5 Expert Tips for Writing a Stand-Out Grad School Resumé

Congratulations! You’re investing in your future by applying to graduate school. The application is complete, you’ve gathered your recommendations, written your statement of purpose, and you’re working on developing another important component—your resumé.

Your grad school resumé is an integral piece of the admissions process, says Jared Pierce, former associate director of enrollment quality assurance at Northeastern University. Admissions counselors rely on resumés as an assessment of the student, his or her strengths, work experience, skills, education, and interests, he says, to help them decide whether a prospective student is a good fit for the program.

Your grad school resumé is similar in many ways to a resumé you’d submit as part of a job application: You should use crisp language to describe your experiences, a clean and organized layout to make it easy to read, and it should be free from typos and grammar errors. But they’re different, too: Grad school resumés should emphasize your education, work and volunteer experience, and specific skills relevant to the particular program you’re applying to.

“We’re interested in a student’s background and how it’s relevant to the program he or she wants to enroll in,” Pierce says. “If they’re enrolling in a communications program, for example, we’re interested to see whether they’re coming from a social media background or a marketing background, and how that experience applies to what they’re looking for in grad school.”

Attention to detail is paramount when creating your resumé for grad school. Here’s a look at what should be included on your resumé, plus five tips to help you craft one that’s memorable and impactful.

What to Include in a Resumé for Graduate School

In general, your grad school resumé will be similar to a resumé you’d create when applying for a job. Keep in mind, however, that this document should be tailored to your desired program of study in order to show the admissions team that you’re a good fit.

Your graduate school resumé should include:

  • A header, including basic information like your name and email address
  • Your education history, including your undergraduate degree and institution
  • Relevant experiences, such as current or previous professional roles, internships, and leadership experience
  • Research and publications, including any research projects, articles, or other publications you’ve contributed to through your academic or professional career
  • Skills and certifications, especially those closely related to your field of study
  • Volunteering and extracurricular activities, if applicable to your program of interest

If you’re unsure whether a particular experience or skill should be included on your resumé, ask yourself how it relates to the program or institution that you’re applying to. If it doesn’t speak directly to your interests and strengths, it’s likely unnecessary to include.

Writing Your Grad School Resumé: 5 Tips for Success

1. Tailor your resumé to the program.

When graduate schools review your resumé, they’re weighing the relevancy of your previous experience and education with the program you’re applying to. In other words, they want to see a correlation between what you’ve done and where you’re going.

Pierce recommends reviewing the homepage of the program you’re interested in before writing your resumé. Some programs require two or three years of work experience or a portfolio, so make sure you qualify for the program you’re applying to.

If you’re interested in the Master of Science in Cybersecurity program, for example, review the program’s webpage and make note of its requirements, objectives, core requirements, and any relevant keywords it uses. Then, make sure you check those boxes as you write your resumé.

2. Highlight all relevant experience.

While some prospective students apply to grad school from the field, others apply to programs upon completion of their undergraduate degree. For this reason, not all students will have professional experience to list on their resumé—and that’s ok, Pierce says.

“It’s a misnomer that if you don’t have professional experience, you can’t write a resumé,” he says. “There are other types of experience that are just as important and useful, so make sure you highlight everything that is relevant.”

Other than professional experience, admissions committees are interested in volunteer work and internships you’ve completed. This experience is just as relevant. For all experience—professional or otherwise—it’s important to showcase the duties you performed in those roles, and both the hard and soft skills you learned. This might include leading teams or projects, honing communication skills, or specific software or programs you learned and became proficient in.

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3. Showcase your skills.

Your resumé should include a skills section that highlights technologies, skills, and other competencies relevant to the graduate program you’re applying to, Pierce says.

If you’re applying to the Master of Science in Computer Science program, for example, your resumé should list the programming languages you know (e.g. Python, C++, Ruby on Rails), computer applications you’ve used, and software or systems that you’re experienced in.

4. Include professional achievements.

In addition to your experience and skills, admissions committees are interested in the professional certifications you earned, professional training you’ve completed, professional organizations of which you’re a member, and any instances in which you’ve been published.

Prospective students interested in the Master of Science in Project Management program, for example, should list any PMP certifications they’ve earned, while students interested in a Master of Science in Human Resource Management should note their membership to the Society for Human Resource Management, Pierce says. These achievements and memberships add another dimension to your resumé, showcasing your efforts outside your job, volunteer work, or internships to further your career and improve your experience.

5. Keep it clean.

Your grad school resumé should be succinct, only rarely exceeding one page, Pierce recommends. It should go without saying, too, that your resumé should be clean, well-formatted, easy-to-read, and free of typos or grammatical errors.

“We’re looking for a well-organized resumé that shows that care has been taken in creating it,” Pierce says. “Don’t just list out your experience in bullet points; tell us what duties you performed and how it correlates to the program you’re applying to. Your resumé is a reflection of you—we want to see that it’s polished and detailed, and understand what your background is like and what your experiences have been.”

Grad School Resumé Support

Applying to graduate school can be both exciting and stressful. Luckily, admissions teams and enrollment coaches are available to help you along the way and make the process as smooth as possible. If you have questions as you’re preparing your application and related materials, don’t be afraid to reach out for help. At the end of the day, admissions teams want to ensure that you’re a good fit for their program, and in effect, that their program is a good fit for you. 

At Northeastern, there are various resources and experts you can leverage for support throughout the application process. Don’t hesitate to contact faculty members in your program of interest with specific questions about the degree program. With more general questions about the application process, paying for your degree, or the institution as a whole, speak with an enrollment coach for help along the way.

For more information on applying to Northeastern’s graduate programs, visit our attend an application and enrollment session to get your questions answered.