Revising Your CV, Resume, or Biosketch

By Dr. Chloe N. Poston, Associate Director, The Leadership Alliance

A CV or curriculum vitae is an extended resume that accompanies your GRE scores, academic transcripts, and personal statement to complete your graduate school application. Your CV is a great place for you to highlight your academic history, research interests, relevant work experience, honors, and accomplishments. It is also a great place for you to demonstrate extensive knowledge in the field and your academic potential. Use the tips below to develop a CV that will make your application stand out.

1. Sections Matter: Most CVs will have education and employment information, but you will need to create additional sections to really tell your story. For example, if you have extensive volunteer experience, then you should have a “community service” section. If you have been a TA, then you should add a section on teaching experience. Other sections to consider include conference presentations, awards and honors, publications, and leadership roles. If you don’t have at least two bullets for a section, consider renaming it something broader.

2. Accomplishments Come First. You want the reader to be immediately impressed by you and your work to date, so you should place your proudest academic achievements first. Often this comes in the form of an honors and awards section that appears just below the education section. Remember that your CV should show that you will be a great academic, so scholarships, conference presentations, and publications should also be featured prominently on the first page of your CV.

3. Stay Relevant: Your CV for graduate school should be focused on your academic career. The jobs you’ve held that are not relevant to your research should not appear on your CV. You should also focus on your undergraduate (and post-baccalaureate career if applicable), rather than your time in high school.

4. Proofread and Format. For some people who are considering your application, the CV may be the primary document they use to review your academic history. Proofread for typos that could make you appear careless and create clean formatting that is easy on the eyes. These are two small steps that can leave a negative impression when overlooked. Ask someone else to review your resume for typos and formatting suggestions. Then find an additional person and ask them to read your resume in three minutes. Time them and then ask them questions about you as a candidate. This exercise will highlight which information is readily accessible and memorable.

Action Items

  1. Highlight your experiences and research skills.
  2. Focus on key accomplishments rather than making a laundry list.
  3. Keep the information relevant to graduate school.
  4. Proofread, proofread, proofread.

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