Crafting a Top-Notch Résumé for Graduate School

by Stephanie Thurrott

Getting ready to apply to grad school? A graduate degree can open the door to a number of career paths and help set you apart. As you prepare your application, there are a few things to keep in mind. For instance, in addition to boosting your GPA, studying for the GRE, or lining up letters of recommendation, you’ll need to put together a résumé for graduate school.

Like a résumé for work, a résumé for graduate school represents a polished, professional summary of your expertise. A strong résumé will help you stand out among the other candidates applying for admission into the same graduate programs.

But while a work résumé focuses almost entirely on work experience, a grad school résumé also emphasizes your educational accomplishments. Here are a few tips that can help you create your résumé.

Writing Your Résumé

When crafting a résumé, it’s important to first review the requirements of the school or program where you’re applying. There may be length restrictions, specific work information to include, or guidelines around adding test scores.

Once you understand the requirements, start with your header. This section includes your contact information—your name, address, phone number, and a professional-sounding email address.

Next, highlight your education. Be sure to tailor this section to each school you’re applying to, as this can make it clear that you meet the academic requirements. You should list the schools you’ve attended (with dates) and the degree you earned or expect to earn, along with:

  • Your GPA
  • Any awards, scholarships, or honors, along with a short description of the achievements they recognized
  • A list of any classes you’ve taken that may reinforce your application
  • The title of your undergraduate thesis, if applicable
  • Study abroad programs you participated in

Then, outline your work experience. If you have more professional than academic qualifications that relate to the program you’re applying to, it’s a good idea to place job experience at the top of your résumé. In other words, lead with the areas of your background that are strongest. You’ll outline your paid positions as well as internships, co-ops, and volunteer positions. You can list your work experience either chronologically—with the most recent experience first—or you can organize it by skills, such as “teaching,” “research,” or “leadership.”

If you’ll be applying for TA positions while enrolled in graduate school, also highlight any teaching and research experience you have.

Next, include any relevant publications (such as newspapers, academic journals or professional books and reports) where your work has been published. Include the titles of the pieces as well as the associated outlets, posting dates, and the names of any co-authors.

Make sure to also mention your skills and certifications. You might include software proficiencies, foreign language fluency, professional affiliations, or other credentials.

You may even want to include descriptions of the extracurricular activities you participate in. This section is optional, but you can use it to showcase activities that strengthen your application, provide a glimpse into your personality, and demonstrate your work ethic.

Formatting Your Résumé

As you add all of the aforementioned information to your résumé, remember there’s no need to get fancy. Simply start from a template in Google Docs or Microsoft Word. Stick with a 12-point font so it’s easy to read. Unless the schools you’re applying to request otherwise, use one-inch margins and align your document to the left.

Also, remember to use strong, active verbs to highlight your accomplishments, and use bullet points to avoid long, wordy sentences.

Once you’re confident with your résumé, save your final version as a PDF (unless schools request something else). This can help avoid quirky formatting errors or line breaks that threaten to spoil your first impression on admissions officials.

Polishing Your Résumé

Once you’ve drafted your résumé for graduate school, read it through with an eye for concision. Remember that admissions officers have a lot of applications to review—so keep it short and sweet. Don’t make them work to find the information that makes you stand out!

Feeling like you’ve gotten your résumé to a good place? Great. Now step away from it for a day or two. Then, carefully review it with fresh eyes. Consider if there are any ways you can better emphasize your qualifications or experience.

Finally, proofread everything. Reading your résumé out loud can help you catch typos or repeated words that might have otherwise gone unnoticed. It’s also a good idea to ask someone else to read through it for you. Their objective perspective can result in insightful feedback.

Getting Started with Graduate Studies at APU

Since its founding in 1899, Azusa Pacific University has helped thousands of students obtain bachelor’s degrees, master’s degrees, and even doctorates. In addition to its robust undergraduate offerings, the school offers a range of graduate programs, credentials, and certificates.

Interested in working toward a graduate degree at one of APU’s Southern California campuses or online? Visit the school’s website to find the program that’s right for you and take your education—and your career—to the next level.