What you have listed on your résumé provides the foundation for developing your personal essay, preparing for interviews, and completing applications for colleges, summer programs, internships, and employment. The manner in which you complete this activity is critically important to developing the foundation of your personal essay. Your personal essay will reflect your story—the challenges, obstacles, failures, and successes—and define you as a college or scholarship applicant. Within each area reflected on your résumé is part of your story. Prior to writing each narrative, consider having a conversation with a parent, teacher, coach, youth pastor, program director, mentor or friend with whom you can discuss the experiences in as much detail as possible. These people may also assist you in recalling experiences.

The video, “Harvard Debate Council Selection” included with this activity provides two important examples. One of our ninth grade cohort students submitted her résumé as part of her application to the Harvard Debate Council Diversity Project. After being admitted into the program, she now has another experience to add to her résumé and an experience on which to reflect as she writes a narrative about what is reflected on her résumé.


  • Engage in self-reflection regarding the coursework, experiences, community service, activities, and awards listed on your résumé.
  • Develop narratives about each of the areas listed on your résumé.

Estimated time to complete: Undetermined

Guiding Questions

  • What experiences, stories, anecdotes, and lessons are reflected in the academic coursework, extracurricular activities, or community service listed on my résumé?
  • Which of my many experiences can provide the foundation for a personal essay that presents a clear image of my gifts, talents, service, values, beliefs, obstacles, and achievements?