Went to university but never graduated - mention this on my CV or not?
Thread poster: InShift Trans
InShift Trans  Identity Verified
Taiwan
Local time: 01:55
Member (2012)
English to German
Jan 20, 2014

Not sure if this forum is quite the right fit for this as I am actually more or less established already but I think it's something that a few other fairly new translators in similar situations might relate to.

For years now, I have been struggling with whether to list my short stint at university on my CV or not. I went to a university that is internationally fairly well recognized, but I never graduated; I first took a year off and when my freelance career started to take off, I completely dropped out. When I initially started applying to agencies, I listed my studies, and noted "studies currently deferred” - which was the truth back then, but it's been clear for a couple years now that I'm not going back, and with every passing year that entry is now looking stranger and stranger (as it states 2009-2010).

So the question is now, do I mention this at all in my CV or should I just remove the whole entry? I then have the problem of basically not being able to show any other formal qualification except for my German Abitur. So I'm basically not sure what makes me look worse, mentioning it, but having to add ”withdrawn from studies” or something similar, or just not listing it at all. Any suggestions?


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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 18:55
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Same here Jan 20, 2014

Same case over here. And I did include that in my CV, although clearly stating that it is on standby because of intense workload. This year I have resumed my studies, and hope to be able to replace that entry with a degree in four years time.... so help me God!

Good luck!


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Taru Laiho
Local time: 19:55
Finnish to English
+ ...
Depends on who is reading your CV Jan 20, 2014

What to include in your CV in general is a difficult question. On one hand, you want it to look like you've done a lot during your career but on the other, you don't want it to look like you can't decide what you actually want from your life.

I believe that people's reactions to unfinished studies on a person's CV depend largely on their personal preferences. Personally, I wouldn't add to my CV anything that has been left unfinished and that I plan not to see through because finishing what you've started is very important to me. (If I were hiring someone and saw on their CV that they had dropped out of a study program, I might not hire them because I'd suspect that they just lack the perseverance a translator needs.)

However, if that stint in the university is the only translation-related education you've received, keeping the unfinished studies on your CV might be a better idea, since most people would probably consider not having any formal education in translation worse than having quit your studies.


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Tiffany Hardy  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 18:55
Spanish to English
It depends! Jan 20, 2014

It really depends how much you ended up completing and how relevant your coursework was to your current career objective (in this case to your areas of specialization). Someone who did a semester or two is certainly a different case from someone who finished three fourths and then decided their career didn't need the official title. Just getting into a university and into certain departments can be seen as accomplishments in and of themeselves, and to simply not include it means you are putting yourself in the same category as someone who never went to university at all. I think we can all agree that someone who has done three years of University has a great deal more formal education than someone who never went at all, regardless of the fact that the person never received the title, and I would further add that I find any sort of formal education highly relevant for translation.

That said, there are certain strategies you may wish to be aware of for listing non-degree educational information on a CV that neither draws attention to the fact that your studies remain unfinished nor misleads one into thinking you completed them. Take the following formats for example:

University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona
BS Candidate - Management & Administration (Senior class status)

or

University of California San Diego, San Diego, California
Dual Majors in Chemistry and Physics (2 years completed)

or

University of Chicago, Chicago IL (1995-1997)
Extensive Coursework in Anthropology

or

Bachelor of Arts Program, Sociology. 96 credits completed. Michigan State University, Ann Arbor, MI.

There are many other possibilities, but I would choose how you present it based on if you are planning to still pursue it or not, and what is more important -- name dropping the University (helpful if it's a really good one) or drawing attention to the degree program if its one of your areas of specialization.

There are any number of ways to list education for people without a degree and there are really no rules to CV writing. However, notice that none of the options I gave as examples give a specific date or give a degree title, which would suggest graduation and would of course be dishonest.

Best of luck!




[Edited at 2014-01-20 16:55 GMT]


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 17:55
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Depends on how relevant the studies were Jan 20, 2014

I don't think a degree is a magic client-puller, and certainly one year of university wouldn't be. On the other hand, if those studies were in translation, English or German, or in one of your specialisations, then maybe they were sufficiently relevant to be mentioned at the beginning of your career.

Otherwise, why not put loads of emphasis on other plus points (e.g. your experience) and leave out education altogether? Although we label them "CV", our CVs really don't have to follow the old experience/education/skills... layout.


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Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 18:55
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
Tiffany's solution is probably the best Jan 20, 2014

As you so rightly point out, getting in to a good university is definitely an achievement, although as you seem to have discovered, practical experience is at least as important as an academic qualification in this profession.

At some point it will not matter, and on a freelancer's CV it is not necessary to account for your time without any gaps as it supposedly is on a CV for an employer.

I had a brother-in-law who made a very distinguished career for himself (though not in translation) without finishing his degree. I dropped out of a couple of courses myself, but simply wrote on my CV that it was due to illness, and the curriculum had changed by the time I was able to resume (which was true). I did go on to graduate on a completely different course.

