Your Graduate School CV: What to Keep and What to Toss

Jan 03, 2018

Your Graduate School CV: What to Keep and What to Toss

By Brittany Mihalec-Adkins

Crafting a CV in graduate school can be hard: what should you keep on, and for how long? What doesn’t belong? Below are some suggestions for tidying up your CV:

1. Eliminate details from high school (unless you won a big state or national scholarship)

In general, high school involvements and achievements can come off of your CV once you reach graduate school. Folks who review your CV at this point are much more interested in your scholarly productivity and the recognitions you’ve received in the past few years. That being said, you should keep any big national scholarships or awards you won in high school, as 1) that’s impressive, and 2) those national programs often have loyal alumni, and you never know who may be looking at your CV!

2. Eliminate club memberships

Unless you were/are a member of a nationally-recognized or prestigious organization, you can eliminate your college club memberships from your CV in graduate school. That being said, you may want to mention your significant leadership experiences – for example, if you were president of your sorority or elected student body president. You may also want to keep club leadership positions that are directly relevant to your career objectives – just to show your long-standing interest in and commitment to leadership in that field. Bonus tip: You do want to list your memberships in professional societies – i.e., the American Psychological Association (APA), etc.

3. Avoid fancy fonts or designs

This isn’t novel advice, but it is worth the reminder. Fancy fonts or illustrations on your CV can be distracting and change how reviewers see your CV (and, therefore, you!) as a whole. Instead, try to make the content flashy and impressive, and stick with an easy-to-read font like Georgia, Helvetica, or Calibri.

4. Eliminate outdated or irrelevant volunteer experiences or summer jobs

There is a lot of pressure to lengthen your CV in graduate school. Indeed, building your CV is important, but you don’t want to fill it with “fluff” – like that one time you volunteered at a 5k. As a general rule, you want to make sure that each line you include on your CV is actually adding value. Take a quick look through your “Professional Experience” and “Volunteer Experience” sections to make sure that everything listed is relevant to the narrative of your CV and/or was a significant part of your academic/professional development.

5. Don’t list undergraduate or even graduate coursework

While your coursework is certainly important for preparing you for later opportunities, reviewers who see your CV don’t want a list of every course you’ve taken. You can portray your specialty or expertise by listing a “minor” or “concentration” within entries in your Education section. For example:

Indiana University, Bloomington, IN

B.S., Sociology

Concentration: Social Psychology

Hopefully, these tips help you feel comfortable pruning your CV as you progress through graduate school! When in doubt, take a look at the CVs of your professors, advisors, and others in your field. Look at what they list and how they present it, and think about how their choices make you receive them as a professional. This can be a great exercise for thinking about how important your CV can be for how others see you. Good luck!

Brittany Mihalec-Adkins is a first-year National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow and second-year Ph.D. student in Human Development and Family Studies at Purdue University. 

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