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How to Improve a Resume for Graduate School

by Rebekah Richards, studioD

Many graduate schools ask applicants to submit a resume or curriculum vitae in addition to other application materials. Your resume provides an opportunity to summarize your qualifications, accomplishments and interests. However, a poorly written or error-ridden resume will decrease your chance of admission. Although you probably already have a resume, it may be designed for job or internship applications and may not showcase your most relevant skills and experience. Tailoring your resume to graduate school will help strengthen your application.

Consider your goals, such as "become a first-grade teacher" or "work as a researcher in a biochemical lab." You may want to include your goals as an objective on your resume. Even if you don't explicitly state your goals on your resume, however, keep them in mind as you determine which areas of your academic and work experience are most important.

Expand your education section. Include the name and location of your undergraduate school as well as your graduation date, degree, GPA, major and minor, relevant coursework and accomplishments. You may also want to list your major GPA if it is favorable, scholarships you have earned and any publications you have.

Brainstorm a list of your academic experience, work experience and community leadership and then include the experience related to your field and graduate program. For example, if you are applying to an education program, your experience teaching SAT classes should be included, while the summer you worked at a retail store probably shouldn't. Your resume should be no longer than a page or two, so don't include irrelevant information.

Begin each job or internship description with an actionable verb to highlight your specific responsibilities. For example, instead of saying "Responsible for company newsletter," say "Wrote, edited and designed four-page monthly company newsletter using InDesign."

Include responsibilities and skills relevant to graduate school in your job descriptions if possible. For example, highlight your background in writing, patient care, statistical analysis or other relevant skills.

Add quantitative descriptions to make your descriptions more vivid and compelling. For example, instead of saying "Tutored kids after school," write "Tutored three kids once a week for two hours after school."

Design your resume so that it's easy to read or skim. Although you may spend hours polishing your resume, the admissions committee reads hundreds of applications and may only spend a minute or two looking at your resume. Use bullet points instead of paragraphs and don't cram too much text on the page.

Ensure your resume looks professional and polished. Proofread carefully and avoid playful fonts.

Ask a friend, mentor or faculty adviser to look over your resume. Ask whether your resume effectively communicates your strengths and experience and have them proofread for typos and grammatical mistakes too.


  • Avoid stating that references are available upon request at the bottom of your resume. The admissions committee already has your letters of recommendation.
  • If you're applying to several different programs, consider creating a separate resume tailored to each program.

About the Author

Rebekah Richards is a professional writer with work published in the "Atlanta Journal-Constitution," "Brandeis University Law Journal" and online at tolerance.org. She graduated magna cum laude from Brandeis University with bachelor's degrees in creative writing, English/American literature and international studies. Richards earned a master's degree at Carnegie Mellon University.

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