Developing a strong CV for Your Graduate School Application: How it Differs from a Resume

Embarking on your journey to graduate school involves creating a Curriculum Vitae (CV) that stands out. While a CV can be quite similar to a resume in some aspects, for graduate school applications, it serves a very different purpose. Unlike a resume, which is typically concise and focused on work experience, a CV for graduate school is more detailed and academically oriented. Developing a strong CV is not a one-size-fits-all process. The advice provided here stems from one of many perspectives, other valid opinions also exist, especially from your advisors and within your field of study or discipline. There is no guaranteed format that will ensure success in securing a place in a program or a job, but suggestions towards what institutions are looking for.

How a CV Differs from a Resume

Length and Detail: A CV is typically longer than a resume because it includes more detailed sections on education, research, publications and other relevant academic data. While resumes are usually one to two pages, a CV can run several pages if the experience warrants it.

Purpose and Focus: The resume is a brief snapshot of your skills and experiences tailored to a specific job, emphasizing brevity and relevance to the job market. Conversely, the CV for graduate school is an exhaustive record of your academic journey, meant to showcase your intellectual background and readiness for rigorous scholarly work.

Content: Resumes often begin with a career objective or summary statement and focus on professional achievements and skills. A CV, instead, begins with your educational history and delves into academic achievements, including any research, publications, and detailed descriptions of academic projects.

Readability: The Crucial Element

With the potential of hundreds of CVs landing on an evaluator’s desk, readability is important. A CV that’s easy to navigate can make all the difference. Here’s how to enhance the readability of your CV:

  • Use a clear, legible font of at least 12 points; never go below 10 points to ensure clarity.
  • Maintain margins of at least one inch, but not smaller than 0.5 inches, for an organized layout.

Common CV Sections

Your CV should include (but is not limited to) the following sections:

  • Education
  • Summary
  • Research
  • Publications
  • Presentations
  • Professional or Work Experience
  • Community or Academic Service
  • Honors & Awards

This list is not exhaustive, but it illustrates the comprehensive nature of a CV. Its purpose is to give the admissions committee a holistic view of your academic experience and strengths and potential as a researcher or a professor.

Tips for Crafting Your Graduate School CV

  1. Tailor Your CV: Customize your CV for each graduate program you apply to, emphasizing the experiences and accomplishments that are most relevant to the field of study.
  2. Highlight Your Academic Achievements: Put your educational background and any research, teaching, or academic work at the forefront.
  3. Be Specific: Provide details about your research projects, including the objectives, methodologies, and conclusions, as well as any contributions to publications or academic conferences.
  4. Professional Presentation: Format your CV clearly and professionally, using headers, bullet points, and consistent font and spacing to make it easily readable.
  5. Proofread: A CV with typos or grammatical errors can detract from its professionalism. Make sure to proofread your CV several times and consider having a mentor or career consultant review it.

In conclusion, while a resume might be your go-to for job applications, developing a CV is a critical step in the journey to graduate school. It’s a chance to comprehensively represent your academic career and to persuade the admissions committee that you are an ideal candidate for further study. Remember, the CV is not just a summary of your past; it is a document that speaks to your future potential in the world of academia.

By Ingrid Beute
Ingrid Beute Career Consultant, Engineering & Science & Career Champions Program Coordinator