How to Make Your Academic CV Stand Out for Scholarships

Are you going to apply for competitive scholarships or academic positions? and you are wondering about how to make a perfect CV. You have asked your friends for help and finally, they sent you their own CVs and outdated templates. You said them ¨Thank you so much¨ for nothing. Keep in mind an academic CV is more than just a template.

Do you know? It very important to capture the reader’s attention in the first 20 seconds. Despite high CGPA, a good number of publications, achievements and work experience the impact of CV is still very central in getting invited to an interview for scholarships, research positions, and academic jobs.

Be careful, on many online platforms there’s a lot of bad and outdated guidelines about the academic CV. Unfortunately, if you followed any of the outdated and bad advice that can result in direct rejection, even if you’re a qualified person.

There’s already a lot of competition to secure good opportunities, so don’t let your CV ruin your chances of acceptance.

So…. Uhhh…Now you are thinking…. What is exactly a perfect academic CV? How can you make it? This is very easy, don’t worry. Here’s what you should follow in 2019.

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1. Rules for formatting

Write your full name on top of the page (either in the middle or right-hand margin). It is recommended to use a clear font with 14 or 16 font size in bold letters for headings.  The rest of the CV should be in same font type in 11 or 12 front size throughout. 

Only use Italic text for book and research journal names. An academic CV is different than a resume that’s why don’t use bullet points. Never write ‘Curriculum vitae’ in any part of your CV because this is a traditional practice. 

2. General guidelines

Your CV should be readable, clear, concise and well structured. Avoid all kind of grammatical mistakes, slang language, and country-specific abbreviations. One grammatical or spelling mistake can direct your CV to the trash bin. Don’t add a picture in your CV until it is required by a specific program or scholarship. We recommend you to always update and modify your CV to tailor it with the position you are applying. 

3. Academic CV length

One of the major differences between ordinary (business resume) and academic CV is length. It’s a confusing question that what should be the ideal length of the CV. Mostly, it is recommended that it shouldn’t be longer than two pages.

On the other hand, when it comes to academic CV this rule doesn’t apply because of work experience, research projects, and publications. The length of an academic CV can be up to several pages.  We would recommend you to only include necessary and relevant information (related to your indented program and scholarships) with the brief and precise description in your CV. It’s always better to check the information about CV page limit on the website of your intended program.

4. Use powerful action words

We recommend using power and active words for illustrating your capabilities, accomplishments, creativity and other skills in the work experience section of the CV. At the University of Texas, created a list of strong action verbs

Example: Developed a mobile application for a deaf individual to ……

Example: Invented a robust and novel approach to minimize the errors in indoor location using dual-function machine learning (ML) algorithms.

Use a wide range of vocabulary and don’t repeat the same word again and again. For example,

Designed this ….

Designed that ….

Designed a ….

Avoid using the same word for multiple times.

5. Highlights

You can put additional impact in CV by using powerful keywords to highlight your potential in work experience and skills section. These keywords should be aligned with your intended program or lab position. The keywords can be easily found from the description of the lab position and website of the program you are applying for. 

6. Personal information

Write your full name the same as it is on your professional documents and degrees. Stay away from listing unnecessary personal information and lengthy statements. The telephone number should be in international format (with country code).  Your email address should sound like professional ([email protected]) and avoid high-flying words for email address such as ninja_rockstart1990@ There are 76% chances that your CV will be ignored if the email address is nonprofessional.  

7. Education

In the education section of the CV, always mention your latest degree first with the complete name of institute and period. It should be followed by your previous qualifications in descending order according to the date of completion. 

There is no need to include Higher Secondary School Certificate (HSSC) and Secondary School Certificate (SSC) education, at higher education level nobody is interested in your HSSC and SSC grades.  Don’t forget to mention your thesis title and advisor, CGPA and year of completion.

If you are currently enrolled in a program and expecting to graduate soon. In such  case, you can write expected year (month) of graduation. Moreover, you can write about the program description briefly and precisely (maximum 2-3 lines). Never use abbreviations to write university name and make sure that your educational details are at the top of your CV after personal information section. 

8. Research and work Experience

Similarly, write your latest work experience first with full name of the organization, location, and tenure. You have to highlight your major roles, accomplishments and learning outcome of the specific jobs you did.  It will represent that you are passionate about learning new things and expanding your skill set. Moreover, it will show that you have an attitude of personal growth. We recommend you to read the descriptions of the intended program or position then try to connect your work experience with it using keywords and this will help you to make your CV stand out.

According to Sophie-Anne Bradley, instead of just mentioning your past duties and responsibilities, you should emphasize on achieved results to show your accomplishments. So, for instance, instead of writing “I helped to increase social media engagement for Company X”, write “I increased social media engagement by 38% for Company X”.

While reviewing the CV of students, we observed that they did mistakes in writing the company name. For example, they write ‘Zte’ but the correct word is ‘ZTE’.  In order to give a good first impression to the selection committee, you have to avoid such mistakes.

In this section, you can also mention your volunteering work experience but that’s not mandatory.

