Putting Together Your CV: Some Basics
So you need to submit a cv (curriculum vita) with your application for graduate or professional school, or for a grant or scholarship. What now? Let's start with the basics.
What is a cv?
Most simply, it's a resume, but it's shaped to highlight your academic qualifications. The most important considerations that apply to a resume also apply to a cv: clarity, readability, and good organization. The cv, just like a resume, should provide a relatively brief and easy to understand overview of your training and experience-your personal statement, essays, and (if expected) cover letter will focus on aspects of your experience and flesh them out to give the committee a fuller sense of your interests and accomplishments. While the advice presented here is intended to be helpful, these ideas intended to provide a flexible set of guidelines rather than a template: you will always want to consider the contents and order of your categories in relation to the requirements and preferences of the opportunities for which you are applying. With the exception of education, which should always be at the top, you might want to arrange the categories slightly differently to emphasize the areas of your background that might be most relevant to a particular opportunity (research above presentations, for example, or the other way around).
What do I include?
The most important categories are education, research, presentations, and publications. You should have a section for employment, too, but early in your career you won't have much relevant experience (academic employment), so it's OK to place that at the end. Do include your service activities (you can place them at the end, after employment), whether they relate to your proposed program of study or not: they are indications of your passions and your character, and are helpful in giving readers a sense of who you are. You may include professional memberships.
What do I leave out?
In general, you don't need the following: an objective at the top, information on how much of your education was self-financed, computer skills, hobbies, personal information, or references (these will generally be listed in the application form somewhere else; if not, they should be on a separate sheet).
How long should it be?
As long as it takes to do the job. Think carefully about which experiences are most relevant and important to include, and when you are assembling the items in each category be careful to include the most important responsibilities and accomplishments for each opportunity without unnecessary detail. Readers do not need to know what you learned-that's what your cover letter or essays are for. Since you may have been out of school for several years before applying to a graduate program, you may have amassed significant experience in employment or in service; while these are not the most important parts of your application, these opportunities and accomplishments speak to your maturity and motivation, so committees want to know about them. If this means your cv is longer than a page, so be it.
What goes into each category, and how should information be presented within each category?
When thinking about how to establish and organize your headings, it may be helpful to think first in terms of the skill sets desired by the opportunity for which you are applying. If you are applying for a program in journalism, you may want to have a heading for journalism experience, in which you could list your stints at the student newspaper, your freelance work for the local newspaper, and the op-ed piece you published in the local independent or neighborhood paper or magazine. Applying for a job or graduate program to which lab experience is vital? A separate category for laboratory experience could be useful. Heading for a career in the arts or museums? You may want to have a separate heading for exhibitions you have curated, designed, helped mount, or in which you have shown your work. Have experiences that don't clearly fit into any of these categories? Make a new heading (think carefully about whether the experiences in question can fit into an existing heading first, though).
Here are some general suggestions for headings and their contents:
For each institution you have attended, you should list the name, the location, the years attended, and major area of study. Whether you include a gpa is up to you, but it is certainly unnecessary.
Honors and Awards
Here you can list both merit-based and need-based scholarships (national or regional), internal awards from the school or from your department, and awards for either academic accomplishment or for service. For each, you will need to include the name of the award, a brief description of its purpose if it is not clear from context, and the date of the award.
If you have done any independent research either during the academic year or in the summer, it should be listed here: topic or title, sponsoring or funding organization, and date. If your undergraduate program included a thesis or senior project, it should be listed here.
Provide the title, co-authors if any, location, and date. You may include peer-reviewed journals and electronic publications, but be sure to specify if they are electronic.
You may include presentations to the public as well as academic presentations. For each you will want to include the title, the format (panel presentation, lecture, poster) the sponsoring organization or event, and the date. Do not include all class presentations, but do include presentations of independent research whether that is part of an internal student conference or at a professional or academic meeting.
You may decide to list all employment or only those jobs that seem most relevant to your academic interests and development. For each job you will list the title, the organization, and the dates, with a bullet-pointed list of responsibilities underneath, just as you would in a conventional resume.
Here you may include both academic service (search committees, task forces, etc.) and community service. If you have more than a few service opportunities of each type you might want to divide them into separate categories for academic service and community service. For each include the service performed, sponsoring organization (the university, the community group), and the date. If you feel extra detail is needed, you can provide a brief bullet-pointed list of the responsibilities for each, just as you would under Employment.