Monday, October 25, 2010

Constructing a CV (or résumé)

With the end of the semester and December graduation right around the corner, many students are looking toward the future and are applying to graduate programs of jobs in their respective fields of study. One way to help improve your chances of getting into graduate school or landing a job right after college is to have a polished Curriculum Vitae (CV) or résumé. If you are not graduating, DO NOT STOP READING! It is never too soon to write a CV and keep it on file because you never know when an opportunity for a job or internship may arise.

So what is a CV? A CV is a type of résumé that is specifically geared toward academic achievements but also contains relevant work history and awards.

Here is how to start:

First, start with a heading at the top of the page that includes your full name, making sure it stands out to the reader. After all, the CV is about YOU!! Follow your name with a permanent address, local school address (if you want to give it), telephone number, and e-mail address (make sure the e-mail address is professional and avoid using the one you made in high school, like "pinkgurl34" or "BBallstar45").

Below your contact information comes your educational background. You may start with your high school, if you wish, and then include each higher education institution you attended in chronological order. Be sure to list any degrees or professional certificates awarded by each school. If you have not graduated yet, list the date of your anticipated graduation. Finally, list your major(s), minor(s), or any areas of concentration.

Now the following content areas can be tailored to fit your specific needs. If you are applying for a job in teaching or for grad school in education, think about starting with teaching history. Or, if you are applying for grad school in an area of science, you may want to start with your research background. Be sure to include Relevant Work Experience (paid or unpaid), Research Positions, Clinical Experience, Publications, and Poster Presentations (Your senior capstone could go here!). Be sure to give the date of each position, as well as a description of each and the name of your supervisor.

Next, list any awards or honors you have achieved, including Dean's list, honoraries, or academic enrichment awards. Avoid anything from high school unless you were valedictorian or received a major recognition like being named a National Merit Scholar.

Finally, list any memberships in professional organizations, but use caution listing social fraternities since they typically do not have a direct link to your educational background, and prospective grad schools or employers may have a bad connotation with them.

WHEW!! That was a lot, but there is still more work to ensure a CV stands out. You MUST proofread it and have your friends, coworkers, mentors, or professors also proofread it for careless mistakes you may have missed. Also, use a professional font. Do not use Cosmic Sans, Impact, or Curled, and stick to a font size of 12. You may, of course, use boldfaced for your name, italics for dates, or underlines for section headings. Last, but not least, use white or off-white paper; this is not the time for fancy stationary.

So, not too bad...right? Don't fret if your CV is not very long. Most undergraduate students only have one page of relevant information. Remember, just keep adding to it as you go, and it will be a vital document that will follow you around for the rest of your career.

For more information on writing a CV or résumé, visit everyone's favorite writing resource, the Purdue OWL at

Keith-Spiegel, P., and M.W. Widermen. The Complete Guide to Graduate School Admission. New York: Taylor & Francis Group, LLC, 2000, Print.

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