Academic websites: Transitioning from student to professional

Tips on creating a professional online presence for students at the undergraduate and graduate level.

By Amy L. Stamates, MS

Although academic websites are often used by psychology faculty members to highlight their research, it is less common for students at the undergraduate and graduate level to utilize such methods to showcase their experience. However, creating a professional online presence may benefit undergraduates interested in pursuing doctoral programs as well as graduate students embarking on the professional job market. Ultimately, building an online presence will assist in branding yourself as a professional in your field, increasing your visibility online and networking with potential mentors, collaborators and jobs in the field. Given that building an academic website may seem daunting, below is a brief overview of important topics to consider.

  • Check peer and faculty websites. Before creating a website, look at other students or faculty members who have a personal academic website. Consider the layout/color scheme of the website, the number of subpages included and the information that is being communicated throughout the website. This will help you get an idea of what information to include on a personal academic website and how you want to visually display your information.
  • Choosing a website-building provider. Choosing a site to host your personal page can be tricky. It is common for universities to host their own domain (e.g., http://name.odu.edu), and thus, you may see students/faculty members go through a university for their page. This can be beneficial, as university sites may be considered more professional. However, at the undergraduate and graduate stage, it may be advantageous to go through websites that are not university-affiliated, given that you may ultimately accept a position that is not affiliated with your current university. Thus, you can take your website with you rather than creating another website from scratch. Websites such as Google Sites, Weebly and WordPress offer free, basic website packages that are very user-friendly.
  • Choosing a layout. Once you have chosen a website builder, pick a simple layout with a professional color scheme and start adding information about yourself. Website builders are typically flexible and allow you to switch/preview layouts with ease. Similar to creating your curriculum vitae (CV), you want to be consistent in font, font size, label headings, etc., throughout the website.
  • What information to include? One of the best features about academic websites is that you can choose the information that you want to communicate about yourself. You may want to consider uploading your current CV and a recent professional photograph of yourself on the homepage. Other aspects that you may consider include adding your academic affiliation, research experience, research interests, publications, presentations (even forth-coming presentations), grants/awards, teaching interests, courses taught and contact information.
  • Keeping it updated. It seems tedious, but if you have a personal academic website, it is important to keep it updated, much like your CV. When you publish a new manuscript, update your website. When you present a new poster, update your website.
  • Broadcasting your website. To increase visibility, share your website on your Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn page, and consider including it in your email signature.
  • Have someone review your website. Most importantly, have someone, either a mentor or faculty member, review your website and provide feedback on tips/information to include.

Want to learn more about building a personal website? The following resources have additional information on how to get started, what to include and other information about creating an online presence.