "The Best Colleges in America, Ranked by Value", based on a number of data points such as tuition and graduates' earnings.
10 Summer Resume Builders for High School Students
1. Building 21st-Century Skills:
As I said above, having something to show for yourself other than the fact that you can get a decent GPA is critical. A GPA demonstrates limited capabilities, and isn't always an accurate representation of performance or potential. Employers of today are looking for employees that can problem-solve, work well with others, work independently, navigate technology that is constantly evolving, and more.
"21st-Century Skills Portfolio" - This is a great student-directed, summer learning activity and resume builder for students. The idea is for 21st-century learners to assemble "evidence" of skill building with skill-building activities.
All of the following suggested resume builders for students could be added to this portfolio, which in theory could be shared with potential employers, college admissions counselors, or even as a senior project.
I also encourage you to peruse my 21st-century skills blog series, starting with Strategies for Teaching the 21st-Century Skills.
2. Community Action Projects:
Community Action Projects are project based learning activities where students explore community issues (locally, nationally, or globally) that they find important. They research the issue, make an action plan, and take action.
It is not as simple as a community service activity or volunteer experience. It requires research, commitment to the issue, and making long-term change in the community. Raising money, advocating for legislation, giving time, and raising awareness are some ways to go about this.
What is cool about this resume builder compared to the other resume builders for students listed here, is that it is student-directed ad community-based. The student leads the project from start to finish offering opportunities to build career ready skills such as leadership, time-management, creative problem-solving, task-management, planning, decision making and more.
Check out my Community Action Projects on TpT, particularly the tool kit for unlimited project possibilities. This tool kit comes with a printable and digital version to be used with Google Apps. Check out my community action project blog posts as well for more information.
3. Online Courses:
There are so many free courses online today, many of them from highly reputable colleges. Not only does this resume builder for students increase content knowledge, but shows that the student has the skills to self-direct and has interest in tech literacy, an important 21st-century skill.
Udemy, Coursera, and edX are some options. There are many others. The Covid-19 pandemic has led to many organizations to provide historically expensive online courses for free. This is great for professional development and CEU's for educators as well.
Check out this list of free educational websites for teens (including online courses).
4. Start a Business:
This resume builder for students doesn't have to be elaborate. It could be as simple as a lawn mowing or dog walking business, or as elaborate as starting a skateboard clothing brand. I have had students do both.
There is so much to be gained from starting a business. Students will learn about marketing, how to balance a budget, use spreadsheets, write a business plan, and more.
5. Service Learning/Volunteering:
Yes, I have suggested that this is an obvious choice among the other resume builders for students suggested here. It is, but is no less important because it's obvious.
Get students rolling on service learning experiences this summer. Going through the experience using project-based learning principles will help students with structure and organization, as well as expanding the experience beyond simply putting in clock hours.
Elements of project-based learning include working with community experts, demonstrating learning with an innovative final product, and presenting the experience to an authentic, public audience.
Check out my project-based learning self-directed project-based learning toolkit that includes templates for getting started on any PBL experience.
Update: I have recently made a self-directed service-learning tool kit. Check that out as well.
Shadowing and interning are great resume builders for students for developing career skills in their lines of interest. Not only that, they give students a clear understanding of whether their "career path" is really what they want.
I thought I wanted to be a doctor my entire young life. I even went through several years of pre-med while I was an undergrad just to discover later that I was not only uninterested in the field, but extremely uncomfortable with many of the tasks that would have been required of me - working with blood for instance.
I could have saved myself a lot of time, energy, and resources if I had volunteered in a hospital in high school or shadowed a nurse or doctor before committing to a career that made me queasy.
Check out a couple of these resources as potential student projects for summer, both of which require shadowing a community expert - Hometown Behind the Scenes: Local Business, and Hometown Behind the Scenes: Community Event. You could also check out my Career Exploration PBL project, which would help students reduce the chance of getting into a career that isn't right for them.
7. Gainful Employment:
Again, another one of the resume builders for students that I pointed out as obvious above, but nevertheless, it's an important experience for students to have.
I had some older students that came to my school often after years of struggling in the traditional school system. Most of them, some 20 years old, had never been employed. That is not a great way to head into life after school.
Employment helps students practice teamwork, punctuality, work ethic, personal finance, and other life skills. Not only that, it gives them a sense of accomplishment and pride.
8. Start a Blog or a Podcast:
Have students identify something that interests them such as art, music, history, social issues, education, etc. and start a relevant blog or podcast about that topic. In theory, the topic should be relevant to their future. For example, if they are interested in music production as a potential career, starting a blog about the local music scene would make sense.
Creating a blog or podcast is an experience in itself and is one of my favorite resume builders for students. There's a huge learning curve. I know from experience.
Blogging and podcasting are also multi-disciplinary and help students build 21st-century skills. Another cool thing is that blogs and podcasts could be referenced by anyone at anytime such as employers or clients to demonstrate skills and knowledge on the topic. Either would also illuminate character, which is a priority to many employers.
9. Active Citizenship:
Students can get involved in community issues by attending town hall meetings, voting, meeting with legislators, participating in walks or protests, etc. Students can even search around for student government opportunities. Model UN is the first one to come to mind, but community education programs and YMCA's also offer options resume builders for students like these.
Getting involved in community issues through government experiences is one action plan option for community action projects mentioned above.
10. Start a Club
Starting a club is another one of my favorite resume builders for students! Coordinating and maintaining a club would look outstanding on a resume. It takes organizational skills, follow-through, commitment, creativity, leadership skills, time management skills and more.
Summer reading groups, a community clean-up group, a wildlife club, and a skateboard club are all great examples.
I have a college and career readiness PBL bundle in my TpT store that includes most of the resources mentioned in this blog post. I also encourage your students to document their experiences in a digital career portfolio.
Thanks for checking out 10 resume builders for students to do this summer break! There are of course many other options. I would love to hear your ideas and comments. Thanks for stopping by!
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To provide innovative educational resources for educators, parents, and students, that go beyond lecture and worksheets.
Sara Segar, experiential life-science educator and advisor, curriculum writer, and mother of two.