How to Write a Standout Resume for Graduate School

Dr. Ellen E. Mauer
Dr. Ellen E. Mauer
Elementary school principal; Ph.D. in Educational Leadership & Policy Studies
Graduation cap sitting on top of a resume for graduate school.

Writing a resume for an application to graduate school is a little different than writing a resume for a job application. This type of resume looks more like a curriculum vitae (CV) rather than a job resume. It will be expanded to several pages and more focused upon life and academic experiences rather than a quick look at what jobs have been held in the past. Having a standout resume for graduate school can give you that extra boost over other applicants. Explore our tips below!

Keep it Focused

Be sure to focus the CV toward the specific graduate program for which one is applying. Do not pad with unnecessary words. Keep in mind that graduate schools are looking for motivated individuals with a good work ethic. They seek maturity and creativity in a student. Graduate-level students are expected to have some semblance of leadership, be able to work well with others, and will be able to contribute positively to the classes they take. The resume, or CV, should emphasize these qualities and characteristics. Teachers applying for graduate school will want to be sure that they know which program is best suited for what they want. Graduate-level reading or special education programs will look for different skills than an administrative program, for example. Keep the focus on the program goals.

Highlight Academic Accomplishments

Academic accomplishments should be highlighted, paying particular attention to those that demonstrate creativity or the ability to analyze in reading and writing. Academic achievements may be items such as scholarships, honor roll, valedictorian, dean’s list, National Merit Scholar, completion of degree or certification programs, or any awards that may have been won for academics.

Include Internships and Volunteer Work

It is crucial to include volunteer work and internships in a CV. This is a great opportunity to demonstrate special skills and experiences that cannot be seen in other kinds of jobs or categories. Connect the work with the skills that it demonstrates and focus them toward the major in graduate school that is being applied for. Be sure to list if it is a paid or unpaid internship. Briefly describe what the goal was and what was accomplished with the work.  Volunteer work will speak well to a student’s character and motivation. It can help show that one is community-minded. When writing about experiences, keep it positive as to how the service helped rather than a negative aspect that focused more on change in the community. Always keep it positive!

Include Technical Competencies

Technical competencies are important to highlight in a CV. Demonstrating proficiency in specific software or other types of programs can be helpful. Sometimes just a list of skills is sufficient; however, if one has shown particularly excellent applications of that competency, then more detail may be added to highlight the extent of the ability or the breadth of one’s experience. Don’t leave out items such as blogging, creation of wikis, web design, remote teaching applications, digital portfolios, or other things that highlight a skill. Reading or math software that remediates or challenges students also shows the ability of the applicant to individualize instruction. Online and remote learning are huge in today’s world, and one would want to highlight those skills as well.

Ensure an Easy-to-Read Format without Errors

Making the CV easy to follow will help with your application. Committee members don’t want to have to search for information or struggle with reading poorly written material. It is vital that the CV be error-free. Everything must be spelled correctly, be grammatically correct, and present the applicant as highly professional. Be sure to list items in each category chronologically from the most recent to the oldest item. It is helpful for the reader to see the most current information first. Do not arbitrarily capitalize items that should not be capitalized for effect. Be sure to have several proofreaders and consult an online grammar check program before you give your draft to the human proofreader. It could be very embarrassing for applicants in graduate-level programs for teaching, especially, to have these types of errors in a CV.

Use Strong Verbs and a Logical Flow

Consider active voice vs. passive voice in a CV. Using active voice conveys to the reader a more powerful sense of being. Using active verbs in the CV will make for better readability. Make the action verb the first word when using bullet points. Select the strong action verbs that best fit your targeted program. For educators, consider using verbs such as advised, coached, directed, established, designed, generated, guided, improved, influenced, motivated, resolved, trained, and others more fitting to the education industry. This will better help the readers to picture the candidate and give a better flow to the CV. Action verbs and using an active voice is more impactful.

A Final Thought to Include Soft Skills

Soft skills are skills that usually cannot be taught in a traditional manner. They are people skills and can demonstrate that one has a high emotional intelligence and can easily interact with others. Being able to work will with others in a group is a crucial part of graduate work. Consider adding experiences that highlight soft skills on the CV. Leadership, problem solving, and the ability to form positive relationships are crucial in the education field, and selection committees will be looking for these in graduate school candidates.

Be genuine and show the applications committee what is motivating about attending graduate school and how it will help in the chosen career field. If there is an opportunity for a personal statement, either written or in person, take that opportunity to show the committee the importance of the program for future opportunities to make a contribution to the field of education. Don’t be afraid to seek the advice of a trusted mentor in the field.

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