For Parents of High School Students: Have Your Child Create A Dossier By The End of Ninth Grade

The Magic “Dossier” Document

Most students gather a wealth of information about themselves just prior to filling out college applications. Once the data is entered into applications’ data boxes however, that information is much harder to retrieve. Taking time from freshman year onward to help your child create and update a master “dossier” document is a step that will pay off significantly for years to come. Keep a running list of every activity, sport, job, class, leadership role. Include beginning and end dates, grades, salary, and awards where applicable. Have your child make a brief note about what they learned from each experience. Don’t forget small events like projects they have done for friends or family and trips or school projects that were meaningful. This is a document for you and your child only. These notes can become the basis for a resume, essays, answers to interview questions, and even scholarship applications and cover letters.

  • National Honors Society, Key Club, Jobs, Scouts, Camp CIT programs, and Other High School Extra curricular organizations’ applications: Have your child save a copy of each application they complete as they move through their high school career. The data on these forms should be added to their high school “dossier” document on an ongoing basis.
  • Make a Resume*: No later than second semester of sophomore year, every student has had enough experience to create a basic (one-page only!) resume that utilizes the “dossier” data. 
  • College applications: Many students find that just starting college applications is daunting. With a master “dossier” and a well-proofed resume, they will be able to block and copy many items and place them directly into the applications, reducing angst and time. Proofing every single item in a word processing document before it is placed into any application, scholarship or career site will help reduce errors. The earlier your child submits any application, even if they are applying regular decision, the better off they will be. Having a “dossier” will reduce any hesitancy and speed up their efforts.
  • Recommendation Letters: High school teachers, staff and local employers often write 10-20 college letters a season. A resume is the most succinct summary of accomplishments and will make the recommender’s process easier and more accurate.
  • College interviews: Encourage your child to email their resume to an interviewer when they confirm their meeting or share the resume in person. This will distinguish your child as someone who takes the time to prepare. Make sure they also bring a copy for themselves, and remind them to use the resume to help guide the conversation so they don’t forget to mention important accomplishments.
  • Scholarship applications: Like college applications, scholarship programs will also need details of your child’s accomplishments. Some may also require a resume.
  • Jobs or internships. A one page resume is the right length for most opportunities your child will seek in high school and in college. Before submitting a resume, make sure they read the job description carefully and tailor the resume to the employer’s needs. Order bullets with the job description in mind and include 3-5 keywords that the job description uses so that automated resume readers capture your child’s resume with their word matching algorithms.
  • Updates: remind your child to update their resume regularly – either when they have a significant accomplishment or every 4-6 months so that they are always ready to respond quickly to any opportunity that presents itself.


  • Use a centered header of name, address, cell number
  • Include an email address with a professional sounding name (no cutesy addresses like:!! – link the professional email to their main email or they will never check it.
  • Under the main header, use a standard resume layout
  • Your first section should be ACADEMICS under which you list your most recent school first working backwards to your high school(s). Include la short list with bullets that showcases key classes, academic activities, academic awards, and if strong, GPA and any standardized test scores of note.
  • The JOBS section comes next (unless your child hasn’t held a job yet – at which point get them a dog walking or babysitting gig stat!). List the most recent first and include 3 bullets maximum per job with a focus on quantifying accomplishments (note: if your child works a number of hours, this section can be listed before ACADEMICS).
  • EXTRA-CURRICULAR ACTIVITIES go last – again, make the bullets in this section accomplishment-oriented. Bullets can be listed chronologically, or grouped under italicized sub-headers such as Sports, Theater, Music, Scouts etc.
  • Lastly, if there is room, a one-line section under the header HOBBIES can help a reader connect to your child’s interests. Things like cooking, Fantasy Football, Magic the Gathering, fiction reading can go here.
  • Parent and child should write this document together then review it several times over the course of two weeks to have the best chance of correcting typos and adding missing activities.

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