How to Fix Your Resume for Grad School
Graduate applications contain many parts and usually include a resume of some sort. You might find it easy to upload your current resume and focus more on other parts of the application. This is tempting, but your resume offers crucial insight into your background and experience to the admissions team. You want it to stand out just as much as the rest of your application does.
The good news is that with a few tweaks to your current resume, you’ll have a wonderful addition to your graduate application.
1. Change your focus
In most cases, your resume will be used for finding a job and not used for applying to schools. This means that the information on your resume is likely work-centric rather than education focused. However, when it comes to graduate resumes, you want your education to stand out. Make your education one of the first things listed on your resume.
You need your school(s), major(s), minor(s), years, GPA, and even the GPA in your major if it’s higher than the overall. Feel free to include standardized test scores if they help your case. Of course, do list relevant job experience, but you don’t need a whole paragraph on the summer you worked at a pizza restaurant. Instead, make sure you’re listing all your involvements with the university like student groups, awards, papers, and presentations. If you took any relevant or challenging courses, you may want to list those as well.
2. Brag a little
When creating your resume, you want to show off your best self. Now, this doesn’t mean you need to make up things to look impressive, but it does mean that you should include anything that may separate you from the rest of the candidates. This includes Dean’s List achievements, departmental awards, any type of leadership position, assistantships, internships, and volunteer service.
On some job applications and resumes, these things may seem irrelevant and take up unnecessary space, but on a graduate school resume, they’ll enhance your image as a student, leader, and person. It shows the school that you’re likely to be active in their community which is something they’re definitely looking for.
3. Utilize space
Ultimately, you want to put as much useful information on your resume as possible. However, this doesn’t mean you want your resume spanning three pages. Some schools will ask for a CV, or Curriculum Vitae, which is an education-centric type of resume that can take up more than one page. However, if the graduate admissions officer is sorting through loads of applications, the last thing they want is a long resume. In fact, they might even stop reading after the first page. This means that you should experiment with your resume and find ways to fit as much information onto one page as possible. Now, don’t put everything in a tiny font to do this. Learn ways to minimize words and maximize effects. Write fragments instead of sentences and play with readable font sizes by making your headers a tad bigger and your descriptive texts smaller.
4. Use design techniques
Much of what the last paragraph talked about also filters in some design techniques. You might have gotten away with a bland-looking resume in the past, but now you really want it to stand out. Take a look at resume examples online to get an idea. Play around with different fonts that are stylish and readable. But above all, maintain consistency when creating your resume. It is a good idea to distinguish your headers (like Education, Work Experience) from the rest of your resume with a larger font, bold, italics or underlines. If you do this, just make sure everything stays consistent and easy to read. A resume that looks like it was made with care will stand out to any admissions team.
5. Be honest
Of course, your resume definitely serves as a highlight reel of your professional life, but don’t put something on there that didn’t happen. Should you be successful in your application, you may be asked to interview with the school. It’s likely that they will bring up certain aspects of your resume and ask you to talk about them. If you’ve lied on your resume, it will come across quite clearly that you have no idea what you’re doing. You absolutely don’t want this to happen, so put your best foot forward and just make sure that it’s your foot.
After you’ve finished these steps, you should be good to go! It may be in your best interest to proofread it one more time to make sure everything is spelled and written correctly. You could also have trusted friends and professors look over it as well to give you some advice. Overall, resumes are important, but they don’t have to be scary!
Learn more about Kaplan’s test prep options and start building the confidence you need for Test Day.
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