How to write the perfect CV for your Master’s application

By Gioia Iacopini on June 22, 2021

If you’re graduating from a Bachelor’s degree and want to apply for a Master’s program, putting together your CV can be a stressful and daunting task.

This blog post aims at giving you some pointers on how to write an effective and impactful CV for your Master’s degree application!

The advice in this post is generally geared towards undergraduate students who wish to apply for a data Science/machine learning MSc. But, there are still a lot of helpful hints that you can use in your applications for other higher education degrees. 

Firstly, here’s some general advice on writing your CV. Try to follow these rules as much as possible…

  • Be confident. Don’t downplay your achievements. Before writing anything down, sit and think about all that you’ve achieved so far – and be confident in your abilities!

  • First impressions matter. Make your CV short, simple, and easy to read. Academic recruiters go through a lot of CVs. You want to make sure that yours is easy to skim through, whilst also remaining impactful. You can achieve this by:

    • Using short sentences, bullet points, and a consistent format that will allow the recruiter to understand your experience at first glance.
    • Listing your experience and academic achievements in reverse chronological order, from the most recent to the oldest
    • Avoid spelling or grammar mistakes – check, check, and check again!

  • Placement helps. Place your strongest point at the start of a sentence, paragraph, section, or document. For example, as an undergraduate applying for a Master’s degree, the strongest section of your CV will most likely be your academic achievements. Let this be the first section of your CV so that recruiters go through it when their attention is peaking.

  • Tailor your CV. Showcase experience that is relevant to the degree you’re applying to, or to your interests. For example, if you want to obtain an MSc in machine learning, list the relevant undergraduate modules that you’ve completed, as well as your professional experience and extracurricular activities. This will show that you have an active interest in the subject – demonstrating why you’ll make you the ideal candidate for the program!

Academic recruiters go through a lot of CVs. You want to make sure that yours is easy to skim through, whilst also remaining impactful.

What sections should I include?

  • Start by stating your name, contact information, and any other relevant links. For example, your GitHub or LinkedIn profile, or a personal website.

  • You can then add an objective section (although this is optional). Here, you should write two to three sentences explaining your interests and how the course you are applying for, combined with your skills, will help you achieve your goals.

  • Follow with an education section. This is your most important section as an undergraduate without industry experience.

    • List your qualifications, along with relevant modules. No need to include all the modules that are part of your course as the university you are applying to will ask to see your transcripts. 
    • You might also include impressive results – obtained or expected – especially in relevant subjects.
    • Include details of relevant dissertation topics or group projects. (Note: there’s no need to list module codes as they only have meaning within your university!)

Depending on your experience, you might want to include one – or all – of the following sections:

  • Extracurricular activities and interests. Universities like to see students take part in university life outside of their studies. In this section, you can list your work as part of a student society, your involvement in sports, tutoring or charity. Explain what skills you gained from these activities, such as organizational and time management skills, communication skills, or people and networking skills.

  • Professional experience. If you have relevant professional experience, list it in this section. You can include summer internships, work you’ve done at the university, and voluntary positions. If you are applying for a Data Science MSc and you have relevant experience in the field, you could also rename the heading to something like ‘Data science related experience’ to draw more attention to it.

  • Projects. If you’re applying for a technical degree such as machine learning, you might have carried out technical projects as part of your undergraduate degree – or maybe even independently. Make sure you list any relevant projects in this section.

Lastly, you might want to add a skills section (again, completely optional.) Here, you can list all the skills you possess. For example, any other languages you’re fluent in, your proficiency with different programming languages – anything extra that you feel is worth a mention!

I hope that this blog will be useful to any undergraduate students pulling together a CV for their higher education application. The University of Birmingham has also compiled this really handy checklist of do’s and don’ts, if you were looking for some further help.

Good luck!

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