Later you can perhaps drop all mention of the abandoned studies, and concentrate on your skills and successes. Unlike an applicant for employment, you will not be asked to attend for an interview where you can expand on your CV, so you need to set out the facts and background more fully, but you also need to concentrate on what is relevant to a client.

It might be a good idea to complete a relevant qualification at some point, as adult education, in your specialist subject or your languages. In time CPD (continuing professional development) will be more important than whatever you started out with.

Best of luck!


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Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 18:55
English to Polish
+ ...
... Jan 20, 2014

Timo Karp wrote:

Not sure if this forum is quite the right fit for this as I am actually more or less established already but I think it's something that a few other fairly new translators in similar situations might relate to.

For years now, I have been struggling with whether to list my short stint at university on my CV or not. I went to a university that is internationally fairly well recognized, but I never graduated; I first took a year off and when my freelance career started to take off, I completely dropped out. When I initially started applying to agencies, I listed my studies, and noted "studies currently deferred” - which was the truth back then, but it's been clear for a couple years now that I'm not going back, and with every passing year that entry is now looking stranger and stranger (as it states 2009-2010).

So the question is now, do I mention this at all in my CV or should I just remove the whole entry? I then have the problem of basically not being able to show any other formal qualification except for my German Abitur. So I'm basically not sure what makes me look worse, mentioning it, but having to add ”withdrawn from studies” or something similar, or just not listing it at all. Any suggestions?


There is neutral language to describe your situation, like, 'Attended (...) without taking a degree,' 'Attended a bachelor's/master's course without taking the degree itself,' and so on and so forth, depending how much space you have (less in a CV, more in a bio like lawyers use and translators should).


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PAS  Identity Verified
Local time: 18:55
English to Polish
+ ...
CV needs to be tailored to client Jan 21, 2014

What I think many here thought but no one has really put down expressis verbis is that there is no one single magic universal CV.

Depending on a particular client you will need to emphasise certain things and play down (or ignore completely) others.
In the world of consultancy (which I currently inhabit), it happens that two versions of a CV of a given person differ significanltly depending on their purpose.
Nobody is lying, mind you. It's only that for certain projects you must make certain things sound more or less important than others.

The same may apply to your incomplete education.
If the fact of attending university at all and completing a part of the curriculum may play a role in getting the job - use it. If it's harmful - ignore it. In any case, not putting something on a CV is not lying (I hope nobody disagrees).

I started out as a teacher, for example, (OK, that's experience, not education, but the idea is the same) but I never put that down on my CV these days simply because it is not necessary and a CV cannot be too wordy.
On the other hand, I certainly did mention this experience when I was about to translate a chemistry textbook.

[Edited at 2014-01-21 10:56 GMT]


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felicij  Identity Verified
Local time: 18:55
German to Slovenian
+ ...
For my language pair Jan 21, 2014

it doesn't matter whether you have a degree or not. I am in the same situation as you, although I did absolve every course, the only thing missing is a degree which was planned for September 2005 (!!!). The clients who bothered to ask if I have a degree were completely satisfied with the answer "no, but I have 14 years of experience in translating"...

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xxxS P Willcock  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:55
German to English
+ ...
You had good reasons Jan 21, 2014

Timo Karp wrote:

For years now, I have been struggling with whether to list my short stint at university on my CV or not. I went to a university that is internationally fairly well recognized, but I never graduated; I first took a year off and when my freelance career started to take off, I completely dropped out.


I think this is useful information in itself; that the reason you never completed the degree is because you built a career instead, which at least some clients will find admirable.


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Konstantin St  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 18:55
English to German
+ ...
Do it if you learned something that helps you now Jan 22, 2014

Timo Karp wrote:

Not sure if this forum is quite the right fit for this as I am actually more or less established already but I think it's something that a few other fairly new translators in similar situations might relate to.

For years now, I have been struggling with whether to list my short stint at university on my CV or not. I went to a university that is internationally fairly well recognized, but I never graduated; I first took a year off and when my freelance career started to take off, I completely dropped out. When I initially started applying to agencies, I listed my studies, and noted "studies currently deferred” - which was the truth back then, but it's been clear for a couple years now that I'm not going back, and with every passing year that entry is now looking stranger and stranger (as it states 2009-2010).

So the question is now, do I mention this at all in my CV or should I just remove the whole entry? I then have the problem of basically not being able to show any other formal qualification except for my German Abitur. So I'm basically not sure what makes me look worse, mentioning it, but having to add ”withdrawn from studies” or something similar, or just not listing it at all. Any suggestions?


Hi Timo,

I'm in a similar situation. I did a bit more than one semester of Engineering Studies, but I learned to use a CAD tool there, which I hope will come in handy at some point in the future. So, if there is some special knowledge you have acquired during your studies, I would mention it so it doesn't look like you did it for nothing, especially if you did more than two semesters.


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