How to Write a Curriculum Vitae – A Guide for Pre Med Students!

Latin for “course of my life”, the curriculum vitae (or CV for short) is your opportunity to shine. It is here you can demonstrate how hard you have worked over the past few years and why you deserve to matriculate to medical school. Both CVs and resumes are tools to market one’s self. Although some use these words interchangeably, in academic settings it would be best to stick with the term CV. A CV is different from a resume in that it is generally longer, more detailed and used for academic purposes rather than job employment. Let’s explore some common questions about CV.

When do I start writing CV?

Now. You want to start as early as you can by maintaining a portfolio with pertinent activities. Open a file and begin documenting activities, awards, publications or any other significant event. Date each event as you go. This will save a lot of trouble in the future when trying to think back. For now, document any significant event but realize you will likely have to narrow this down to pertinent material when composing your final draft.

What should I include? 

For the most part, your CV should have the following categories as long as you have information you can include.

Identification/Contact:  Include your full name at the top followed by any contact information you find appropriate (address, phone, email, etc). Make sure to use professional email accounts and make sure the account will remain active. If your email is , please create a new one. Remember, you do not know where this information will end up being circulated. If you use non-personal contact such as a school operator or school mail box make sure you really can be reached this way.

Education:  List all institutions you have attended since graduating from high school. Include city, state, and years of attendance. Don’t forget to include summer school.

Professional Experience:  Record inter/externships, advisory board committee, volunteering at hospitals, and other jobs for pay etc.. You may briefly explain your position or role there.

Teaching Experience:  This includes tutoring and mentoring.

Professional Organizations:  List all organizations you are part of, the years you were involved and any leadership positions you held.

Honors and Awards:  Mention Dean’s list, scholarships, and recognitions. Remember, the further you are in your training the more you will need to narrow this list into more relevant information. For example, when applying for medical school they are looking for more well-rounded candidates so an award for MVP of your intramural ping pong team may be worth mentioning while this probably should not be included in an application for a residency position.

Research/Publications:  List any research work you have taken part in. Include published papers, abstracts, and poster presentations. Make sure to use correct formatting here and to keep the data up to date. If an article has been accepted for publication but is not yet formally published make sure to include “in press”.

Personal Info:  This is where you can personalize your CV by mentioning your hobbies, interests, languages, and relevant activities. Keep this short and sweet avoiding verbose language. Including interesting hobbies such as skydiving or spelunking may be advantageous.


What should I exclude?

A cover letter. These are used more for job resumes.

Do not include a title. They already know this.

Your goals in life.

Your GPA, SAT or MCAT score.

Irrelevant details and accomplishments.

Age, marital status, religious preference, or political views.

Personal information that is too personal such as your social security number or salary.

Your social media URL information.

A photo of yourself. Or any photo for that matter.

Misspellings and grammatical errors.


A lie!

How long should it be?

Your CV should be at least 2 pages long. The further your training and career go the longer it will get. At some point you may have to have a regular and abbreviated version.


How should I order things?

Unless specified by a particular institution, I would recommend arranging things in reverse chronological order. Start with your most recent experiences. Most people want to know what was recently done and care less about what you accomplished 10 years ago.


How should I structure and design my CV?

You want this document to be pleasing to the eye. Do not merge sections together but instead consider using lines to separators in between sections. Avoid using color and bogus fonts. Remember, many people reading these are in their middle ages. It is always nice to print out your CV on nice sturdy paper.

Anything else to remember?

In closing, start early and keep your CV up to date. Allow your CV to have its own unique character but it must be pleasing to the eye. Review your CV for mistakes. Always have access to your CV. Place it in your email or store it in a cloud. If you are attending a career fair print out a few copies and take them with you. When you are finally ready, upload your CV in PreMed Star. You will be one step closer to becoming a great applicant.