Bit about me: I recently graduated as an undergraduate in Statistics and would like to pursue graduate school. I will be working as an actuary starting this upcoming month and will be pursuing the GRE and Mathematics GRE Subject Test this September/October.

I'm struggling to write a CV for graduate school. It is not a requirement that I know of currently (I haven't looked at the application requirements yet at the places I plan on applying yet), but I know that I will need to have one ready in case I need it in the future. I have plenty of experience writing resumes for actuarial positions, but none whatsoever for grad school CVs.

I have bolded the questions that I would like answered.

Here's what I currently have so far (in chronological order):

Top: name, contact info

Body: Education, Academic Research, Teaching Experience, Volunteer Experience (if I volunteered as a TA, should I throw this experience in teaching instead if I don't have any other volunteering experience?), Work Experience (consists of an actuarial position + an assessment position), Leadership and Committee Experience, Actuarial Exams, Languages, Computer Skills, Research Interests

Am I missing anything that should be in a mathematics CV?

Also, how much detail am I expected to put in for my experiences? For example, on my research experience, I have the advisor's name, what I did, how I pursued the research, and in some cases, what the research led up to (e.g., one of my projects was used to supplement an already-published mathematics and music text). Am I expected to talk about "excellent communication skills" or "teamwork" in any of my experiences, if applicable? (For an actuarial resume, I would NEVER right anything like this, as it sounds like I'm just trying to fill up white space.)

Lastly, I realize that this isn't the most relevant pertaining to this website specifically, but are there any online forums where I can get feedback on my CV (mathematics-specific would be extremely nice)?

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    I can take a crack at a full answer later, but short version: in my experience (four years on math PhD admissions at UGA) the CV is probably one of the least important aspects of the application. I think it's mostly there so that there's one easy place to look if we're having trouble laying hands on information which is provided elsewhere in the application. I honestly can't remember ever thinking "Nice CV, this makes me want to admit" or "What a poor CV, too bad": not once and not even a little bit. Jun 16, 2014 at 2:12
  • Thank you for the insight! :) I am looking forward to your full answer. (I imagine the personal statement has more weight to it, in addition to math GRE subject test scores?) Jun 16, 2014 at 2:14
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    Teaching experience is important if you want to be a TA. Volunteer or not does not matter. I believe what the admission is looking for is your research. In other words, the beef !
    – Nobody
    Jun 16, 2014 at 9:34
  • It seems to me that only the window dressing has been mentioned here so far. No teaching experience is expected of applicants to grad school in math (and essentially no one has it, unless you count tutoring in one form or another). Almost no one has done substantial research in math before grad school, so if you've done it, great, but it's definitely not the beef of a typical application. Jun 16, 2014 at 10:14
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    I've never found personal statements to be any use at all in comparing applicants, and the GRE score is at most a minor consideration. (A really low score is a red flag, but the difference between a moderately low score and a very high score is, to me, meaningless.) The things that really do matter are your transcript and your letters of recommendation. Make sure your research advisor is one of your letter writers! Jun 16, 2014 at 10:17

2 Answers 2


First let me say that I have a lot of experience with math department admissions, all of it in a department which is separate from the statistics department. The title question is "Constructing a mathematics CV": I'll answer that. I would not assume that it's the same for statistics.

For a math admission -- either master's or PhD, it doesn't matter -- the CV is just about the least important part of the application that I can think of. At many places, it is probably being asked for as much out of force of habit as anything else: in academia, CV's are ubiquitous. However, most information that is provided on your CV is also provided elsewhere on the application: grades, coursework, research experiences, relevant personal experiences all have other outlets. I can only remember reaching for a candidate's CV when something was missing from some other part of the application (possibly because of a clerical error on our part) and I wanted to quickly put my hands on it. I absolutely don't care how the CV looks, how it is formatted, or anything like that. In fact I don't care about that stuff for any level of academic job. And in fact I myself have one of the more unimpressively formatted CVs I've ever seen, almost to the point of being unintentionally "unbusinesslike".

