Creating a Strong CV for Graduate School Applications


What works for regular job applications may not cut it when writing a CV for grad school applications.

The primary distinction between a grad school CV and a standard CV lies in its target audience – an academic one. 

A grad school CV places a greater emphasis on educational accomplishments rather than professional work history. This entails showcasing academic facets such as research endeavors, publications, grants, presentations, and conference participation.

Moreover, you should fine-tune your grad school CV to align with the expectations of your target academic institution and its specific program. Ensuring your grad school CV contains all the required elements for admission is paramount.

In this guide, we’ll highlight and discuss the things you should remember when creating a strong CV for graduate school applications. We’ll cover what sets a grad school CV apart, what makes it great, and the essential skills and experiences to highlight.

7 Important Sections to Include in a Grad School CV

When crafting your graduate school CV, make sure the following critical sections are all included:

  1. Heading: Incorporate essential personal details like your name, address, contact number, and email address. Use a bold, larger, and clear font size for enhanced visibility.
  2. Education: List your educational history in reverse chronological order, from the latest institution to high school. Ensure you include institution names, locations, degrees, majors, graduation dates, and optional details like thesis information and grades.
  3. Experience: Typically, include up to five years of pertinent, relevant work history, considering your age and experience. Detail previous and current work positions, emphasizing skills and qualifications, including employer names, locations, job titles, and employment dates. Include administrative roles and experiences showcasing commitment within a five-year timeframe.
  4. Presentations: Highlight conference involvement with presentation titles, event names, locations, dates, and brief descriptions, provided it’s relevant to the program you’re pursuing.
  5. Publications: Organize publications into categories (e.g., journal articles, reports) to showcase writing and thinking skills. Include relevant print, magazine, and blog work to ensure proper field-specific citations.
  6. Awards and Honours: List awards with institutions and the award date, including scholarships, assistantships, and fellowships, prioritizing them by significance.
  7. References: Conclude your CV with a section of three to five references, ordered by relevance, providing names, titles, affiliations, and contact info for admission committee verification.

Some other optional sections you can include in your graduate school CV include:

  • Certifications: Include relevant certifications along with the year of achievement.
  • Institutional services: Highlight your contributions to institutional committees, leadership roles, mentorship of student groups, and collaboration on special academic initiatives.
  • Professional associations: List your affiliations with professional organizations at national, regional, state, and local levels, including any roles or committee positions, as well as student memberships.
  • Educational travel: Detail your travels, specifying countries, dates, and the purpose behind each journey.
  • Current research: Provide insight into ongoing or recent research projects, their nature, and objectives.
  • Community involvement: Showcase your relevant volunteer experiences.

5 Tips for Writing a Strong Graduate School CV

Keep the following tips in your heart when crafting a graduate school CV:

1. Customize your CV to match the programme

Each graduate program comes with its unique set of skills and prerequisites. To stand out, tailor your experiences and skills to match the specific requirements of the department you’re applying to. 

Additionally, remember to emphasize academic programs closely related to the specific graduate program within the institution you’re seeking admission to.

2. Focus majorly on your Academic background

When crafting your graduate school CV, prioritize your educational history. Include details like your academic degrees, the city where you earned them, your field of study, and your graduation year. 

Remember to highlight work experiences directly related to your studies or underscore your strong work ethic and effectiveness.

3. Describe your accomplishments using strong language

Demonstrate a strong command of academic language by integrating powerful phrases and rich vocabulary that will captivate anyone reading your CV. Employ a variety of action verbs and expressions, and aim for specificity in your descriptions. 

Instead of merely stating that you ‘assisted,’ delve into the tangible details of your actions, the collaborators involved, and the accomplishments achieved. This approach creates a more compelling narrative of your work experiences.

4. Adopt a narrative structure

It is vital that your CV possesses a coherent, clear, and user-friendly structure.

While the CV is typically presented linearly, you can infuse a narrative element when describing your journey in developing knowledge and skills through academic achievements and work experiences. This narrative approach effectively conveys your growth and aptitude for continuous improvement to academic committees.

5. Mention internships and volunteer work

Feel free to incorporate your volunteer work and internships in your grad school CV. This will demonstrate your strong work ethic and efficiency and highlight your ability to collaborate effectively within a team. 

Also, provide detailed descriptions of the tasks and projects you’ve been involved in to give a comprehensive view of your experiences.

Anything else?

As long as you keep your grad school CV focused on your educational qualifications, everything will go smoothly. That’s what distinguishes it from a regular CV used for job applications. 

Take time to include everything related to your academic journey so far; ensure you don’t leave out any certifications, internships, research, awards, and all.

Meanwhile, you should also consider subscribing to a PTMA professional package so that our experts can review your grad school CV for you. With our wealth of experience, you can rest assured of expert guidance to make your grad school CV stand out. 

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