9. Only add relevant Skills

First of all, read the description of your intended study program or lab position carefully from the website. In the next step, brainstorm all of your abilities and expertise that are matched with the requirements of the intended program and research projects. Only list your relevant skills rather mentioning about every single tool you have used. This will help the selection committee to judge that you have appropriate competencies and knowledge for their specific program.

10. Avoid complexity

Avoid complexity, when you write about your previous projects and work experiences. You have to show your abilities, expertise, and achievements in an easy to understand way.  You will be a lot more attractive to the selection committee if you are able to avoid complexity.

11. Don’t write everything

Don’t add interests, hobbies and personal life stories in your CV.

12. Research publications (if any)

One of the main sections of the academic CV to make it stand out. Write research publications in most to least recent order based on the date of publication and boldface your name in authors. If you have a research paper that is submitted but not yet accepted, it’s fine to add them too.

No paragraphs describing books or articles. 

Example: [1] N. Dickey, D. Banks and S. Sukittanon, “Home automation using Cloud Network and mobile devices,” 2012 Proceedings of IEEE Southeastcon, Orlando, FL, 2012, pp. 1-4.

If your research work has a good number of citations then you should mention it.  For example, ‘On Google Scholar, my publications have been cited _____ times, I have h-index ____ and i10-index____’.

13. Conference talk (if any)

Conferences are one of the major parts of your research education, they provide opportunities for personal development and network with your peers. If you ever participated in any conference then you have to mention about your role, either you participated as presenter or keynote speaker. Always write the full name of the conference, location, and date (year).

Example: 2016 Sixth International Conference on Innovative Computing Technology (INTECH), Dublin

14. Certifications and MOOCs (if any)

You can learn a ton of new skills from the online courses and plays a significant role to compensate for low CGPA.  According to Anne Lewis, “In general, MOOCs can help to make candidate profiles stronger, especially junior candidates who don’t have as much experience.”

If you have completed some online courses. It is recommended to only include those courses that are relevant to your intended study program.

Create a separate section named ‘Professional Training’ for your certifications and online courses.

15. Avoid common mistakes

This section is mainly for engineers and computer scientists to avoid common mistakes in programming languages and software names

From our personal experience of CV evaluations students, we noticed the majority of students commit common mistakes while writing programming languages and software names. For instance,

Matlab (wrong) ……  MATLAB (correct) if you will write MATLAB R2018a (correct and professional)

Latex (wrong) …… LaTex (correct)

Autocad(wrong) …… AutoCAD (correct)

Opencv (wrong) …… OpenCV(correct)

So be careful.

16. Honors, Awards, and Grants (if any)

Mention your practical achievements. For instance,

You can write about your overall position or rank in your class.  For example, Gold, Silver, Bronze medalist

Example: I have been awarded Bronze medal for securing the third position in Bachelor program in Electrical Engineering at university name in 2017.

Example: I was among the top 5% graduated students of Bachelor program in Electrical Engineering at university name.

You can also write about a scholarship or funding which you have received.

Example: University of Aalto Scholarships to study master program in Automation and Electrical Engineering. 2017-2019

Any best paper award

Example: Best Paper Award in 2017 IEEE Conference on …………………………. (XYZ’17), City, Country

You can write about any competition that you have won.

17. Professional Affiliations (if any)

Mention if you are a member of the professional bodies.

Association for Computing Machinery (ACM)       2016 – present

Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE)       2015 – present

18. References

For admissions, scholarships and lab positions, references (recommendation letters) are either submitted in scanned PDF form on official letterhead page, stamped and signed by the referee. Otherwise, these are submitted electronically through a web link that  will be directly emailed to your referee and he/she has to submit the feedback about you.

That’s why we recommend you to do not waste precious space of your CV by writing references unless they are required by your intended university.  Even there is no need to write ‘References Upon Request’.

19. Get feedback

Ask someone (Ph.D. student of your field) to review your CV and point out mistakes. This will help you to figure out the mistakes and will give you the chance to improve your CV before submitting it to the university for admission and scholarships.

20. Explain gaps

Not mandatory but we recommend you to cover the gaps in your education and work history by listing online courses, volunteering work or any other skill that you learned in that specific period. Keep it real, don’t lie.  

21. Proofread!

The final point is carefully proofread your CV.  Proofread each and every word of your CV to ensure it is free from grammatical and spelling mistakes. A strong academic CV will significantly increase your chances of getting your dream scholarships and research positions.

22. Structure

  1. Personal information
  2. Education
  3. Research Experience
  4. Work Experience
  5. Certifications and MOOCs
  6. Skills
  7. Research Publications
  8. Conference talks
  9. Honors, Awards, and Grants
  10. Professional Affiliations
  11. Any other information
  12. Any other necessary and relevant information


All these guidelines are for academic CV, don’t mix them with resume.  These points will help you to make your academic CV look more appealing to the selection committee. You must invest your time in writing a perfect CV to get the desired opportunity. 

So, what do you think? Let us know by leaving a comment below.  If you found it helpful then don’t forget to share it with your friends to support them for getting their dream opportunities.

We wish you the best of luck to catch your desired scholarship.

Team Study Catch