So I would say the key is this: whenever you're wondering whether to put something on your CV, also ask yourself: "If I do put it on my CV, how do I highlight it elsewhere in my application?" Because your CV might not even be specifically read by some (or all) committee members.

To answer your specific questions:

if I volunteered as a TA, should I throw this experience in teaching instead if I don't have any other volunteering experience?

You should certainly include all TA experience, volunteer or otherwise. (Whenever you do something as a volunteer that one might reasonably think you've been paid for, it is only honorable to clarify that you were a volunteer.) I find your concern that you don't have any other kind of volunteer experience misplaced: we're not looking for volunteer experience, and volunteer experience that is not math related is not clearly relevant at all and should probably only be included if it is truly notable or substantial. Honestly, we're not selecting for candidates who are unusually socially conscious or unusually well-rounded, so your volunteer work would have to be successful enough to show exceptional drive and/or administrative skill.

Am I missing anything?

No, I don't think so. Your research experience -- if you have any -- is one of the more important things to go on a CV, and you mentioned it. But in keeping with what I said before, it is really too important to just hide in a CV: if you had any research experience at all you should certainly mention it in your personal statement (and if you haven't had any at all, it would be a good idea to address that, at least by saying how excited you are and how much you welcome the opportunity). If your research experiences resulted in actual product, then include the product itself: papers can be part of the application, and you can also include links to websites.

how much detail am I expected to put in for my experiences? Am I expected to talk about "excellent communication skills" or "teamwork" in any of my experiences, if applicable?

At this point I wonder if you're confusing the CV and the personal statement. You don't "talk about" anything in a CV: it just displays information. There is not a single complete sentence in my (eight page: yours should probably be one or two) CV. Information about relevant experiences should go prominently in your personal statement and you should do what you can to ensure that these experiences are also discussed in your recommendation letters (along with your coursework, these are the most important part of the application). I have no desire to hear about excellent communication skills or teamwork from the candidate herself, no. In fact, writing a personal statement that is literate and moderately compelling is your big chance to show your communication skills. Openly boasting about skills is something that academia largely frowns upon. This can get tricky when in certain contexts -- grant applications, introductions to papers -- you really need to describe your achievements, but in a way which is factual and not openly self-promotional. In a grad school application I would strive to look competent, eager and (reasonably) humble.

are there any online forums where I can get feedback on my CV (mathematics-specific would be extremely nice)?

You should ask your recommenders for feedback on your CV. They are natural candidates, because (i) they're reading it anyway and (ii) they have already shown an interest in your academic career. The right way to do this is to first give them a CV and make it really clear that you want critical comments and that you've saved plenty of time for it -- more than a month! -- and then after that you would like a recommendation letter.

  • "possibly on the part of a clerical error on our part". Possibly redundancy here. Jun 16, 2014 at 23:28
  • Thank you for the feedback. One follow-up question: would "Invited Talks" be a fine substitute for "Academic Research"? Essentially they would have the same information, except "Invited Talks" would have additional information on where I have presented on the research. I have seen "Invited Talks" on graduate CVs, but not sure if it would be appropriate for undergrad CVs. Jun 17, 2014 at 1:48
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    @Clarinetist: It is rather rare for undergraduates in mathematics to be invited to give talks. But if you have done it, sure, include it on the CV...and also mention it in your personal statement. Jun 17, 2014 at 3:39
  • @PeteL.Clark A most useful answer, thanks Prof. Clark. If I may use this opportunity to ask, is it considered appropriate to include mini-courses (as in five one-hour sections course), attendance to conferences (without presenting anything), interrupted undergraduate research projects and such in the CV, or should this be mentioned elsewhere (or nowhere at all)? Aug 8, 2014 at 1:03

For a PhD in statistics, the non-math and interdisciplinary experiences are very important. Definitely the fact that you'll have an actuarial internship is good.

Teaching experience: also important. Many departments will like to know if you can teach.

Communication skills are good, if you can substantiate them. Computer literacy (beyond html/MS office) is important.

Not directly answering your question, but when you ask for recommendation letters, make sure at least one addresses your teaching. And, if you can have one outlining your interdisciplinary prowess, that will be good, too.

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