I began college in 2007 and then dropped out in 2009. I returned late 2011 to finish my final year and have completed it just last week. So basically it took me 5 years to do a 3 year degree. It was a degree in software development.

I have just begun looking for a job (entry level) and I am wondering if this will affect my chances and how could I explain it? The reason I dropped out was due to personal circumstances, I was stressed out and wasn't sure if I wanted to continue pursuing a career in software. During those 2 years I was unemployed and I could have returned sooner if I had the money. Should I just be honest and say what I have just said?

To be honest, doesn't this kind of convey that I am flaky and lack integrity? Why I am thinking that is because imagine this was a software project, it is 2 years overdue and that's after changing my mind a few times.

I'm also wondering, should I display my resume like this:

2007-2012  Bachelor of Science, Software Development 

or something like this?

2007-2009, 2011-2012 Bachelor of Science, Software Development 


  • Is the reason for dropping out relevant to the employer? Commented Jun 1, 2012 at 7:45
  • @ThorbjørnRavnAndersen I don't know. That's what I am wondering.
    – Jonathan
    Commented Jun 1, 2012 at 12:20
  • Don't worry about it, and don't mention it. Certainly if you are still under 25, no one cares. Employers will want to know whether you graduated and your GPA. Then they will interview you to find out if you know anything. Commented Jun 1, 2012 at 20:23
  • I'd be careful of focusing too much on negative implications from taking so long to finish your program. You only dropped out once and did finish the program in the end.
    – JB King
    Commented Jun 1, 2012 at 20:35

5 Answers 5


There's no rule you need to show the start date and end date of your coursework on your resume, so the following is perfectly fine:

2012 BS, Software Development, Your School Name

The reasoning behind adding the span of years while in school is to explain time away from working (outside of school) or to show that you're still in school -- not to show how long it took you to get your degree. If you were, say, 25 years old and wanted to explain the 7 years after high school and some of that was work and some of that was school, and that time didn't overlap, then sure - go ahead and list it all broken out so that a hiring manager could piece together your timeline -- but it's only the graduation date that matters (and to be perfectly honest, hiring managers aren't going to try to piece together a school and work timeline for an entry-level job unless they have a lot of time on their hands. For instance, I wouldn't bother.)

Since you're looking for entry-level jobs, the baseline expectations are that you are a recent graduate -- it doesn't much matter how long it took you to get there, because people have gaps in education for all sorts of reasons -- just taking a break, wanting to gain work experience, needing to pay bills, military service, domestic reasons, and so on.

What matters is that you clearly outline the skills you can use starting the day you get hired, either because you learned them in school or you have practical knowledge.

Saying all the things you said would be fine if you were asked, because it would be the truth (although I'd be careful not to overshare just like I would be careful not to overshare with any stranger -- it's awkward). Lying shows a lack of integrity, not explaining the truth when asked.

Just relax and send your resume around. Don't worry about the past -- there's no reason any of that should haunt you.

  • 6
    +1 I would just add that your persistence and determination and going back even after dropping out are all just the kind of non-tangible, softer, personality traits that a lot of employers look for. Don't make them a point but if asked make the exact details an open asset. I've known management to ask about 'gaps' but all they really want is the truth, not some good sounding bs. Honesty gets you points. Commented Jun 14, 2012 at 20:29

Only completion matters

As a hiring manager, I don't care if it took you 2 years or 10 years to get a degree, to me your degree is effectively a bullet point. (an important one, but still just a note)

Why I care about the degree, but not how long

We've all heard the horror stories of professors who unjustly failed students, degrees getting dropped without notice, change in degree requirements, etc or even just working through your degree to come out debt free. All of this cause degrees to go longer than expected, and are so common that these days getting a 4 year degree in 4 years is becoming uncommon.

That said, having that degree tells me you put up with all the bureaucracy and struggles a college student deals with, plus you learned at least a reasonable level of competency in the subject matter. Whether you can apply it remains unseen, but you at least have the well rounded knowledge pool and ability to learn that is required to earn your degree.

List only completion dates

Treat your degree as if it were the single most valuable certification you've ever earned. It needs to be in it's own little spot that says "hey I know things!" but isn't a life story, because frankly as a hiring manager I don't care.

The most common format I see is:

  • Name of Degree Earned, School Degree was Earned at, Year Earned

Avoid listing start times, time taken off, degrees you didn't earn, etc. If you are still a student or pursuing post grad you can add a line saying what degree you're pursuing, where you're pursuing, and an ETA, but whether that matters to the hiring manager depends on the company and individual looking over your CV.

What if they ask about it?

Be honest, likely the question won't be "did you take time off your degree?" or "how long did it take you to get your degree?" instead you'll likely get "What was a problem you ran into getting your degree and how did you handle it?" or similar.

As a hiring manager, the only interest I normally have in your backstory is to figure out how you think. Will you be reliable, do you see things through. etc.

When a question like that is posed, be honest but answer the question without going into completely unrelated stuff. (One, because you shouldn't be telling me why not to hire you, and two I probably don't care)

So for your example "Well I had a great deal of stress during school, at the time I felt school wasn't necessary and decided to just jump right into my career... that didn't work out so well, it set me back quite a bit, but I went back got my degree"

To me this is a good answer for such a question, you made a choice under duress, it didn't work out, so you took corrective action. Pretty much the sort if thing I want to hear.

  • Also, it is quite common (and in my eyes positive) if someone took a bit longer for their degree but also did some optional courses. Minmaxing a degree gives you a paper, but minmaxing every work assignment will make me feel like I've hired a bottle genie that needs overly specific instruction. Commented Sep 18, 2018 at 11:37

Be explicit in your CV, and honest in your answers about any queries they might have during the interview or over email/phone. If you are what they are looking for then you will know when you get the job there will be no issues with anything in your past.

Otherwise you may potentially have this lurking over your head and you may always wonder "what if they find out I took two years off".

If they reject you because of this then accept that and move on. You can't change your past but you can project the new type of person you are (or wanting to be) going into your future. Concentrate on portraying that while accepting your decisions and actions of your past.

Good luck.


Don't bring it up. But, if asked, explain. You'd be suprised to hear that saying essentially "For a short time, I was not sure what I wanted out of my life. I took a break from school, and thought real hard about it, and in the end, I realized that really is the correct place for me to be, so I returned to college and finished the degree I had put aside previously," does not sound bad. At all. Almost everyone has something like that at least once in their lives, and the fact that you came back from it and decided that you were exactly where you should be means that you're extremely dedicated.

Note: if you dropped out due to poor grades, then this is much more of a lie.


You have the degree. Your next task is convincing a prospective employer to hire you on the basis of the qualifications you have acquired. It is irrelevant to a prospective employer whether you acquired your qualifications in three years or five. Unless you go out of your way and volunteer to make it relevant.

If you did not spend the two extra years in the Big House or you did not spend two years in the hospital recovering from a chronic ailment that could blow up on you anytime or you did not get yourself fired from a string of jobs, then your prospective employer has nothing to worry about. Stop playing mind games with yourself and focus on telling your prospective employers what you bring to the table. Because if you can't convince them that you bring anything, you get nothing.

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