If you want to go out in the world, the first step is usually convincing your own home university that you are the right candidate. That means that you will have to apply at your own university with all your documents first. One of which is your CV. To be successful and get past the first selection round, everything has to be on point! To give you insights on how universities view your CV and what they want you to include, I’ve talked to a friend of mine who used to work in the international office in one of Berlin’s largest universities. She looked at hundreds and hundreds of applications and knows the CV dos and don’ts to be successful.
First things first: How long should the study abroad CV be? Do you prefer one or two pages?
So keeping it short is key! What about the overall look and layout? Is the “modern” two column layout ok or inappropriate?
A modern layout is fine. However, it needs to look professional. Put some effort into it. The judges won’t be pleased with a CV that looks unprofessional.
Would the use of colors make the CV look unprofessional? Do you think colors are okay?
Colors are okay, as long as it still looks professional. I would recommend using darker colors or pastel colors and avoid using very bright colors. Stick with one color in different shades. Don’t use a lot of different colors.
And how about icons? Are icons okay to make the CV look more modern? How much is too much?
Icons are ok as long as it’s still clear what the icons stand for.
A topic that is often discussed is the picture. Should I include a picture of myself? What are the dos and don’ts here?
Including a picture is fine. It’s nice to have a face with the name and the application, but it is not a must. No go’s are selfies, group pictures, party pictures, travel pictures. Doesn’t need to be a professional picture taken by a photographer, but it should be a portrait picture with a neutral background.
Do I have to sign my CV?
Yes, sign and date
Let’s talk about the content a bit more: Which sections, like education, work experience etc., should I focus on?
First, is your education. You should always include your transcripts, too. Also, highlight if you have taken relevant language classes (e.g. Business English, Spanish) or regular classes in English or a different language that is required for your desired stay abroad (e.g. Accounting in English). This is a great advantage for your application.
Second, you should definitely add your work experience, like internships or student jobs. But there is no need to add any letters of recommendation from employers. You are not applying for a job position here.
Third, is your previous experience abroad, like work or study programs, work & travel or the like.
Last, you can add your volunteer work or extracurriculars to show us how you spend your time outside the class room.
What if I have no extra-curriculars? Should I still apply?
Yes, absolutely. When I see on the CV that the applicant was working and studying at the same time, I assume that they didn’t have time for extracurriculars and that is totally fine in my opinion. Other judges might have a different opinion.
In how much detail should I describe each position in my CV and how many bullet points should I go for?
Include your title and your 2 main tasks in bullet points.
Are there any section I should avoid in my study abroad CV?
Don’t include your hobbies!
How far back in the past should my CV start? Highschool?
Depends on how old the applicant is. I wouldn’t go as far back as high school though. Include the last three jobs you had and any experience abroad.
Let’s talk about the skill section of the CV: Which skills should I add? Which ones are important to you? For example, do I have to add computer skills when applying for a study abroad program?
In the skills section, you should focus on the language skills! They are the most important ones. You have to show us that you know the foreign language really well. Computer skills are nice to have.
Coming to an end, can you name any bad examples or absolute don’ts that students should avoid?
Avoid using “creative” fonts to try to stand out (e.g. Comic Sans), too much detail, or more than 2 pages. Preferably you only have one page.
Thanks for sharing these CV dos and don’ts with us!
My pleasure. It was really fun!
In Short: Key Takeaways for your study abroad CV
– Keep it short: One page only
– Layout: It needs to look professional
– Don’t use a lot of different colors!
– Sign your CV and add the date
– Focus on: education, work experience, experience abroad, extracurriculars
– Show that you know the foreign language
– Don’t add your hobbies