The rules for writing a Curriculum Vitae (CV) for a Master’s application are not the same as they are for your run-of-the-mill job application. In your academic CV, you’ll want to show the admission committee that your skills and qualifications make you a good fit for their programme.
These next tips will help you prepare the flawless CV for applying to your future Master’s:
1. Did you know there’s a difference between a Resume and a Curriculum Vitae?
While both documents include a short history of your activities, a Resume focuses more on professional achievements, while a CV highlights your academic accomplishments. Consequently, most Master’s programmes will actually ask for your CV. The main exception is when you apply to an MBA, in which case most universities ask for your Resume.
2. Focus on your academic background
A golden rule of any Master’s application CV is emphasising your academic achievements over the professional ones. You should definitely mention professional experience, but you should go into greater detail about your education.
In addition to identifying your alma mater, the diploma you earned and when you graduated, you should mention some of the most relevant courses you took and academic awards you earned - particularly those most relevant to your field of study.
But don’t go overboard with your descriptions! Each entry in your CV should only contain necessary details within two to four bullet points.
3. Volunteer work and internships matter more than you think
Internships or volunteer work show admissions officers what are your interests, but also that you are willing to work hard for reasons other than immediate financial gains. If you want to change academic subject areas, volunteer work or internships can help to bridge the gap between your current and your desired specialisation.
Here you should focus on describing what you have done, not on what you think it says about you. Provide the necessary information for the admissions officers to draw their own conclusions.
What impresses admission commissions is teaching experience, because that’s half of what academia is about. So be sure to highlight any volunteering, internship or paid position in which YOU were a teacher or teaching assistant.
4. Use powerful language and have a clear structure
The ideal CV-length is 1-2 pages. Conclusion? A CV is not the place to waste words and add meaningless fluff. You should choose your words meticulously so as they convey a lot about your achievements in a limited space.
Watch out for internet clichés taken from CV templates or examples, which will only tell the admission committee that you read an article about how to write a CV. This includes buzzwords like “detail-oriented”, which the commission already heard one-too-many times.
Structure is also an important feature of your Master’s application CV which should include the following:
- a header with your name and contact details
- clearly defined sections with headings to emphasise technical content e.g. ‘relevant work experience’, ‘areas of scientific interest’, ‘laboratory skills and techniques’
- descriptions (usually as bullet points)
- entries in reverse chronological order (most recent to earliest)
Typical sections to include in your academic CV
- Research Interests: They show that you care about the same topics that the programme focuses on
- Education: Top-Down chronological list (mention corresponding GPAs)
- Publications: Consider a hyperlink for each paper's so that the commission can have samples of your writing
- Honours and Awards: Only mention really impressive things, such as scholarships
- Teaching Experiences: Show your interest in an academic life/career
- Work Experiences: Address your relevant professional experiences (if any)
- Computer Skills: mention skills you master, and which might be necessary for your programme
- Language Skills: Mention grades of your language tests (TOEFL, GRE, etc.)
- Memberships: Mention if you are member of any particular organization that is related to what you want to study
5. Why proofreading is essential
Your CV is your ‘business card’. Everything you put in should be presented in a careful and polished manner. That means adapting it for each application and editing it to make sure it presents you in the best possible light. A degree from ‘Cartridge’ won’t make a lasting impression on the commission.
What is the CV all about?
The most important thing you need to know about the CV you craft for your Master’s application is that it should convey how you understand your own achievements. The CV usually goes hand in hand with academic letters of recommendation, in which professors further vouch for what you have done and your skills.
That’s why, you should not treat the CV as just a technicality but take time to reflect on what you have done before and what’s noteworthy about it. If you don’t believe in your application, how can you expect others to do so?