Preparing a Resume

Many applications require that you submit a resume. Typically, the resume will be either one or two pages; it is important to adhere to this page limit. Even though you have achieved some incredible things during your time thus far at Harvard, it is important that you tailor your resume to the opportunity at hand. This does not diminish all of your varied experiences, but rather it shows that you really understand the opportunity and can highlight your most relevant qualities and experiences. For example, if you are applying to a high-level research program (ex. Herchel Smith), make sure that your resume is very research-focused. Or, if you are looking into a public service opportunity, you bet that you should be highlighting your public service experience (ex. extracurriculars, leadership, academics, etc.)! If you are applying to a program that emphasizes community as part of a research team, for example, feel free to include different community- or leadership-related experiences on your resume.

How to do this? Before turning to the draft itself, set some mini-goals for your resume to achieve within the greater whole of your application. After reading your resume, what do you want the selection committee to have learned about you? How does your resume contribute to the application as a whole? Does your resume complement other aspects of your application by giving context or additional detail (ex. your research proposal or statement)?

Be sure to go beyond listing responsibilities and dates and use deliberate and concise prose to demonstrate your qualifications for a particular opportunity. Also, keep both the impact and implications of the experiences on your resume in mind.

Impact: How was your contribution to this group/activity impactful? How was it different because you were part of it? This can be an aspect of your formal responsibilities or it can be an articulation of something less formal that you brought to the group. Also, what impact did this group/activity have on you? This doesn’t have to be an explicit articulation but it should be clear in how you describe the activity that it was formative in some way.

Implications: For students who study more esoteric areas of academia, this section can help non-experts understand your experiences. You do not have to sacrifice the sophisticated articulation of your research topic, but including some clarification that will help a non-expert understand the value of what you worked on. Remember, selection committees often include individuals from a broad spectrum of backgrounds.

For example:

“Studied the functional implications of naturally selected polymorphisms in human TLR5. Potential implications for developing low-cost physiotherapy treatments to be deployed in emerging markets.”

A few things to remember:

  • Once you have entered college, it is usually best to leave your high school experiences off of your resume, unless they are directly relevant (ex. research experience when applying to a research program). In some cases, first year students may find it helpful to list high school experiences.
  • List opportunities that are indicative of your experiences, what you value, and how you choose to spend your time. Even if you are not able to include every experience, you will have lots of good fodder for an interview!
  • Make sure that this resume is a specific fit for this opportunity and links your experiences to the selection criteria of the program.
  • Be creative! You have lots of transferrable skills that might not be apparent to you at the start. Be sure to check out the OCS Skills Tracker Tool to really break down your set of experiences into their most essential skills and building blocks.
  • Please make sure that your resume is easy to read! Consult OCS for examples of good formatting and templates. The selection committee can tell when you have adjusted your margins and changed the size of your font just to squeeze more information into the page limit!