I am applying to neurobiology Ph.D. programs in the US that focus on disease research.

I am seeking opinions on my personal situation regarding the decision to include either a resume (1-2 sides) OR a CV (multiple pages) in my graduate school application for the schools that don't provide me much space to write about research. I also want to know about whether or not I can include research experience blurbs in the CV.

Originally, after being told by most schools that allow up to 5 recommendation letters to only submit 3 and after being told not to upload anything in the "optional and additional uploads," I felt a resume would be better for my application. Less writing and easier to read for the admissions faculty. However, I know many Ph.D.students that have submitted CVs, and almost every school I'm applying to states that I can submit a CV.

I don't have that much to discuss, aside from 3 significant 2+ year teaching experiences as an undergraduate student and 3 research experiences (2 summer internships + home university research since I was a freshman). Unfortunately, I won't have a paper out for at least another year due to an ongoing study. I am also active in several clubs/honors societies. Thus, my current "resume" is 3.5 pages long. I could probably get it to 2 pages, but this is where you come in.

Would you suggest to expand even more, possibly elaborating more on my research experiences so that my CV is around 4-6 pages, or would you recommend to keep it as a brief resume? For the CV, can I include 4-5 sentence research descriptions after I list the knitty-gritty stuff (e.g. program, what I did in that research program in regard to career building, etc.)?

The main reason I ask this is that I'm slowly starting to figure out some schools give me absolutely no room to discuss research experience. For instance, Johns Hopkins allows me to write a single page personal statement while answering quite a few other large points; thus, elaborating on research is hard. Also, I just contacted Duke who had a similar case in their application, and the Ph.D. admissions advisor for neuroscience told me to include details about my research experiences in the CV or the optional supplemental uploader. Harvard told me not to utilize the optional supplemental uploader to further discuss my research, although they allow CV uploads.

Regardless, for some of these schools, I will need to at least include a few extra sentences about my research whether that be through the optional file uploader or a CV. Has anyone had this internal debate or has a strong opinion on the better option? Thank you!

  • You should still specify where you are, rather than just describing the documents, as it may affect the expection and hence the answer. Since you didn't even think of it, there's a strong chance that it's USA, but I wouldn't like to presume ;-)
    – Flyto
    Commented Sep 17, 2019 at 20:35
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    Why do you assume that every application has to be identical to every other? Use what seems best for any given situation.
    – Buffy
    Commented Sep 17, 2019 at 20:36
  • @Buffy I didn't mean to make my question sound as if I have to do everything the same at each school. Of course, each application is different. This question is more geared toward the many schools that I feel are not allowing me the space to discuss past research experiences (e.g. 1-page personal statements). I have no idea if admissions committees would be happy to read 5-6 page CVs when other students submit 1-2 page resumes. Commented Sep 17, 2019 at 20:40
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    4-6 pages is way too long for a grad school CV. Your 3.5 page resume sounds more like a CV.
    – Bryan Krause
    Commented Sep 18, 2019 at 2:31
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    You shouldn't be aiming for a particular page length. Those resources tell you what things should be in a CV. Most of an academic CV is publications, which you don't have - that's okay, but don't replace a lack of publications with a bloated CV containing extra stuff that doesn't belong.
    – Bryan Krause
    Commented Sep 18, 2019 at 2:37

1 Answer 1


In the United States, when applying to a PhD program, you should upload a CV, not a resume.

Your CV should not include any descriptive sentences. The current custom is for CVs to be a list of facts, with no qualitative information. Put the descriptions in your personal statements.

  • 1
    This is the same for the UK. What may be helpful would be to google something like "PhD student CV template" and look at the examples and, in particular, the subheadings that you should have in your CV. Commented Sep 19, 2019 at 12:57
  • Thank you both very much for the confirmation. I think this is a good approach. I never intended to put any descriptive sentences in my Ph.D. applicant CV, but after an admissions staff told me that he usually gets "everything he needs in regard to research experience" from a CV, I got a little worried and wondered if I was supposed to be including some sort of brief summary on myself/research experience. Turns out, that's definitely not what you want to do as I originally thought. Hopefully, he can pull enough from my title of presentation/skills listed in each experience, haha. Commented Sep 20, 2019 at 5:23

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