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I received my high school diploma in 2007. I started university studying engineering that year, but was not able to graduate and receive a diploma in engineering after four years. I switched to Business Administration and will receive my diploma with a Bachelor's of Business Administration in October, 2013.

Given that it's taken 6 years to finish a 4-year degree, and I have been at school the whole time, what are some strategies for minimizing the negative image it may give to employers? Should I leave off my high school graduation date from my resume? Use the 4 years of engineering as a selling point? Address this issue in my cover letter only? Not bring it up and only address it if it comes up in an interview?

  • In my CV, I always include my previous (non-vocational) programme from before switching to a vocational IT programme, since a 2-year gap would be quite mysterious. – Juha Untinen Jun 20 '13 at 7:01
  • Nikhil, welcome to the Workplace! I am going to edit your question to get you better responses. If you think I left out something important, or if I didn't represent your question correctly, please feel free to edit it. – jmac Jun 20 '13 at 7:01
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They will never notice.

On the resume you don't have to: list your High School Graduation; Date of Birth; Schools you attended but transferred from; majors started. You have to put the date of birth and high school graduation date on a formal application, and background checking forms, but that is long after the initial review and interview.

Many US college students take more than 4 years. They switch majors, or are undeclared at the start. They reason for the switch might even be for bad grades within the major.

Other people take more than 4 years because they worked many hours to pay for school so only attempted 12 credits hours instead of 15. If it took longer because you were an intern at a relevant business or government facility, then put it down in the experience section. If it was working at the cafeteria, then you don't need to mention it.

If somebody asks, just tell them. There is no shame, you looked at the data (your grades, major, and bank account) and changed courses of action.

  • Some majors also require more than 4 years just because of how big a subject it is. – Izkata Jun 20 '13 at 17:10
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Don't bother mentioning high school. Most colleges require completion of primary education or equivalent, so the assumption will be that if you have the degree, you've met that prerequisite. High schools don't matter as much because they're more general education, and most people attend one that's local.

I list my degree in this format:

Bachelor of Science in Basket Weaving, College of Hard Knocks, October, 2013

Listing the month is optional. I opted to do it because I graduated in December and started my first post-college job the following February. Listing only the year may have led potential employers to assume I'd graduated in May (which is the norm where I live) and conclude that I'd been out looking for a job for much longer than I actually was. After your second post-college job, this detail will matter a lot less.

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