When Do You Remove College Details From Your Resume?

Whether you want to appear qualified for a large number of jobs maximize the chances of your resume getting past scanning software, listing every tech-related experience you’ve ever had can be tempting. But paring the list down to a carefully curated set can make your resume much more effective for landing a job. At a certain point, listing your college coursework just isn’t going to help you anymore — regardless of the job you’re applying for. Or that big award you got in high school…

So, when’s it time to take that kind of stuff off?

That will vary depending on what else you’ve done, what you’re applying for, and how impressive your degree is. The time will come when it stops adding value to your application. But the specific timing of that is something you’ll need to determine for yourself.

I know, you were hoping for a more specific answer, but it’s not too hard to figure out. Think carefully about what you’re communicating with each of the points you include. Does the point show success or highlight a skill? Are those skills or attributes valued? Are those skills or attributes already communicated someplace else?

To help make the decision a little easier, let’s take a look at some of the types of things you may have included on your resume from college, and the value they add or added — or didn’t.

First, club memberships. Career counselors often advise students to include club memberships on their resume to show some personality when they’re applying for jobs. This can be helpful to give a company a sense of who you are when you don’t have much work history. But a better choice, if you have it, would be to show tech community involvement through meetups, open source contributions, a GitHub account, or something along those lines. Club memberships don’t show much about your skills or experience, so they’re usually the first thing to get rid of.

Leadership positions, on the other hand, can be slightly more impressive, though it’s not really a secret that they’re easy to get. Basically, unless you can point to a specific impressive accomplishment that you achieved in the role, it’s really not adding anything extra to your resume.

And then there’s your coursework. Including relevant coursework on your resume can be a good way to back up your skills when you’re looking for your first job, but once you’ve gotten  that, college coursework looks silly. The real-world experience you gained from working is more relevant, even if you‘re using the coursework to demonstrate experience with a technology you haven’t used in a previous position. A better choice is to just list the technology under your skills. If interviewers want to know more about your specific experience with it, they’ll ask.

How about awards? That’s where the decision can get a little fuzzier. You’ll need to decide how impressive the award is at the current point in your career. For example, if you were valedictorian, you can probably keep that on your resume for 10 years or more — but it will be a bullet point in your college section, and not more.

Your resume is supposed to highlight your accomplishments. So the more impressive your post-graduation work is, the faster you’ll drop the stuff from college. Other than a few exceptions, such as the valedictorian example I mentioned, or a Greek affiliation for the purpose of connecting with a hiring manager affiliated with the same association, you’ll want to drop the college details within 5 years of graduation. Around five years, that stuff starts to look pretty silly.

 

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