Book your spot now at any upcoming open day or virtual event
Career prospects

How to write a student CV (with examples)

Guide to writing a student CV, with a list of skills and examples for students with no experience in employment.

Job ad saying 'skills required' and pen

CONTENTS

  1. How to write a student CV

  2. What to include (intro, links, experiences, skills, references)

  3. Style and other CV writing tips

  4. For students with no experience in employment

  5. Writing a CV for university

A CV (Curriculum Vitae) is a personal document that summarises your experiences and skills. You use it when applying for jobs to show employers why you might be suitable for a role. 

Sometimes you submit a CV on its own, but often you also have to submit a cover letter. The cover letter gives a more in-depth explanation of why someone should hire you. An employer can use your CV to find evidence of the experiences you refer to in your letter. 

There is no one correct way to write a CV. The following advice is a general suggestion for what you can do, informed by feedback from employers and student recruiters. 

How to write a student CV 

Your CV is to show why you would make a great employee. A messy CV may suggest that you'll be a messy worker – take care when writing, so the employer will see you're committed to the role.  

Employers often receive hundreds of applications and usually look at CVs first. Yours should be concise and eye-catching – ideally no longer than two sides of A4 paper. If there's too much information, the employer may lose interest and move on to the next. 

If you can, avoid sending the same CV for all jobs you apply for. Instead, try to tailor them to each employer and role. You can create a master CV with all your experiences and skills and make a new copy to tweak and tailor to the role you're applying for. 

What to include 

Before putting your CV together, start by writing down all your experiences you can think of that may have helped you develop your skills. These could include: 

  • Jobs you've held 
  • Qualifications from GCSE level and above 
  • Other academic achievements 
  • Your hobbies 
  • Teams or societies you've been in 
  • Awards you've received 
  • Events you've been a part of 

You can use this information when planning what to write in each of the following sections. 

Introduction 

At the top of your CV, include your: 

  • Full name 
  • Professional email address 
  • Phone number 
  • General location or current address 
  • Optional: a tagline that summarises you (for example, "Graduate graphic designer") 

If you want, you can include a personal statement. This could be a few sentences that provide an overview of who you are, what you have to offer and your ambitions. A personal statement isn't mandatory; you only need to include it if you think it works well and doesn't take up too much space on the page. 

An example of a personal statement could be: 

Conscientious business student looking to work in customer service during summer. Keen to develop interpersonal, teamwork and organisation skills in a retail environment.

Links and portfolio 

You can include links to your online profiles or work to enhance your CV. This could be your: 

  • LinkedIn profile 
  • Blog 
  • Website 
  • Online portfolio 
  • Social media that you use for your work 

Links give the person reviewing your CV further examples of your work. Sharing them is especially useful if you display visual work online. This could be your art, writing, software development or other digital design. 

Experience 

When writing out your employment history, list out the jobs you have worked in reverse-chronological order. You want to include: 

  • Your job title 
  • Name of the company you worked for 
  • How long you were employed there (for example, "Jan 2020 – March 2021") 
  • Primary responsibilities of your role 
  • Any achievements you had in this role, such as being recognised as employee of the month 

This section can include any paid work you've had as well as internships, placements and voluntary work. If one of your less recent experiences is more relevant than your current role, don't be afraid to rearrange your CV to highlight the important bits. 

Next, add your education. Similar to employment information, write about your most recent education first, detailing the: 

  • School, college or university where you studied 
  • Dates you studied there 
  • Subjects you took 
  • Qualifications and grades you achieved (or predicted grades) 

After this, you can write about other relevant experiences, such as: 

  • Clubs, societies, teams or groups you belong to 
  • Extra training you've completed, for example, a first aid course 
  • Starting a website 
  • Achievements like the Duke of Edinburgh award 
  • Completing an enterprise programme 
  • Winning a scholarship 
  • Hobbies like playing an instrument 

With every experience you write about, mention what you achieved during that time and how you developed your skills. 

For example, if you have been captain of a sports team, you could say how you managed the team for a competition and that this helped you build leadership skills. 

If you can't think of any experiences to write about, check out our further advice below

Gaps because of Covid-19 

Don't worry if there are some gaps in your employment history due to the pandemic. Most employers are fully aware of how difficult it has been to find secure employment during this time. 

However, if you can, show how you made the most of any time you had out of employment. You could write about: 

  • A course you've taken 
  • Skills gained like learning a language 
  • Any relevant online events you attended 
  • Charity work or helping your community during lockdown 
  • New hobbies you've picked up 

Skills for CV 

When adding skills to your CV, list them in a separate section or write them under each related experience. Try to back them up with examples to clearly show how you have these skills. (Alternatively, you can create a skills-based CV – see below.) 

Your skills should match the job role. What is the employer looking for; what does it say in the job advert? Think about if your experiences have helped you develop these qualities. 

Subject-specific skills 

You may have subject-specific skills that are relevant to the role. For instance, if you study history and apply for a social media position, you could say that your degree has shown you how to be great at sourcing relevant information and writing engaging content. 

Or, if you've used software such as Adobe Photoshop or Microsoft Excel, these computer skills may be attractive to employers recruiting for design or administration roles. 

