How to Write a Resume for Graduate School: Part 2/2 – Polishing & Improving

Before We Begin

If you don’t have a first draft of a CV or resume for graduate school, check out How to Write a Resume for Graduate School: Part 1 – From Blank Page to First Draft.

If you don’t know what a resume or CV is, start here then go back up.

NOTE: A resume and a CV are different, but I’m going to use them interchangeably here. Read this post to find out the difference.


For the rest of you who already have a draft of your resume and are looking to polish it, we’ll be going over the following areas:

  • Layout
  • Format
  • Should I Include _____ in my resume?
  • Word Choice & Descriptions


The order of the sections of your CV will be determined by what you’d like to emphasize to the admissions committee. As a general rule, in academia they like to see academic qualifications first.

Generally, this means your degree(s) go first followed by research experience.

If you’re like me, you might not have any significant research experience. However, I do have significant relevant professional experience, so that is my 2nd section after education.


This is a contentious issue. There is only one hard rule for the format of your resume: make it easy to read. That’s it.

Here are some tips to improve the readability of your resume for the admissions committee:

  • General Tips
    • Use only 1 or 2 fonts (normal ones like Arial or Times New Roman)
    • 1 inch margins
    • Leave lots of white space (it is easier on the eyes)
    • Be consistent! Don’t make one section one font and another a different one
  • Specific Stuff
    • Help section titles stand out (bold, underline, or all caps)
    • Bold your name & authorship in any publications
    • Use bullet points in your descriptions
    • Right align all dates to create a visual timeline

Resume Writing Part 2

Should I Include _______ in my resume?

Is it relevant?

Yes: Then Yes! Include it!

No: Are you sure?

A lot of people discount relevant experience because they don’t know how it is relevant. Get on ASHA’s website and look at articles related to SLP responsibilites, roles, and competencies. These will show you the wide range of skills you need.

Look at this Roles and Responsibilities of SLPs in Schools Working Group for example. It lists things like:

  • Working across all levels (infants to adults)
  • Providing unique contributions to school curriculum
  • Highlighting language & literacy
  • Providing culturally competent services
  • Assessment
  • Program Design
  • Data Collection & Analysis
  • Compliance
  • Collaboration with other school professionals
  • Collaboration with families
  • Collaboration with the community

You probably have experience with these things from any number of other jobs. Here are some common experiences and how they might be relevant

  • Teaching & Tutoring: Any teaching or tutoring experience is great relevant experience especially if you can emphasize the following…
    • Working with children (working across all levels)
    • Using research based best practices (SLP’s love continuing ed & best practices)
    • Evaluation & measurement
    • Language & Literacy
  • Baby Sitting: This is incredibly valuable someone trusted you with the life of their child!
    • Use of developmentally appropriate learning activities
    • Length of time: babysitting twice a year is irrelevant; watching the same children once a week for a year is hugely relevant because you’ve observed child development firsthand!
  • Anything international
    • Focus on cultural competency
    • Linguistic diversity
  • Assisting a Professor
    • Maybe you helped in preparing exams/assessments
    • Did you have to look at grades to determine which students needed extra help?
  • Community Service Programs
    • Did you establish or maintain relationships with community programs focused on health, education, poverty, outreach, senior citizens, marginalized communities?
  • Research Assistant
    • You most likely had to do some sort of data collection and/or analysis – even if it was as simple as putting it in Excel and arranging it by certain metrics, it is relevant!

So, I can’t put up an exhaustive list, but as you can see many things are relevant to the skills you’ll need as an SLP. If you have something you’re not sure about, you can email me michael at thespeechblog dot com

or ask a professor for help.

As a final note, if you have an experience that is between relevant and irrelevant, decide if it is something that helps you to stand out. For example, I interned as a Program Officer at the Institute of International Education’s Office for Latin AmericaThis is only mildly relevant because it is education; BUT it is very unique which will help my application stick in the minds of the admission committee members.

Word Choice & Descriptions

You’ll want to use descriptions sparingly because they can get long and boring. One tip is to use bullet points to visually break up the information.

Avoid repetition

 I have four different teaching jobs on my resume, yet they all look and read differently. Why would I put “Planned engaging lessons” four times on my resume? The reader figured it out after the first time. In each description highlight different accomplishments. For example, under one of my school entries I emphasized how I integrated technology into my teaching and in another I focused on my use of research based best practices to improve reading skills.

Be Accomplishment Orientated

You want to focus on what you did not what you were responsible for. Let’s say you’re a reading teacher. If you put “responsible for teaching literacy skills” that doesn’t tell us if you did it or if you were good at it. However, if you write, “produced above average growth in 6th grade reading scores as measured on ACER’s ISA exam,” the reader knows what you did!

Be quantifiable

For example, maybe you worked as a professor’s assistant and did data entry. Instead of writing “Tagged language samples for professor’s research project” try something like “Tagged nearly 200 1 min language samples.” The second one is much more powerful.

Be Specific & Concrete

Related to the previous tip, don’t be general. If you were a baby sitter, don’t write “Took care of 2 children.” Add some specific details! Try something like “Provided nutritious meals, reading activities, and homework-time supervision for 2 children – 6 and 8 years old.”  

Use key words

This is a subtle but powerful technique. As you read each school’s website and application materials, pay attention to key words that appear in their mission statement, program description, and outcome statements. If you can find a way to incorporate those buzz words into your description, you will subtly demonstrate you’ve done your research and imply you’re a perfect match for the program.

Never Lie

This should be obvious, but don’t ever make anything up or stretch the truth beyond what it is. As a rule of thumb, if you’re boss wouldn’t recognize something from your resume, it doesn’t belong there.

Be Unique

Many candidates for SLP school have similar backgrounds. Find a way to make your experiences stand out. For example, many of us have experience teaching or tutoring. Did you tutor while studying abroad in a foreign country? That’s unique. Many candidates have shadowed SLP’s, did you do it in a unique setting like a hospital or bilingual clinic?


Wrapping it up

The most important thing now is to make sure you GO and APPLY these tips to your resume!

If you have any questions or if you noticed something I overlooked, please email me so I can improve the post!



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