What It Takes
Despite what you might believe or have perhaps read elsewhere, you do not need to be the most academically gifted person to be a success in private equity. Yes, you need a degree in order to be accepted into most companies or, obviously, onto graduate schemes, however there is no pre-requisite requirement to be the next Albert Einstein.
Therefore, do not litter your resume with references to your academic prowess; it is your people skills and ability to relate to different scenarios that are going to get you into the game on this occasion.
By far the best way to prove that you have what it takes to succeed in this industry is to get some experience of it while still studying. Your resume will jump up at recruiters among global equity firms if you have a summer or year-long internship or other placement under your belt in a similar business. Indeed, if you were a success during your placement then that business will likely invite you back anyway, when the time comes to apply to the firm proper.
These sorts of placements will give you the best opportunity to hone your soft skills and be able to adapt to the environment. Private equity, although rewarding, can be an exceptionally high pressure job, and a placement is ideal for seeing if you can cut it. If you find yourself struggling during a relatively stress-free placement, then you probably won't enjoy the real thing very much.
Although a leading academic mind is not a necessity, having some knowledge of private equity markets and the businesses you are applying to will stand you in good stead when it comes to the job interview. Most recruiters are able to cut people immediately by asking what they believe trends in the industry will be in five years' time, or over that period in the future. If you haven't thought about it then I suggest you start doing so. Saying "I haven't given it much thought" will see you shown the door very quickly indeed.
Include elements of this in your resume. Write in your personal statement about your skills, then relate them to how you believe they will make you a success in the private equity industry over the next five years. This demonstrates some thought leadership around the topic and immediately put you ahead of other candidates.