Transferable skills 

Throughout your education or work experiences, the likelihood is that you have also developed several skills that can apply to numerous job roles. Transferable skills that many employers look for include: 

  • Time management 
  • Teamwork 
  • Leadership 
  • Problem-solving 
  • Communication 
  • Organisation 
  • Working under pressure 
  • Enthusiasm 
  • Customer service 
  • Meeting deadlines 

See our advice below about how to adapt the skills you've gained during your studies for your CV. 

Further relevant skills could be: 

  • Ability to speak other languages 
  • If you have a driving licence 
  • Good level of fitness 
  • DBS check 

References 

Before an employer hires you, they will probably ask for references. This is so they can be sure that they hire the best person for the role. 

You can add the contact details of your 'referees' to your CV. The employer can then phone or email your referees to confirm what you've written and find out more about your experiences. They could check with a previous employer, for example, that you used particular skills in a certain role, or if you were punctual and hard-working. 

You usually only have to provide details of two contacts. Ideally, one should be a previous employer. The other can be an academic contact, such as a teacher. Unfortunately, you cannot choose a personal contact, such as a friend or family member. 

If you don't have any employment history, referees you could use include: 

  • Someone you've volunteered for 
  • A community leader, such as a Scouts leader or sports coach 
  • Your school work experience manager 
  • A mentor or tutor 

Make sure you ask for your referee's permission before adding them to your CV. 

Alternatively, you can write "references available on request" if you want to save space – unless the employer has specified that they want references on your application. 

Style

There are no rules for the format of your student CV, but it's best to keep it professional and as easy to understand as possible. Aim for: 

  • Simple layout 
  • Clear structure with headings 
  • Short paragraphs and sentences 
  • Key points in bullet lists 
  • Varied and interesting vocabulary (look at the job ad to see the kind of language used) 
  • Minimal use of the word "I" 
  • No spelling mistakes, grammatical errors or typos 
  • Honest writing with little humour and exaggeration 

You can get creative with the design if you think the employer will like it (perhaps if they're a graphic design company). But avoid going over the top as it may distract from the important information. 

CV writing tips 

  • Don't make up information or exaggerate – you may get caught out at the interview stage 
  • If you're an international student, you might want to say if your visa allows you to work part-time in the UK 
  • Rewrite, edit and proofread your CV, take breaks when doing so, and ask someone to check it for you to ensure it makes sense and there are no mistakes 
  • Regularly revisit your CV to make sure it's up to date and relevant to what you're applying for 
  • Use your school, college or university career service for extra support with your CV, even if you're a recent graduate 
  • Avoid putting your photo on your CV, as well as your age, race, religion, sexual orientation or other personal characteristics, to help employers follow anti-discrimination laws

For students with no experience in employment 

Don't worry if you're unsure what to write about on your CV – you'll have gained many skills throughout your studies that are appropriate for a job. Think in depth about the activities you've been involved in during your education. For example: 

  • Have you completed a group project in a science class? Skills you have developed here are communication and working with others 
  • Created your own artwork or piece of music? You have creative skills 
  • Studied French, German or another language? Even if you're not fluent, learning a language shows your commitment 
  • Good at solving mathematical problems? You can think critically 
  • Worked on a piece of coursework or revised for exams? You're adept at time management and organisation 

Think about your hobbies, interests or any other activity you've been involved in. Do you fundraise for charity? Run any long races? Build models? Play an instrument? These show you have enthusiasm, focus and dedication. 

Whatever you're good at or interested in, try and make it applicable to the skills that the employer is looking for. 

Skills-based CV (alternative layout) 

Instead of organising your CV around your experiences, you can highlight your abilities through a skills-based CV. Choose your best skills and write them as subheadings, listing evidence below. For example, if an employer is looking for communication skills, you could organise your experiences as follows: 

Communication 

  • During my degree at university, I was always active in seminar discussions, where I’d carefully explain and debate my thoughts to the wider group 

  • My course involved regular presentations of our work to tutors and the class, which demanded clear and effective verbal communication skills 

  • Through essays and coursework, I honed my written communication skills and can structure arguments coherently on the page 

  • I also enjoyed several group projects where as a team, we’d listen to everyone’s perspectives and ensure everyone felt valued in the group

After categorising each skill, you can then list any relevant employment, volunteering or other experiences below. 

Writing a CV for university 

You don't need a CV to apply for university through UCAS, but you may need it for: 

  • Applying for a scholarship 
  • Grant proposals 
  • University teaching roles 

Whoever is looking through your CV for academic purposes is likely to be looking through many others. So be sure to tailor it for what you're applying to. Make it clearly show your education history, work experiences and achievements.

For more information on applications, see our applying to university guide.

Related articles

Older man and young boy working in a garden

How to become a social worker

You'll need to register to become a social worker in the UK. This page outlines how to...

30 Nov 2021
Road sign saying 'Veterinary surgery'

How to become a vet

You’ll need to study for an approved degree and register with the RCVS to become a vet....

30 Nov 2021
Midwife holding a newborn baby

How to become a midwife

You’ll need an approved degree in Midwifery and registration with the NMC to become a...

30 Nov 2021

Is this page useful?

Yes No

Sorry about that...

HOW CAN WE IMPROVE IT?

SUBMIT

Thanks for your feedback!