Should You Put Your College Graduation Year on a Resume?

college graduation resume application

Written by Tyler Brodeur

Tyler, our lead job search coach is a former recruiter with expertise in several major industries. He has worked with some of the most renowned companies in the world and has interviewed over 20,000 candidates throughout his career. As a career coach, Tyler has helped many professionals identify and land ideal jobs. Tyler is an effective servant leader that is passionate about positively impacting as many lives as possible.

June 26, 2020

Consider removing your college graduation year from your resume when your work experience is more valuable to employers than your education. For most, that means taking your college graduation year off of your resume after 10 to 15 years of work experience. Those who have a great deal of work experience shortly after their college graduation may consider taking the date off before they have reached the 10-year mark.

When Does It Make Sense To Put Your College Graduation Year On Your Resume?

college graduation year


Early on in your career, you might consider putting your graduation year on your resume to account for the lack of on-the-job experience that is completely understandable for your age. Similarly, you may consider formatting your resume so that your education experience is located above your work experience, which may only reflect summer jobs and internships.

If you are fresh out of school and entering the job market for the first time, you may also consider highlighting your specific coursework to demonstrate to potential employers that you have schooling relevant to the work that they need you to do. For instance, if you are graduating with a degree in economics and looking for a job on Wall Street, you would likely benefit from writing about the courses that you’ve taken that specifically address finance. If you are graduating with a degree in psychology and looking for a job with an ad agency, you may consider writing out which courses you have taken that demonstrate an understanding of consumer behavior. Often, employers in quickly advancing fields, from HR to tech, are looking for young graduates with the latest training.

Remember, when you are applying to jobs early on in your career, the employers are not considering you so much for your experience as they are for your new ideas, enthusiasm, and commitment to do good work at their company. With that in mind, be sure to put attention into your cover letter where you can further explain where you are in your career and why you are so eager to work with the organization to which you are applying.

When Is It Time To Take Your College Graduation Year Off Of Your Resume?

There is no exact moment when you need to take your college graduation year off of your resume, but the consensus among experts is that you should seriously consider hitting the delete button sometime around your 40th birthday. By this time, you should also have switched to a “functional resume” format in which your education comes after your work experience.

Why 40? By that time, your experience is likely more important than the training you received in school. Also, while the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, or ADEA, prohibits the discrimination of applicants over the age of 40, that does not mean the ageism is a thing of the past. In 2017, Americans filed more than 18,000 discrimination complaints related to age. During 2008’s recession, that number went as high as 24,000.

Even if you are not the victim of overt age discrimination, you may still perceive an injustice. In 2018, an AARP survey found that 2 out of 3 Americans over the age of 45 had experienced some level of ageism on the job.

While you will have a tough time singlehandedly changing society’s perception of age, you can decrease the odds that you become a victim of age discrimination by simply omitting your graduation date.

You want the person reviewing your application to focus on one thing: your qualifications. Remember that the resume benefits from conciseness. The fact that most resumes are typically only one page should remind us of an important fact about the hiring process: marketing yourself is as much about what you do not say about yourself as it is about what you tell your potential employers.

To that end, if you are a young applicant with a great deal of experience, you might also consider taking off your graduation year from your resume. If you have all of the experience necessary for a role typically suited for older applicants, you should do your best to prevent your application from being thrown out based on your age. Get to the interview and demonstrate to your potential employer that you have knowledge, skills, and emotional maturity to take on the job.

How Should You Handle Dates On The Rest Of Your Resume?

Your graduation date is likely not the only one on your application. So what do you do about those other dates if you’ve decided to take the route of omitting your graduation year? Leave them.

These dates should typically be expressed in either month/year format or simply the years when each term of employment began and ended. This information is important for hiring managers to understand the depth of your experience and your habits regarding how long you typically stay with an employer.

Why are these dates any different than the date of your graduation? The dates of your employment may reflect your age, but more importantly, they reflect your experience. They tell the story that you want to tell concerning what skills you can bring to a potential employer.

Consider for a moment that you are entering your 40s and you have little job experience because you were touring with a rock band or taking care of a sick relative through your 20s. You want to tell that story in your cover letter or an interview, not in your resume.

In this scenario, if a hiring manager were to compare your work experience with your graduation date, they may not understand why someone in their 30s is looking at an entry-level job. However, if you omit your graduation date on your resume, you are ensuring that you will not be excluded without first being able to tell your story the way you want others to understand it.

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Useful Tips About When To Adjust The Dates On Your Resume

Years Out of College  

Action Item

0-5 If you are a young worker with a great deal of experience, consider omitting your graduation year in order to make yourself more competitive for jobs that are typically reserved for older applicants.
0-5 Switch to a “functional resume” format after you’ve gained at least a years of relevant work experience. This means that you should place your education below information about your past jobs.
10-15 In general, remove your graduation year after 10 years of job experience. By this time, you have enough experience that you want your application to be laser-focused on your accomplishments.
Never Never remove the dates of your employment. These are crucial to the story that you are telling your potential employer, and omitting them will send up a red flag for hiring managers.


What Should You Do When You Are Worried About Ageism Impacting Your Application?

The first thing you must do is change your mindset. Do not despair about your age. When you omit your college graduation date from your resume, you should not do so because you are ashamed of your age, but rather, because you want your application reader to focus on your achievements since graduation.

Depending on your industry, being an older applicant can work in your favor. For many hiring managers, older applicants are thought of as being more reliable and willing to stay with a job for longer periods.

Finally, the law has a clear stance on ageism: it is completely, utterly wrong. When you have been the victim of age discrimination, it is your right to take legal action against the employer that has unfairly rejected your qualifications.

College Graduation resume application

4 Key Steps To A Job Application (regardless Of Your Age)

  1. Set up alerts to know when your prospective employer is hiring. You want to be an early entrant to the application pool.
  2. Build connections within the company to improve the chances that your resume and cover letter are read closely. Do not be too shy to reach out over LinkedIn, or use an email if you have it. Your enthusiasm will be rewarded.
  3. Format your resume for where you are in your career. If your new to the job market, consider placing your education above your job experience. If you have a great deal of experience, highlight that with concise, bullet-pointed accomplishments.
  4. Write your resume and cover letter for the job you are applying to, making sure you hit the major points of the job description.
  5. Repeat these steps daily. A job search is far less daunting if it is something that you explore each day with an open mind and eagerness to meet new people.

College Graduation resume

Some Final Thoughts

Wherever you are in your life and your career, you have the potential to bring something valuable to the right job for you. Do not despair because of your age or your concerns about a non-linear career path. Manage your story. Craft a narrative out of your work history that makes you proud. Employers will be impressed by your openness and insightfulness.

The process of removing dates from your resume is not about hiding what you find shameful, but rather, taking charge of your narrative. As you continue to revise your resume, be mindful of the story that you are telling and why it should entice the person reviewing your qualifications. If you are applying across multiple fields, do not hesitate to have separate resumes that tell your story in different ways.

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