Sep 30, 2022

8 components of a well-crafted résumé to boost your graduate school application packet

Overview: Preparing a résumé is a major part of preparing your graduate school application. Precisely because the person looking at it is not going to be taking much time you should be very deliberate and thoughtful when you write it.


Post Contributor: Dr. Marian Kennedy



Photo by Agence Olloweb on Unsplash
A résumé is a 1-2 page list of your background. It is often a potential graduate school advisor or application review committee’s first introduction to you. It helps them understand your prior academic, work experience and a little about you as a person, such as leadership experience through extracurricular activities. Expect that the person looking at it is scanning it and only spending about 2 minutes doing so, so make sure that the important information jumps out.


Begin the process by brainstorming all your experiences from work, volunteering, and academics. List everything that might be relevant from the last six years. At this stage, don’t try to just write those that you think are the most important.  

Next, start to arrange this information into sections: heading, educational experience, work experience, additional research experience, extracurricular experience, honors or awards, and skills or language proficiency. 


1.     Heading – This should start with your full name followed by your key contact information including an email address and mailing address. If you have an email address associated with your undergraduate degree, you should use that. Unlike domains like or which are open to the public, email addresses from an institution are only provided to students (and in some cases, their alumni). If you have a cell phone or a private phone line, you should list that number too. Lastly, include a current mailing address.


2.     Educational Experience –If you went straight from high school into higher education, be sure to list all institutions you attended including high school, listing any duel enrollment during high schools, 2 yr-programs or 4- yr programs you transferred from.   If you have had a significant gap between now and your last degree, I might suggest only including 2-yr and 4-yr institutions.  You will also want to include the dates attended, degrees earned or being pursued, etc. Make sure you clearly distinguish a program you are currently in from one you have completed by listing “pres.” or “present” for the range of dates and listing any degrees obtained and the year of award.



Washington State University (Pullman, WA)                                                2019-pres.

·        Bachelors of Science in mechanical engineering predicted May 2023

·        GPA: 3.0/4.0


3.     Work Experience – If you have space, list both experiences linked directly to their discipline and other jobs you have held, including unpaid internships. As you are witting this section, help the review committee understand the responsibilities of your role for each position. List these as bullet points using terminology that would be found in a job posting requiring a college degree. For example, if you worked as a server at a restaurant, you probably practiced conflict resolution along with strong communicate to ensure that food was delivered correctly and on time to customers. A sales engineer might need these same skills. However, having served as an undergraduate research assistant is the most valuable experience you can mention. In addition to the institution where you were employed and dates, list the research focus and findings. Whereas you would not list the person you worked for at a retail establishment or at an office, you should identify your research advisor(s) in relation to any research experience.



Delivery Specialist, Pizza Hut (Rock Hill, NC)                            2019 Sum.        

·        Managed administrative duties, maintained facilities and paperwork.

·        Managed conflict and provided resolution to customers.

·        Identified areas for streamlining delivery process.


4.     Additional Research Experience—If you conducted undergraduate research for academic credit or as a volunteer, that should not be listed under the work experience. You can however highlight it under this special header. Format these listings like as you do your work experience.


5.     Extracurricular Activities—Only list those that are related to your discipline, particularly prestigious or something that you have dedicated exceptional time. The former would include any involvement in a student professional society associated with your field of study. For example, mechanical engineering undergraduates might be affiliated with the American Society of Mechanical Engineering nationally and/or a local student chapter. The latter might appear like this:



                        Trumpet Player                                                                                 2010–pres.

·        Placed in bands through competitive audition processes.

·        Committed 8-15 hours a week between rehearsals and performance.


6.     Honors and Awards Section–If you cannot fit them all, prioritize awards that go to fewer people; for example, the dean’s list includes all of the strong students in your program and thus will not be as impressive as an award given to 1-5 people annually in your program.  Leadership awards earned during your college career will be of interest to the reviewer of your application.



Recipient, National Merit Scholarship (2021)


7.     Publications and/or Presentations Section

If you conducted research and have started to disseminate your research, you may have a “Publications” or “Presentations” section. You should list any publication that has been published, under review, submitted, or in preparation. Formatting for the article might take this form:

Primary Author, Graduate Mentor, Primary Advisor, “Title of article being written,” Journal Title 2022, In Preparation


            If you are listing a presentation, list the name of the conference instead of the journal title.


8.     Skills or Language Proficiency

If you have a skill or language knowledge that is not common for your peers, you might include a section at the end of your résumé to list these.  For example, if you are proficient at SOLIDWORKS, list it!  However, you should never list Microsoft Office since experience with that platform is almost universal. For each skill or language, you should also indicate your level.  I prefer terms like novice, proficient, and fluent to describe levels. 



                        French (novice)


Once you have all your information gathered for the above sections, you will need to dedicate time to making the résumé look appealing. This will take 1-2 hours to complete.  I typically do not suggest using Microsoft Word templates because I like a plainer format, so that the information about you is more interesting.  I have posted an example of a format that I like on this page. 


Finally, ask a friend, colleague, or family member to read over your résumé to identify any remaining grammar or spelling errors.


Here is a collection of advice from winners that I found for you:

·       Example résumés provided by Duke Pratt School of Engineering for entry into its M.Eng. program.

·       The term between curriculum vitae (abbreviated CV) is often used in academia and you will need one as you accumulate experience as a scholar. The main difference between a résumé and a curriculum vitae is length.