How to Write a Winning Graduate School Resumé

By Bridgette Hernandez

April 22, 2019   •   Fact checked by Dumb Little Man

how to write a graduate school resume

When you want to take your studies to the next level, there’s no better place to head to than grad school. The best and brightest from around the world will be put through their paces and come out with a qualification that sets them up for a great career. So, how do you join them?

As well as knowing your subject, you need a great resumé. It’s the foot in the door that every bright student needs.

Take a look at the following hints and tips on how to write a graduate school resume. See how you can write a resume that will get you into any graduate school in the country.

#1 Write it specifically for the program you’re applying to

write a graduate school resume

There’s nothing worse for an admissions officer than reading a stack of generic copy-and-paste applications. Put yourself in their shoes for a moment.

They have two dozen applications and only a couple mention the program by name. Who do you think is going to stand out more?

Mentioning some of the key details of the program is a great way to show that you’ve done your research. You don’t want to regurgitate the syllabus as that won’t impress anybody. But try and drop in 2-3 specifics to show you’re interested in this particular course.

Otherwise, it’ll look like you’re applying on a whim or at the last minute because you don’t feel ready for the world of work.

#2 Add a work experience section so that it shows you’re prepared

Work experience is more important than you might think. Colleges don’t decide on who to accept based on grades and academic references alone.

They’re looking for people who can enrich the campus environment and add to the collective spirit in various ways. If that sounds like you, then shout about it loud and proud.

You want to show that you’ve been able to function in the real world and that there’s more to your skills than simply sitting and passing exams. Of course, you need the work experience to be relevant, too. It’ll show some long-term planning on your part.

If you’re applying to a Physics program, then you might want to think about any summer internships you can do in the lab. Then, detail what you enjoyed about it and what you did. It’ll strengthen your chances of being accepted.

#3 Highlight your academic skills and achievements

Academic grades are really important, so make sure they’re present for all to see. Of course, you wouldn’t forget to include them, but how much noise were you planning to make about your most relevant classes?

If you’ve studied Mathematics at the undergraduate level and came out with a top grade, that’s great. But are you just another fairly smart undergraduate applying for a Math Ph.D. for the sake of it?

Here’re three things the admissions officer will be wondering about you:

  • Do they have a real genuine passion for the subject? Or are they applying solely because they think a graduate degree will look good on their resumé?
  • Do they have any specific experience or exposure to the niche they’re going to spend thousands of hours intensively studying for?
  • How long have they wanted to go to grad school? And how long will they last when they get there?

If you’ve done a module that introduced you to the topic you’re applying to study at the next level, be explicit about it. Don’t assume that the person reading knows what makes you tick.

The chances are you’ve never met and yours is one of the dozens of submissions they’re reading that very afternoon.

#4 Show your enthusiasm and always avoid boasting

writing a graduate school resume

No one likes a boaster, but everyone loves some passion and enthusiasm. You want the writing to really do a great job of getting across your passion for the subject. It’s about using it as a platform to show that you’ll be in it for the long term.

Shying away and being overly modest might just make you come across as rather indifferent to the whole process. If it’s then a choice between you and someone else, you can bet the person who seems to have a real passion for the program will come out on top.

Take a look at these 3 reasons why program managers love enthusiasm:

  • Enthusiasm shows the reader you’re going to be motivated to work hard, even when it gets tough
  • It also shows that you’re highly likely to make a positive addition to the program by enriching the learning environment
  • And finally, it indicates your application is not just a spur of the moment decision

#5 Concise and precise language is all you need

It’s tempting to leave it at that given the subheading, but let’s delve into the detail a little more. If you want to be able to show that you’re the right person for the program, then you need the writing to reflect the way you talk.

Long, wordy sentences can be fun to write, but they can be confused with a rather scattered thought process. Concise and precise language, on the other hand, is always a strong indicator that you know your own mind:

  • Produce a draft and then sleep on it. You’ll be amazed at how much smoother your turns of phrase become in the morning when your subconscious has had time to reflect on things.
  • Don’t mix and match your definitions and names. If you refer to it as a ‘program’ then don’t drop in other overlapping terms like ‘course’ or ‘degree.’ All this will do is confuse things, and make the writing seem a little bit lightweight
  • If you’re applying from overseas, you will need to avoid colloquialisms. You’re also going to want to ensure you make the right choice between English and US English. It’s a small distinction, but overlooking it won’t enhance your resumé

#6 Focus on the program

Everyone loves it when a prospective student has a grand plan, but don’t focus on it too much. Otherwise, you might give the impression that you think the program is a formality.

If you want to become a career academic, then avoid saying it explicitly. Instead, talk about how you’ve always had a passion for the subject and why you’re driven to study it further.

It is all about balance.

On one hand, you have your enthusiasm and drive to succeed and on the other, you have the need to portray yourself with humility. If you strike the balance too far in the direction of the latter, then the reader may think you’re underestimating the challenge you’re signing yourself up to.

See Also: 100+ Ways to Write a Great Resume Cover Letter

Final Thoughts

The most important things are to do your research, write about what you know, and be enthusiastic. Don’t go overboard with it as you don’t want to give the impression you’re overconfident.

Take the time to tailor your resumé to the specific program as well. This will demonstrate that your decision to apply is based on long-term planning and that you’re going to be highly motivated to make progress as the difficulty level of your studies increases.

Bridgette Hernandez

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