Should I list my projected graduation date on my resume?

A few months ago, I was preparing to send out resumes to potential employers for a summer internship in software engineering. As I was doing so, I received a snippet of advice from a friend: “You’re a freshman with experience in your field. Don’t list your expected graduation date, because it’s all employers will see.”

Essentially, he felt that employers wouldn’t notice all of my other experience if they knew that I was a freshman. He didn’t necessarily think that I needed to keep my graduation year a secret, but he saw no reason for me to draw extra attention to it.

I immediately understood what he meant, though it wasn’t something that I had previously considered. Most articles that I had read indicated that it was common practice to list an expected graduation date on a resume, or the real graduation date if you’ve already graduated. However, I’m still in my first year of college, and though I’m taking classes that sophomores typically take and have a significant amount of programming experience outside of the classroom, I was certainly worried that employers would ignore me simply for my age.

After a bit of thought, I saw two reasons that an employer would use expected graduation date as a primary factor in the hiring decision:

  1. Some employers only want interns that they can hire full-time the following year.
  2. Some employers use your year in school as an indicator of your experience level.

… and I didn’t really like either of them. The first is perhaps understandable, but isn’t avoidable no matter what I do, while the second seems fundamentally flawed.

So, I grappled with the decision for a few days, eventually deciding to list my expected graduation date anyway, no matter how far away it seems (May 2016 … feels like an eternity). And as I made my way through the interview process for an internship, it became increasingly clear that this was the right decision.

Here’s what I observed:

1. Employers will ask you anyway.

Many employers are looking to hire college juniors, and only college juniors, for internships in the hopes of hiring them full-time after graduation. Others are just strictly opposed to hiring freshman.

If they have any sort of policy like this, they’re going to ask you for your graduation date, even if it’s listed on your resume. In fact, even if they don’t have any particular policy, they’re going to ask you anyway. For example, I had numerous potential employers ask me what year I was while standing in front of them at the career fair, as they scribbled notes in the margins of my resume. In all, of the few dozen companies I’ve talked to, I don’t think I have had a single potential employer not ask me when I planned to graduate.

So, leaving the date off in an attempt to hide your youth gains you nothing with most companies. If anything, it might get you one step further with an employer that will have no interest in hiring you, and that just wastes everyone’s time.

2. Demonstrating above-average experience works in your favor with many employers.

While I was interviewing at one company, one of my interviewers showed me the copy of my resume that he had been given, and had been marked up significantly by whomever had initially reviewed it. As I briefly glanced at some of the comments, I noticed that my expected graduation date had been underlined in thick, black sharpie. This wasn’t to denote it as a bad thing, however, but instead to show that I had all of the experience listed above it despite only being in my first year of college.

This experience really made me realize that including the date on my resume was the right choice. There I was, sitting across from my dream employer, where emphasizing the fact that I was only a freshman actually put me ahead, rather than behind. The employer was instead impressed that I had accomplished things on my own, rather than relying on classes to teach me anything.

And that brings me to my final point:

3. The employers that care that you’re young likely aren’t the ones you want to work for.

While this one may be a bit biased, I know that they aren’t the companies that I would want to work for.

Why? Well, a company that treats my expected graduation date as a deal-breaker gives me the impression that they care far more about me as a cog in their corporate machine than as a real human being. I like to think of myself and my coworkers as a bit more than that, so this mentality is a bit of a turn off for me.

Furthermore, a company that values this one statistic so heavily feels far too bureaucratic for my taste. I like companies that are more flexible and don’t force employees to go through all sorts of red tape. I’m trying to avoid companies that wouldn’t appreciate my opinion simply because I haven’t graduated yet, and I can’t help but think that the ones that look at expected graduation date heavily are those that are least likely to truly care what I think … you know, as a mere freshman. I’d actually rather know now which companies value this single statistic so heavily so that I know not to apply to them once I become a junior.

In all, I think it’s pretty clear that putting my expected graduation date on my resume was a good idea, even though I’m a freshman, and particularly because I was looking for a position as a software developer. However, I’d be interested in hearing your experiences. If you’re an employer, how much does an intern’s year in school matter to you? If you’re a student, did you put your expected date on your resume? Let me know in the comments!

Eric Jeney is a Java aficionado with a number of projects under his belt. He enjoys programming for the web, and writing about his experiences. He currently studies Computer Science at the University of Maryland.

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