The Complete Guide to Writing the Perfect CV for your Master's Application
It’s a long journey from deciding to do a Master’s till actually getting admission in a university of your choice. Once you have narrowed down on the program and shortlisted the list of colleges you want to apply to, starts the herculean task of collating all the supporting documents.
From filling the application forms and writing personal statements to gathering transcripts and references – applying to a Master’s program is serious, serious work.
But do you know which is one of the most underrated documents in all of it? The Curriculum Vitae (CV).
Yes, you read that right. You do need to submit a CV for your Master’s application. Don’t know where to begin? Let us help you.
Here’s How to Write a Winning CV when Applying for a Master’s Program
A lot of students are under the impression that a CV is only required while applying for jobs. Well, not quite. As per leading admissions experts and counselors, it’s always a good idea to submit an updated, professional CV while applying for a Master’s program.
We aren’t surprised because at a time when competition is immense, your CV needs to highlight your strengths and accentuate your candidacy. The whole purpose is to project yourself in a manner that convinces the university that you will be a valuable addition to their program.
Ready or not, here are some valuable tips on how to create a winning CV that will set you apart from the competition.
What to Include in the CV for your Master’s Application?
The admissions committee expects to learn about your educational background, work history, experiences, skills and interests after reading your CV. The key is to present this information in a concise, professional and interesting manner.
Don’t get overwhelmed by the avalanche of information required - let’s tackle it section by section. Here are the key elements you must include in the CV for your Master’s application, in the exact order given below -
Section 1 – Personal Details
It goes without saying that you must add your personal details accurately in order to be reachable. Personal details include your name, date of birth, email id, address and phone number. You can also insert a link to your LinkedIn profile or website, if you have one.
This information can come in the header section or be neatly tucked in the right or left column. It’s a good idea to add a succinct summary or objective statement here which demonstrates your unique accomplishments and ends with your objective of applying for the particular program.
Section 2 – Educational Qualifications
As you are applying for a Master’s degree, this is the section that needs maximum emphasis.
You need to include the name and location of the institutions you completed your Bachelor’s degree and high school from, the title of the degree, subject you majored in and the years you attended. Remember to start with the most recent college and go backwards.
If you worked on a thesis or research during your Bachelor’s degree, you should include its title here along with some relevant courses you have taken.
“Should I put my GPA on the CV?” is a common question students have. According to resume expert, Laura Smith-Proulx, adding the GPA only makes sense when the applicant has recently graduated from a program, and has scored above 3.5 on a 4.0 scale.
Section 3 – Work Experience
When you present work experience in your CV, it demonstrates your genuine interest in the particular field and adds immense value to your application.
So, be sure to highlight any professional experience you might have -- whether you started your own company or worked for another one. Make sure you include the company name, job title, responsibilities, achievements during your stint, and respective dates.
Worried you have limited or no work experience? Don’t be. Even part-time work and internships are applicable in this section as they denote your practical experience.
Section 4 – Volunteer Experience & Extracurricular Activities
Have you ever organized a blood donation camp, organized an event at a nursing home or volunteered in any other community service activity? It’s time to reflect and jot down your volunteering experience in chronological order and describe the noteworthy elements under each of them.
Apart from volunteer work, you must also highlight extracurricular activities you have participated in. If you are confused about which ones to include, here’s an informative video -
How to select the activities that will truly strengthen your CV
Talking about volunteer experience and extracurricular activities gives the admissions committee a peak into your life outside academics while highlighting key soft skills that are an asset to have.
Section 5 – Honors, Awards or Certifications
It’s always beneficial to include awards, honors or certifications you have received and mention any leadership positions you may have held in the past. It adds credibility to your claims.
Along with the name of the award and the year, also spare a line in giving a quick explanation of what it was about to give context.
If there are too many awards, make sure you only include the relevant and recent ones. And no, winning a spelling bee contest in 5th grade is not applicable!
Section 6 – Skills & Interests
Who said a CV is only meant to be about all work and no play? A CV needs to encompass your background and that includes your interests and skills too.
Now, you can like a lot of things from singing and dancing to playing badminton and cooking but should you add everything? Not at all. What needs to go here is only hobbies and interests that are relevant to the program/university you are applying to.
For instance, blogging, sports and reading make for much stronger interests than cooking or watching movies.
Similarly, the skills you add need to be beneficial as well such as computer skills, languages, experience working with tools/software related to your field of study and soft skills like communication, leadership, teamwork, etc.
Tip - remember to have a story ready for every skill and interest you include because you might just be questioned on them during the interview.
How to make your Master’s Application CV stand out?
Presentation is everything. You might have done and achieved a lot but unless you don’t present it in a compelling manner, it will do nothing to your application.
The admissions committee reads hundreds of CVs in a day, so you need to write yours such that it breaks through the clutter and stands out.
Now, that you know what to include in the CV for your Master’s application, let’s have a look at how you can make it count -
From the font used to the language - your CV needs to look and read professional. Stay away from lazy, sloppy writing because that is sure to kill your chances of getting accepted.
Professional writing involves writing in a concise manner such that every statement is purposeful and adds value. There is no space to waste while writing a CV so do ensure you are able to effectively communicate about your background in 1 page.
Formatting includes the font size, style, color and paragraph break up. Your CV should be such that it is easily readable and can be scanned in one go.
Avoid flashy fonts. Use standard fonts such as Arial or Times New Roman in sizes 10,11 or 12 to keep it simple and professional.
It’s always a good idea to break statements down to bullet points and include factors such as name of company/institution, job title, degree in bold. This breaks up the document and makes for a better reading experience.
Finally, if you are emailing or uploading the CV on a portal, always do so in PDF format as opposed to Word doc. That way the formatting is retained and no one can alter it either.
Customize to fit the program
One size does not fit all, especially when it comes to college admissions.
Always make it a point to tailor your CV to be in line with the requirements of the master’s program you are applying for. Read up on the university’s values and ensure your CV resonates them. This practice will go a long way in demonstrating your attention to detail and makes your CV more appealing.
For instance, if you are applying for an MBA, make sure the activities and experiences you add in your resume highlight leadership, teamwork and other skills that are revered by B-schools.
Use action verbs
Why write ‘helped’ when you can write ‘facilitated’? Why use ‘managed’ when you can say ‘championed’ or ‘headed’?
As you can see, your choice of words can make all the difference. Using action verbs is a powerful way of making your point. It drives the message home in the most precise and effective manner.
To make your work easier here’s a video.
How to use the right verbs while writing your CV
Edit and proofread
Just like any other piece of writing, even CVs need to be edited and proofread a couple of times before submitting them in.
The first round of writing needs to be about enlisting points below every section. Follow that up by editing and removing the unnecessary information. Once you have removed the frills, polish the CV and proofread it to check for grammatical mistakes and spelling errors.
You should also get a family member or friend to read your CV to get a fresh, new perspective.
Here is a Sample of a Master’s Application CV to give you some Inspiration
Yes, writing a CV while applying for a Master’s program needs to be approached with careful consideration. It’s not something you can whip up in a day or a couple of hours. It requires careful planning and meticulous presentation.
If you are unsure of your CV writing skills and feel that it might compromise your chances of getting accepted by the university, why not get some help from the experts?
We at Writers Per Hour can help you write a CV from scratch. Our expert resume writers ensure they understand your background and the requirements of the program you are applying to before they write a custom-made CV, professionally written and formatted, that is sure to put you on the forefront.