The Education Section

Each item in your Education section should include the following:

  • the name and location of your school
  • your degree, abbreviated, along with the month you received or expect to receive it
  • your major and, if you have one, your minor or concentration
  • honors
  • your GPA and class rank, if they’re good
  • the title or description of your senior or honors thesis, if you wrote one

The whole will look something like this:

Yale University, New Haven, CT

  • BA in English, magna cum laude (top 15 percent of class), May, 2006.
  • 3.86 GPA.
  • Distinction in the Major (requires faculty nomination and grades of A or A- in three quarters of classes for major).
  • Selected for Writing Concentration in the English major; requires competitive application.
  • Lloyd Mifflin Prize for excellence in the English major, awarded at graduation by faculty nomination.
  • Senior thesis on advertisements in Ulysses.

Tips

1. List the name and location of all the schools and educational programs you attended.

Include graduate programs, study abroad, time you spent as a visiting student, and any other school-like programs. Don’t include anything you did in high school.

If you transferred to a better school, say so. For example:

University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI

  • BA in Mathematics, May, 2012.
  • Transferred from Kirkwood Community College in September, 2010.

2. Abbreviate your degree.

Use Chicago style, without periods: BA, BS, PhD. If your school uses unconventional abbreviations, or if your degree isn’t well-known, feel free to write the whole thing out.

Include the month you received your degree. If you haven’t received it yet, write something like this: “BA in English expected June, 2016.”

3. List your GPA and class rank if they’re good.

It behooves you to do a bit of research. Find out the average GPA of both your class and major, and only include yours if it’s considerably better. You may include information for the sake of comparison:

  • 3.74 GPA, with a 3.78 in my major (average GPA in my major was 3.16).
  • 3.66 GPA (average GPA at school was 2.9).

You may also note if your GPA improved:

  • 3.14 overall GPA. 3.89 GPA in my last two semesters.

Again, only include this information if it makes you look good.

4. Explain your honors.

Certain common honors probably don’t need to be qualified or explained:

  • cum laude, magna cum laude, or summa cum laude
  • Phi Beta Kappa
  • Dean’s list

Other honors should be explained. In particular, you should make the distinction between university-wide honors and honors or distinction in your major.

  • Arthur Fleischer Award for outstanding performance in chemistry, decided by faculty vote and bestowed on one chemistry major at graduation.

5. List your major papers, maybe.

Consider noting some of your major papers, especially if you’re STEM major.

  • Major papers: “Utility in Mill’s On Liberty" (25 pages, Introductory Philosophy), "The Dance of Death: Burial Rituals in the Han Dynasty" (22 pages, Chinese History).

6. Note your stretch classes.

You may showcase graduate-level courses or other difficult courses that lie well beyond the pale of your major.

  • BA in History, May 2009.
  • Non-required classes included Evolutionary Biology and Advanced Symbolic Logic.

7. Tell us if you paid your own way.

For example:

  • Worked 25 hours a week to finance 50 percent of my education and living costs.

8. Leave high school out of it.

I don’t care how many prizes you won your senior year—noting high school accomplishments makes you look immature.

9. Make sure everything matches your transcript.

Admissions officers will check your transcript. If they see any discrepancies—for example, you rounded up your GPA—they’ll probably notice. Be warned.


This lesson drew on Anna Ivey’s excellent book, The Ivey Guide to Law School Admissions.

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