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There are many guides for writing an academic CV available online, but nearly all of them are not clearly addressing undergraduates who are applying to graduate school. This group obviously need to include different items on their CV than those applying for a post-doc or a job.

I wanted to know the specific requirements of this kind of CV in addition to the general guidelines of writing an academic CV. specifically, I wanted to know that:

  • Should I include my research interests? I understand that many senior undergraduates may not have specific research interests, but there are many others who have, and I think this can be a positive point in their application to research based programs.

  • Should I list courses I've taken in addition to my main courses, that are important for the program? For example, during my undergraduate I have taken many graduate pure math courses (voluntarily), that are very important in the discipline I'm applying to. Should I list them under Education section?

  • Should an activities section be included, in which my favorite, relevant activities are listed? As an example, I have written many bots in Python for daily repetitive Wikipedia tasks, and this shows my proficiency in Python (a positive point). Can I list under activities that I have written many scripts for Wikipedia?

  • Should an Objective section be added at the beginning? (I will write and submit a statement of purpose separately)

  • Is a References section required at the end of the CV? (I've already made all of the mentioned names in the CV a link pointing to their homepages)

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From what I've heard, CVs/resumes do not get a lot of weight in application decisions. The vital information is available elsewhere (particularly in the recommendation letters and statement of purpose), and the rest is almost always fluff and/or unverifiable.

There's a few things that you should definitely do. Focus heavily on research experience and any tangible evidence of research potential. Provide citations/links to publications or working papers. Include academic honors, especially national ones, mostly because they are unlikely to show up anywhere else. Depending on the field, there might be other relevant information (e.g. patents in engineering).

Should I include my research interests? I understand that many senior undergraduates may not have specific research interests, but there are many others who have, and I think this can be a positive point in their application to research based programs.

No. That's what your statement of purpose is for. There's no need to duplicate it here.

Should I list courses I've taken in addition to my main courses, that are important for the program?

You can, but I wouldn't. That's what your transcript is for. Some programs will also ask for lists/descriptions of classes. If a specific class is particularly important, you should consider mentioning it in your SOP or getting the professor to write you a recommendation letter; putting it in your CV is unlikely to draw attention to it.

Should an activities section be included, in which my favorite, relevant activities are listed? As an example, I have written many bots in Python for daily repetitive Wikipedia tasks, and this shows my proficiency in Python (a positive point). Can I list under activities that I have written many scripts for Wikipedia?

Will almost certainly be viewed as fluff. If you an activity is important enough to mention, then include it in your SOP.

Should an Objective section be added at the beginning? (I will write and submit a statement of purpose separately)

No. Again, this is what your SOP is for.

Is a References section required at the end of the CV? (I've already made all of the mentioned names in the CV a link pointing to their homepages)

No. Generally there will be a separate section for entering your recommenders and their contact information, so it is unnecessary.


An exception might be when applying to fellowships. I suspect that some fellowships will consider leadership experiences, community service, and other factors that graduate schools generally ignore. Including these activities (e.g. varsity sports, student government, eagle scout, volunteering) might be helpful depending on the evaluation criteria.

  • This is a good, thorough answer, but it is also clearly biased towards the perspective of someone who considers the CV as simply an extra component of the application. I gather that some professors actually prefer to glean information from CVs, hence the CV being required at all. I don't think these professors consider duplicating information as unnecessary. – Tim Nov 7 '14 at 20:37
  • @Tim I'm sure there are, and would welcome other perspectives. I suspect that most professors treat the CV as a secondary piece of an application though. Similar to a glossary, it's where you can "look up" a job or publication that is referenced somewhere else. – Roger Fan Nov 7 '14 at 20:40

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