I'm applying to PhD program. I'm my 4th year out of undergrad, I have a masters and am currently midway through my 3rd year at a research org. At this stage, can I get rid of stuff (like summer internships, clubs, etc.) from undergrad on my CV that I submit as part of my application? I guess I should keep the awards, but that might be it.

I was going back and forth about debating a (very mediocre) summer internship from my "relevant experiences" section. Is there any rule of thumb for this?

  • Some places expect school grades to still be included... So very location dpendent... – Solar Mike Dec 11 '18 at 7:56
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    @SolarMike I always feel that is a sign not to apply... – user2768 Dec 11 '18 at 10:25
  • @user2768 then choose where you wish to apply.... Of course, if you don't follow what they ask, then they may not accept you... – Solar Mike Dec 11 '18 at 11:49
  • @SolarMike Indeed, "choose where you wish to apply," I certainly wasn't contradicting your advice and I recommend supplying information when asked. To elaborate, I think any employer that asks someone with a PhD to provide their childhood grades, isn't someone I want to work for. (Possibly, in part, because I feel that they aren't used to hiring people with PhDs, since they surely wouldn't be asking for such grades if they did.) – user2768 Dec 11 '18 at 12:49
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    @user Oh you're right, I completely glossed over "childhood" – Azor Ahai Dec 12 '18 at 15:50

I do not think there can be a generalised answer to your question, however there are multiple factors to consider about what you might want to put on your CV.

  • As Solar Mike mentioned in the comments some programmes have certain requirements. These should obviously not be omitted.
  • Some programmes might have preferences about their applicants, e.g. valuing research experience, volunteer work, social engagement or experience abroad. Such preferences might become obvious from the descriptions on their website, advertisements or alumni interviews. You could try to tune your CV according to these.
  • You can also choose how you want to portray yourself. Maybe you want to show extra enthusiasm by including that besides coursework and research you have even spent summers doing internships? Or you want to focus on just the hard facts?
  • Which leads a potentially very important point: The length of your CV. If you think summer internships do not add anymore weight to your research experience and rather obstruct the reader from getting a quick overview of your education and work experience, then there is little point in keeping it on there.

What is “most relevant” is your experience as a researcher. Of course, your masters course should be included, especially since this is how you know your referees. However, in this respect, summer internships may be more relevant than other activities on your resume. They can show relevant experience in industry or a research environment.

If you did menial jobs during the summer, this may not be as relevant. If you can include it, it may still help to explain the “gap” in your resume and why you weren’t involved in research or volunteer activities at the time. We can’t all afford to live without income for an extended period of time. You should not be disadvantaged for this and it arguably shows your work ethic as well.

Of course, any way to show that you’ve had interests relevant to a research career helps but is not essential. It is understood that many students only realise that a research career is suitable for them once they’ve experienced a research environment. That is part of the purpose of summer internships afterall. Many first generation graduate students do not know what academia is like until they experience it and aren’t expected to. There are supervisors who are understanding about this (although not all of them are unfortunately).

I no longer include my non-research jobs on my resume, unless they demonstrate experience in teaching, academic writing, or similar skills. I don’t mention awards (everyone gets them anyways) unless they held a monetary value such as a competitive scholarship. Competing for grant funding is a major part of an academic career any experience at securing funds on your own is worth including.

However, as a postdoc, I still include my summer internships. These establish that I’ve had a long relationship with my previous supervisors and maintained a good relationship. It shows that I’ve changed research topic and managed to learn the necessary new techniques for the new field. It shows that I can work in different environments on my own and in a larger collaborative team. Most importantly, my summer internship project ended up being published which demonstrates that I can as see a project through to completion. As such, these positions are relevant to your application but you should think about their purpose before including them. They will not spend much time reading your resume so everything on it should be there for a reason.

Of course, every country and every institution has different requirements. Your experience may vary. Do pay attention to the guidelines of the institution and if possible contact a prospective supervisor for their support and heed their advice since they should know the system.

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