How Long Should You Keep College Details on Your Resume?

College students have a tendency to throw everything plus the kitchen sink into their resume. This makes some sense. After all, when you don’t have that much experience, you want to list as many qualifications as you have.

Old woman graduateAs you gather more experience, though, there comes a time when you’ll have to cut some of that junk from college. The question is: When?

It totally depends on who you are, what else you’ve done, what you’re applying for and how impressive your degree is. The short answer, then, is keep it for as long as your college experience is a value-add.

Think carefully about what each accomplishment is attempting to demonstrate. Generally, after about two – five years post-graduation, items from college will start to look silly. You don’t have to cut everything at once, though. Some items might make sense to keep for a while, though others should be removed immediately. Some examples:

  • Club Membership: This is usually the first thing to go. Joining a club doesn’t show much about your skills or experience.
  • Leadership Positions: Many club leadership positions don’t mean much other than that you were the most active member or relatively well liked. If you were just VP of Marketing for _____ Club, that really doesn’t mean much. Unless you accomplished something impressive and unusual in that role that’s impressive, I don’t really care.
  • Coursework: This is commonly added for programming or other roles where your classes are directly applicable. But remove this once you get your first job at the latest.
  • Awards: It totally depends on the award. If you were valedictorian, this could be OK to keep for even more than 10 years  — as a single bullet in your college section.

These aren’t absolute rules. I hesitate to even call them rules of thumb.

Ultimately, your resume is supposed to highlight your accomplishments. The more impressive your post-graduation work, the more quickly you’ll drop what you did beforehand. If your experience after school is mediocre, then you might continue to include your college information for a while.

Here are some examples of where you might be justified keeping something for an unusually long time:

  • You were the president of your sorority (graduated 15 years ago), and are applying for a position with someone who was a member but graduated several years before you. This can build a connection with the hiring manager.
  • You’re a programmer applying for a non-programming role that values communication skills (something which people might assume you don’t have). An award like this might be valuable, even 10 years later: “Best Teaching Assistant: Voted by students as the best TA out of 500+ teaching assistants, after earning average ratings of 4.9 / 5.0 on communication skills.”

Ultimately, you need to ask yourself:

  • What does this award demonstrate about me? Does it show general success, or highlight particular skills?
  • Are those skills or attributes valued?
  • Are those skills or attributes adequately demonstrated by other items on your resume?
  • By including this item on my resume, what else am I being forced to remove?

Comments

  1. BY Jerry says:

    GPA is something that can go as well.

    • BY Mountains says:

      Why? If you have GPA close to 4 from one of the top schools, why would you want to ever remove it? It’s something to be proud of. It’s a personal choice.

  2. BY Hector says:

    If you already have a college degree of some kind, whether AAS or BA, etc, keep it on there. Especially the BA degrees. There is a new generation of younger hiring managers out in the field and that is the first thing they look at. I’m going to remove the year of graduation from my degree and all of my high school information. I strongly believe I am being age profiled on my application. I am going to put my theory to the test by taking the dates of education out. I’ll let you know the outcome.

    • BY AP says:

      Whether we like to believe it or not we are all being profiled for age among other things.
      My company was moving our department to another state; we had the choice to either move with them or take a severance package. I decided to take the package rather than moving with the company and probably getting cut a year or two later, but before I took the package I went on an interview for a job with the company’s nationally known wireless division.
      My interview followed a few days after a much younger colleague interviewed for the same position. My colleague commented to me that he had definitely bombed the interview and knew very few answers to the interviewer’s questions, however, when I interviewed there wasn’t one question to which I didn’t know the answer.
      Ultimately they hired my much younger colleague who confessed to me later, after he had met with HR, that the HR person with whom he met commented to him that they were a very “young” company and wanted to keep it that way. I felt shocked, disappointed and defeated all at the same time. I realized that this was the beginning of hard road of being “aged-out.”
      Good luck to you.

      • BY Susan says:

        Not that this helps any….and it never helps me feel any better after an illogical rejection, but that’s the nature of our country. We just think the threat is overseas and not within our borders. We are defeating ourselves. That’s how we think, how we teach, how we learn and how we train employees. Age is never a plus in this country. We have a 30 something cosmetic surgeon hyping facelifts, boob jobs, eye lifts, gastroplasty, and liposuction–all the while allowing 50+ citizens to be without health coverage and medication that we need. Sorry for the rant. Kind of off-topic, but seriously….I commiserate with you AP.

    • BY Susan says:

      Hector, please do let me know about your theory. I also believe I am being age profiled as well. I have begun leaving out my graduation dates and never fill in year of birth before hire unless they hold a gun to my head to get it out of me. I don’t look 53, but I have the experience of 3 younger people combined. The younger hiring managers are intimidated by my experience and generally won’t give me an interview if I include everything. It’s a shame really.

  3. BY Ian McDougal says:

    Thanks for the great article, Gayle. It covers exactly my situation, especially as a programmer. Cheers.

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