When you’re filling out your grad school application, there’s one frequently requested item that may throw you for a loop. In addition to your transcripts, test scores, writing sample, and personal statement, many schools will ask prospective grad students for a CV or resume. So what is a grad school CV, and how can you prepare one? Let’s take a look.

What is a CV?

“CV” stands for “curriculum vitae,” which is Latin for “course of life.” A CV is meant to be a brief summary of your professional, educational, and personal accomplishments thus far. In many professional settings, “CV” is used interchangeably with “resume,” and if you’ve applied for a professional job or internship in the past, you likely already have a professional CV. However, many grad school applicants, particularly those who are applying straight out of their undergraduate degree, may have little experience writing an academic or professional CV.

How is an academic CV different from a professional one?

The difference is in the details, and although it may seem very subtle at first glance, an academic CV for a grad school application is going to look quite different from a professional CV for job applications. While a professional CV will only quickly mention educational experience, usually by listing degrees and schools, and go on to highlight work experience through past jobs and internships, an academic CV is likely to do the opposite. While it’s always a good idea to list past work experience on an academic CV, the highlight is going to be your education and academic accomplishments—this means listing any honors and awards you’ve attained during your undergraduate education, and detailing your undergraduate coursework. It can also mean highlighting important extracurricular activities, such as being involved with mentoring at your university, or having a piece of writing published.

Woman holding card

How important is my grad school CV?

While the importance of your CV won’t be weighted in the same way your test scores are, it’s a vital part of your application. Your CV is a chance to flaunt your accomplishments—and a useful shorthand means for schools to take the measure of you. While it’s important to keep your CV relatively brief (no more than a few pages, although it can be longer than a professional CV, which is usually only a page or two), it’s also your time to shine, and show things that set you apart from other applicants. Be sure to take the time to not only make sure your CV follows an easy-to-read template (there are many examples online), but also to include the little details of your academic career thus far—they’re what make you “you,” instead of just another applicant, and will help schools see what a great grad student you’ll be!

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