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American student looking for help with UK grad applications


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I am a recent graduated from an american university and I am currently applying to graduate school in the UK and Ireland. I am wondering if there is anyone who has gone through applying to UK/Ireland graduate schools as an american student who can give me any advice or answer any of my questions. Like, for instance, is there a specific format of acaddemic CVs in the UK? Also, I have noticed on serveral UK CVs that UK students include their A-levels, does that mean that as an american I should include my AP/ACT/SAT scores? When it comes to academic CVs, where should I put studying abroad? Also on the actual applications should I put study abroad with education or work experience? These are only a few of the questions I am trying to answer as I go through this process. I am literally looking for any help or advice! Thanks!

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I'm European, but did my undergrad in the US and my masters in the UK (top ranked uni, and I also got accepted to the only other school I applied to).

A CV is just Britspeak for a resume. This isn't different than what you would submit as a resume for a US grad school. Include relevant work experience, your degree, GPA, maybe standardized scores (I don't think it would be necessary. Mine certainly weren't a part of my application), extracurriculars, and relevant coursework or research projects (that was relevant in my case since I had a very generic undergraduate degree). Where you put studying abroad is kind of up to you, it won't matter. Either put it as a sub category under your undergrad degree or list it separately, specifying that it's study abroad. That counts as formatting and they won't care.Let me know if you have any other questions.

Edited by csmreich
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  • 3 weeks later...

I'm from the UK, did my undergrad and masters over here and am currently applying for PhDs in the US – so I know what it's like trying to get your head around different requirements and cultural expectations!

To answer your specific questions: no, there's no set format for an academic CV that you have to follow. Just make sure it lists your education in chronological order, with grades etc., and flags up any particularly noteworthy achievements that are relevant to your application. I'd suggest putting your study abroad in the 'education' section, either where it fits chronologically or at the end if it was a year in the middle of your undergrad degree. I was pretty clueless when I applied for my masters and think I just adapted the one I'd used for applying for jobs etc. (note that, as csmreich says, in the UK we use "CV" for what you'd call a resume). I get the impression that for 'pure' academic subjects, as opposed to more professional or vocational degrees, the CV isn't really taken that seriously: after all, what relevant info can most people put on there straight out of undergrad that's not already stated elsewhere on the application form or on your transcripts? I guess it's a good place to list any papers you might have published or conference presentations you might have given (but it's not expected that you'll have done those things to be a competitive applicant).

With reference to A-level grades on people's CVs: personally, I wouldn't include them on my CV now that I'm a graduate – I think it's unnecessary and looks unprofessional. I might have done before I got my undergrad results though, as my degree was based wholly on exams and coursework for which I received the grades at the end of the three years, so A-levels were pretty much the only concrete evidence of academic achievement I had. Also, since we specialise much earlier in the UK (we only take three or four subjects at A level, and then do our entire degree course in a specific subject), I can understand why some people might want to show which subjects they took. In your case, though, I wouldn't advise giving your AP/ACT/SAT scores unless you're specifically asked for them: for one thing, the people reviewing your application probably wouldn't be able to make sense of them (standardised tests are a completely foreign concept over here), and it might come across as naive or as if you're desperately trying to pad out your application.

I'm not sure what subject you're applying for, or whether you're looking at a masters or PhD, but my general thoughts (to be taken with a large pinch of salt: after all, I'm only a fresh masters graduate myself) would be:
a) Be specific about your research interests and aims, somewhat more so than if you were applying to graduate programs in the US. We don't have 'programs' or call it 'graduate school' over here: a British PhD involves working with a specific supervisor on a specific research project from day one, and while our masters degrees are broader and involve seminars and coursework, they're generally very short and intense so you'll need to be starting work on your dissertation (what you'd call a 'thesis': generally a 15,000-20,000 word research paper on a topic of your own devising) within the first few months.
b)) Let your achievements, but most importantly your understanding of and genuine interest in your subject and topic of interest, speak for themselves: don't talk too much about yourself, your background, how you came to be passionate about the subject, or anything like that. Of course you want to come across as inspired and enthusiastic, but it's first and foremost about the research you want to do, not about you as a person. Personal anecdotes are a definite no-no. We're generally a much less demonstrative culture than the US, and anything that comes across as either hokey sentimentalism, or bragging about the prizes you've won and the grades you've received, is a potential turn-off (though any decent admissions committee would hopefully be aware of these cultural differences and make an effort to look past them).


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