You’re probably familiar with the “Golden Rule of Resumes”: experience first, education second. In most cases, your recent professional work is much more relevant to your application than where you went to college a decade ago. As a result, it’s easy to invest a lot of effort into perfecting those job achievement bullets only to lose steam by the time you get to the resume education section.

Unfortunately, the resume education section is not always straightforward. What if you attended multiple schools but never formally completed your degree? What if you’re a mid-career candidate– will including old graduation dates work against you? Should you list your GPA or college honors in the education section of your resume?

Fear not– we’ve got you covered. Here’s how to address some tricky resume education section dilemmas:

If you attended multiple colleges before receiving your degree…

Only list the final school from which you graduated. There’s no need to list every school you spent a semester at before switching to another program. The same goes for study abroad programs. Unless that semester you spent in Australia a decade ago is immediately relevant to your current job application, leave it off.

If you graduated with honors…

Definitely include your summa cum laude status or that you were in the honors program at your university, but skip the GPA. Unless you’re a recent graduate looking to land your first job, including your GPA is considered a resume faux pas.

If you’re currently in school…

Attending a part-time MBA or Master’s program? Even if you have not formally completed coursework and received your degree, as long as you’re currently enrolled and intend to fulfill all the degree requirements you can include the program on your resume. Be sure to note that you’re a degree candidate and include the date you anticipate receiving your degree. For example, you might list, “The University of Texas at Austin, McCombs School of Business, MBA candidate, expected May 2018.”

If you didn’t complete your degree…

Don’t lie, embellish credentials, or list something cheesy like “School of Life, Attendee”. If you satisfactorily completed coursework in a relevant field, you can certainly include these classes, but don’t imply you earned a degree if you never did. If you feel your education section is a little light, sign up for continuing education or professional coursework and include these classes. For example, if you’re applying for a digital marketing role, you could include recent SEO or social media certifications.

If you’re more than five years out of school…

Don’t list your graduation dates. The reviewer cares that you have a degree, not when you earned it. In fact, including graduation dates could even backfire, especially if the reviewer becomes concerned that you’re “too old” for the position.

Of course, there are always exceptions to a rule. Perhaps you took two years off to return to school and complete your Master’s Degree. You graduated a few months ago but are having a tricky time finding a new job. By all means, include your recent graduation date. This will address any concerns the reviewer may have about the job gap on your resume.


For more resume tips, be sure to check out the following blogs.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.