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Resume Help/When to leave grad school off your resume (or not)


QUESTION: Hi Mr. Converse,

Recently, I finished a semester of a masters program, but because of subpar grades, I wasn't allowed to continue on. Do I need to mention that I even attended grad school on my resume, or can I simply leave this off? There would be a suspicious-looking (in my view) 5-month gap on my resume. The good news, however, is that I have good references from my previous job (that I left prior to coming to school), and that the jobs I'm looking at have very little, if nothing, to do with my grad school experience.

And in line with the above, can you provide or direct me to a resume template/example of someone (at least hypothetically) in my situation?


ANSWER: Hi Chris,

Whether you can, or should, leave off the grad school experience depends somewhat on the job and what the application calls for.  If grad school is not a requirement of the positions you are seeking, you can leave it off if it was only a semester.  However, be sure to read the job application carefully.  If it asks you to list "all education" you are required to mention the graduate school semester.  If it simply has places for you to list your education, you can leave it off the resume and the job app.

It's true that there will be a five-month gap, but you will probably want to simply not try to "cover" that period if you aren't going to list it.  On the other hand, you can list the masters work just to cover that gap.  If a masters degree is not required for the job, the employer probably won't pay a lot of attention to it.  You may have to provide college transcripts, but if the MA is not crucial to your job chances, the grades probably won't matter.  It's your call how to deal with that period of time - what is more important to you: covering the five-month gap, or having the gap in the resume without explanation?  Again, it depends on the job you are seeking, its requirements, and the nature of the job application itself.

As to constructing your resume, my first rule of resume writing to my clients is - don't use a template.  You are a unique individual and your resume needs to reflect that.  Why don't you send me your resume to the address below as an email attachment and I will take a look at it and suggest ways you might improve it.  I do this sort of thing all the time for people from all over the world, so I'd be pleased to help you.

Best wishes,

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Mr. Converse,

Thank you for the cogent advice, and the sound e-mail feedback therein. In light of what you just said, assuming that I leave off ALL grad school references off on both my resume and the job applications (or any combination therein), what should I say to employers if asked to explain the 5-month gap in any way?

Thanks Again,

Hi Chris,

You have a couple of options to deal with this.  I doubt you will have occasion to face the issue because of the brief period of time.  But if it does come up, you need to think about this ahead of time and decide what you are the most comfortable with.

First, you can simply say that you were looking for work.  Second, you can claim that you were considering further educational pursuits or exploring career options before embarking on a serious job search.  Either of these are very common among people with relatively brief gaps in their resume.

Hope this helps; best of luck!

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Ralph D. Converse, Ph.D.


I can answer questions about general job searches, resume construction, crafting an effective cover letter, and how to prepare for, and conduct, a winning interview. My speciality is the field of education, but I also have extensive background in business and administration. I know what works and what doesn't work and I can make your application package stand out from the rest ... because that is what you have to do.


I have interviewed for, and held, dozens of jobs in a career going back more than 42 years. I have taught at all educational levels including middle school, high school, community college, and university. In more than 42 years of experience on both sides of the job-search process, I have interviewed hundreds of applicants and have reviewed literally tens of thousands of job application packages. I am the author of 12 Mistakes That Got Your Job Application Rejected ... And How To Fix Them! I conduct workshops for job seekers in a variety of locations every year.

Music Educator's Journal, Teaching Music, Music and American Culture (forthcoming, 2013), Last Teacher Standing: The Job is Yours Now! and 12 Mistakes That Got Your Job Application Rejected ... And How To Fix Them!

B.A. New Mexico State University; M.Mus. Southern Illinois University; Ph.D. University of California and University of North Texas

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