Congratulations! You’re investing in your future by applying to grad school. The application is complete, you’ve gathered your recommendations, and you’re working on developing another important component—your resumé.
Your grad school resumé is an integral piece of the admissions process, says Jared Pierce, associate director of enrollment quality assurance at Northeastern University. Admissions counselors rely on resumés as an assessment of the student, his or her strengths, work experience, skills, education, and interests, he says, to help them decide whether a prospective student is a good fit for the program.
Your grad school resumé is similar in many ways to a resumé you’d submit as part of a job application: You should use crisp language to describe your experiences, a clean and organized layout to make it easy to read, and it should be free from typos and grammar errors. But they’re different, too: Grad school resumés should emphasize your education, work and volunteer experience, and specific skills relevant to the particular program you’re applying to.
“We’re interested in a student’s background and how it’s relevant to the program he or she wants to enroll in,” Pierce says. “If they’re enrolling in a communications program, for example, we’re interested to see whether they’re coming from a social media background or a marketing background, and how that experience applies to what they’re looking for in grad school.”
Attention to detail is paramount when creating your resumé for grad school. Here’s a look at five tips to help you craft one that’s memorable and impactful.
Writing Your Grad School Resumé: 5 Tips for Success
Tip #1: Tailor your resumé to the program
When graduate schools review your resumé, they’re weighing the relevancy of your previous experience and education with the program you’re applying to. In other words, they want to see a correlation between what you’ve done and where you’re going.
Pierce recommends reviewing the homepage of the program you’re interested in before writing your resumé. Some programs require two or three years of work experience or a portfolio, so make sure you qualify for the program you’re applying to.
If you’re interested in the Master of Science in Cybersecurity program, for example, review the program’s website and make note of its requirements, objectives, core requirements, and any relevant keywords it uses. Then, make sure you check those boxes as you write your resumé.
Tip #2: Highlight all relevant experience
While some prospective students apply to grad school from the field, others apply to programs following the completion of their undergraduate degree. For this reason, not all students will have professional experience to list on their resumé—and that’s ok, Pierce says.
“It’s a misnomer that if you don’t have professional experience, you can’t write a resumé,” he says. “There are other types of experience that are just as important and useful, so make sure you highlight everything that is relevant.”
Other than professional experience, admissions committees are interested in volunteer work and internships you’ve completed. This experience is just as relevant. For all experience—professional or otherwise—it’s important to showcase the duties you performed in those roles, and both the hard and soft skills you learned. This might include leading teams or projects, honing communication skills, or specific software or programs you learned and became proficient in.
Tip #3: Showcase your skills
Your resumé should include a skills section that highlights technologies, skills, and other competencies relevant to the graduate program you’re applying to, Pierce says.
If you’re applying to the Master of Science in Computer Science program, for example, your resumé should list the programming languages you know (e.g. Python, C++, Ruby on Rails), computer applications you’ve used, and software or systems that you’re experienced in.
Tip #4: Include professional achievements
In addition to your experience and skills, admissions committees are interested in the professional certifications you earned, professional training you’ve completed, professional organizations of which you’re a member, and any instances in which you’ve been published.
Prospective students interested in the Master of Science in Project Management program, for example, should list any PMP certifications they’ve earned, while students interested in a Master of Science in Human Services should note their membership to the Society for Human Resource Management, Pierce says. These achievements and memberships add another dimension to your resumé, showcasing your efforts outside your job, volunteer work, or internships to further your career and improve your experience.
Tip #5: Keep it clean
Your grad school resumé should be succinct, only rarely exceeding one page, Pierce recommends. It should go without saying, too, that your resumé should be clean, well-formatted, easy-to-read, and free of typos or grammatical errors.
“We’re looking for a well-organized resumé that shows that care has been taken in creating it,” Pierce says. “Don’t just list out your experience in bullet points; tell us what duties you performed and how it correlates to the program you’re applying to. Your resumé is a reflection of you—we want to see that it’s polished and detailed, and understand what your background is like and what your experiences have been.”