Moving on from your personal statements and other college related essays, the next most important document would be your CV or résumé. Most people don’t know that this document is just as important as your personal statements. It’s a summary about yourself, a snapshot of who you are and your history. It is also the first document the admissions committee looks at, before reading anything else in your admissions package.
“Résumé” is a French word meaning to summarize; accordingly, your résumé is a summary of your profile and history. “CV” is an abbreviation of the Latin phrase “Curriculum Vitae” which means “the course of one’s life”. Typically, a résumé is a summary of your educational background and work experience, usually no longer than 2 pages. However, most employers and schools in the United States prefer the résumé to be no longer than one page. A résumé should include only basic information about your educational background, work history, and special skills or proficiencies. On the other hand, CVs are more detail-oriented and may be as long as 4-5 pages; in a CV, outlining the roles or responsibilities you have had in each of your jobs is a key requirement. A CV also includes information about your experience, degrees, research, awards, publications, presentations, and any other achievements you would like to present.
Whichever you choose to write, always remember that they have several things in common:
- The format : keep it simple, with no pictures or colors, and be professional. Outside the US, it is often common to attach a photo to one’s CV or résumé; however, this will seem strange to American employers and admissions boards, who strongly prefer blind applications. Though some online resources will tell you to create an “eye catching” résumé – unless you are applying to an art & design program – you should avoid inconsistent fonts, a mix of headings and font sizes, colors, and bullet points that do not align. Above all, don’t make it look confusing and messy (refer to our samples).
- Be honest, and do not lie – you will be found out! Represent yourself well, and you should not need to resort to exaggerating your achievements. Belief in your skills and a confident, professional approach should be enough to help you stand out.
- No spelling or grammar mistakes!
- Update your document so that you do not have any contact & email problems; make sure that whoever wants to contact you can actually reach you.
- Relevance : make sure the information you are providing is related to the program or position for which you are applying. The content should be targeted to a specific job or career area; if you are applying for different fields or positions, then you should have several different versions.
The table below will help you understand the difference between a CV and résumé. For format examples, check out our samples page.