Studying abroad

5 tips for a perfect resume for your university application

When applying for studies abroad, the standard admission application documents always include your resume/CV. The CV for applying for studies abroad can have a different form than the one for job applications. Assuming that you are already familiar with the basics of a good CV, here I give you 5 tips on how to adjust your standard CV and make it more suitable for university admission applications.

Tip #1: CV can be two-pager

The standard advice that we get is that our resume should not exceed one page. The argument is that, since we are still students, we don’t have enough experience to write it on two pages, so a longer CV indicates that we cannot summarize the information properly.

Yet, there is one important difference between applying for a university program and for a job. 

In job applications, CV screening is just a first step that determines whether or not we will be invited for the interview. That means that anything we mention in our CV can be explained more in depth during the interview. 

However, in the case of applying for a university program, most of the universities make their decision based just on our application, and without meeting the candidates. So your CV is not just an entry point for the interview. Your CV is your only opportunity for them to get to know you, and it is okay if you want to use two pages to express yourself.

Tip #2: Explain your academic accomplishments

While for many job positions GPA is not the most impressive thing the employers are looking for, for universities, that is still one of the main criteria for admission. Although in most cases you will also send your transcript, you should also mention your GPA in the resume. Since every country has a different grading system and scale, it is good to include some relative reference e.g. GPA 3.8/4, top 2% in class etc.

When you talk about your educational background, you could also mention relevant courses that you took during your previous/current studies. This is the part that we usually omit in our job application resume (especially if we are applying for a job in the same country where we studied – assuming that employers already know what to expect from the students that finish the same study program as us). 

Including the course names in your resume gives you the opportunity to emphasize the courses that are directly connected and considered as pre-requisite for the program you are applying for. This is especially useful if your bachelor’s program differs from your desired masters program – by mentioning the relevant courses, you can convince the admission committee that you also have some background for the new field. 

Tip #3: Include section about recognitions, awards, publications

Highly ranked universities do look for extraordinarily talented and outstanding people. So even though your high school competition diplomas might be a bit outdated when you look for the job in your bachelor’s, for the master’s application they can show that you are hardworking, committed, and how you compete among your peers.

From more recent accomplishments, highlight your student awards and publications. Since most students start publishing in their postgraduate studies, if you already wrote scientific papers, that will definitely make you stand out.

When writing about your awards, considering that there might not be an equivalent one in another country, try to briefly explain the criteria for the award and how many students get it, e.g. XY Award given to the top 1% of the students.

If you think you have enough awards/publications to put in a new resume section – go for it. Otherwise, you can always mention them in the education section.

Tip #4: Include section about teaching experience (if you have it)

When applying for jobs, you would normally include teaching activities as one bullet point in your experience or education. This would be valued by your employer as an extra expertise in the course topic. 

For universities, on the other hand, they are not only interested in the subject that you taught, but also in your teaching abilities. Again, as student assistant job descriptions differ from country to country (and from course to course too), make sure to clarify what your responsibilities were. Were you evaluating homework, giving lectures in front of the class or were you mostly there to answer student questions? Also, if you got positive feedback on your teaching skills from the students or the university, include it.

There is no right or wrong thing here, as any experience like this is appreciated. Universities are always looking for motivated students who are willing to help younger colleagues, so it is a big plus if they see you like it and that you already have some experience in it. There might be some opportunities for student teaching positions at your new university too.

Tip #5: Shine with your extracurricular activities

When applying for a job, in our CV we are strongly focused on our professional side and the skills that are perceived as desirable for the job position. So we tend to merge all of our sports achievements, music skills, dance mastery etc. in one bullet point. 

International universities have many associations led by students that enrich the student life, and the diversity and quality of those associations makes them a more desirable university in the eyes of future students. So they also want candidates who are interested in participating in those extracurricular activities.

This section is one of the most important ones if your academic performance is average. Explain the skills that you gained outside of the class. Did you volunteer, organize events, raise money for some cause? Do you have some unusual hobby that you spend a lot of time on?  You might not have the best GPA in your class, but maybe you are the best basketball player, student association president, student representative etc. All these things can make your application stand out.

Resume tips- summary

1. Don’t put a strict limit to one page. Since you probably won’t have an interview for the admission, if you feel like you have more to say to express yourself in the best possible light, have a two-page resume.

2. Highlight the things that are most important about you through the smart usage and length of the sections. If you have high GPA put more emphasis on academic achievements. If you had a lot of success in one specific area focus on awards and publications. And if you were very active outside of courses focus on extracurricular activities.

3. When mentioning GPA, awards, or any other national-level accomplishment, give the scale and allow relative comparison. That will help people from other countries understand the scope of your achievement (e.g. GPA 9.5/10, award given to top 2% of students etc.)

Keep in mind – someone who has no clue who you are will look into your CV and determine if you will be accepted or not. Luckily, you are the one deciding how you want to present yourself. So don’t invent things, be yourself and make sure your CV highlights the best of you. 🙂

Write in the comments which of these resume tips you found the most useful.

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