5 Ways To Make Your Resume Impressive to Grad Schools
If you’re thinking about applying to graduate school, you’re probably wondering about your chances of acceptance. What can you do to make your resume more competitive? What are graduate schools looking for in an applicant?
It may surprise you to learn that graduate schools consider many of the same factors as undergraduate schools. Keep up the same good habits you had in high school—perhaps on a larger scale—and you’ll position yourself well for grad school.
Of course, you may have already finished undergrad and entered the workforce, in which case some of this advice won’t apply to you. Don’t worry. Graduate schools love work experience too!
In this article, we’ll look at five things that make your resume impressive to grad schools, whether you’re an undergraduate student or a working professional.
1. Strong GPA and Test Scores
When it comes to academic achievements, few are more important to graduate schools than a strong GPA and test scores.
If you’re still in undergrad, perform your best in every class, especially those that are relevant to the graduate program you’re interested in. Use the resources available to you, including tutoring, study groups, and your professors’ office hours.
To get into graduate school, you’ll likely need to take the GRE, GMAT, MCAT, or LSAT. These are standardized tests for general graduate programs, business schools, medical schools, and law schools respectively.
Like the SAT, these tests are seen as a predictor of how well you’ll perform at the next level. Your score is extremely important, so begin studying several months in advance. You may want to purchase a test prep book or complete a test prep course. Many resources are available online as well.
2. Relevant Experience
Another way to boost your resume for grad school is to gain relevant experience. Work experience sets you apart as a highly qualified candidate who will enrich the learning environment. You have a proven ability to succeed outside of the classroom and in a field that’s relevant to the material you’ll be studying.
Although work experience isn’t required for most programs, it can give you a distinct advantage. Some programs, like MBA programs, prefer applicants with 1-2 years of work experience. At top-tier business schools, the average is closer to three years or even more.
If you’re planning to head to grad school immediately after undergrad, try finding an internship or a service-learning opportunity in the field you’ll be pursuing. Research is also impressive, especially if your grad program heavily emphasizes it. Adding any relevant experience to your resume helps, even if it’s not a full-time job.
3. Volunteer Work
Volunteering is another great way to enhance your grad school resume (and your community). As always, it’s best if you can find volunteer work related to the program or field you’re interested in. In this way, you gain relevant experience and demonstrate admirable personal qualities.
Grad schools want to educate the leaders of tomorrow, so showing that you’re a leader today can strengthen your chances.
This is especially true if your program is in a helping profession, like social work, education, or medicine. Grad school programs in these fields may specifically look for applicants who are compassionate, empathetic, experienced in working with diverse populations, and committed to bettering their communities and society as a whole.
4. Extracurricular Involvement
Extracurricular involvement looks good on your resume, especially if it’s relevant. Graduate schools want to see that you’ll actively contribute to their campus. Will you interact with your peers and your community? Will you offer innovative ideas? Do you have the potential to make a difference on campus and in the world? These are all questions that interest graduate school admissions teams.
Choose activities and organizations that interest you, and commit to them for an extended time period. If possible, join professional organizations in the field you’re hoping to enter. Network and learn from other students with similar aspirations. You never know where these connections could lead you in the future.
It’s also helpful to take on a leadership role in one or more of the organizations you join. Grad schools want to educate the leaders of tomorrow, so showing that you’re a leader today can strengthen your chances.
If you’ve already completed undergrad, it’s not too late to attend networking events and conferences, join professional organizations, and demonstrate that you have what it takes to lead. Seek opportunities to get more involved in your professional community or even your neighborhood.
5. Related Coursework/Certifications
Finally, graduate schools will certainly expect to see related coursework on your resume. Some graduate schools even have prerequisites, so you’ll need to make sure that you’ve completed all required courses before applying. In some cases, grad schools will still admit you, but you will need to take additional courses when you arrive, which will mean investing more time and money to earn your degree.
Want to really impress your dream grad school program? Look at the courses that they “recommend,” and take all of those too. The more you can demonstrate passion and expertise in your field, the more competitive you’ll be.
Already out of school? Consider earning relevant certifications in your field. (Current college students, you can follow this tip too.) Certifications demonstrate a commitment to furthering your learning and staying current in your field. And while some certifications are pricey, many are affordable or even free.
The bottom line is that if you want a solid resume for grad school, you’ll need to show that you’re willing and eager to learn and that you have an aptitude for the field you’re interested in.
Final Thoughts: 5 Ways To Make Your Resume Impressive to Grad Schools
Ultimately, graduate schools are looking for creative, intellectually curious, compassionate, and talented students who will make a positive difference in their fields and in the world. It also helps if you can demonstrate a genuine passion for the field.
Shape your graduate school resume with these qualities in mind. Resume boosters include:
- Strong GPA and standardized test scores
- Relevant work experience, including internships or research
- Volunteer work
- Extracurricular involvement and leadership roles
- Coursework and/or certifications related to your field
Your graduate school resume should demonstrate that you’re dedicated to your field of choice, talented in this area, and willing and able to make an impact. By crafting a resume that convincingly tells this story, you’ll dramatically increase your chances of acceptance.
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