How to Handle Resume Gaps and Blemishes



Life may be an exciting ride full of ups and downs, new experiences and fresh feelings, but unfortunately, it’s almost never perfect. No matter how hard we try, sometimes life may throw its worst at us, and leave a blemish on an otherwise perfect transcript or resume. What next? What can you do then?


In this article, National Science Foundation Graduate Fellow Brittany Mihalec-Adkins shares her tips in a frank and to the point manner. It’s worth remembering that no-one’s perfect, as much as we try to be. If that’s the case, why not follow her tips, and learn how to paint a blemish to show your strengths?

She offers the following tips:

  1. Don’t gloss over the blemish. After all, reviewers will have spent enough time poring through your resume to notice a D grade or that gap year you took to travel the world. Address it head-on in your application, so that the elephant in the room is dealt with.
  2. Explain the reason for the blemish. Don’t make it sound like an excuse, even if some of the circumstances were out of your control. Take ownership for the grade, and highlight the circumstance that affected your grade, offering suggestions as to how you could have done better. For example, instead of saying “I had a family emergency that prevented me from studying”, say “I found myself unable to juggle with the full course load due to a family emergency which took time off studies.”
  3. Show the reviewers how you troubleshooted the problem. That will highlight your resilience and showcase your problem solving abilities, as well as your ability to acknowledge mistakes. By showing how you took ownership of your responsibilities, you are more likely to be reviewed favourably
  4. Focus on your achievements. That’s the point of a resume isn’t it? Don’t forget to mention your activities outside of academia which showcase your leadership and teamwork abilities.
  5. Ask one of your recommenders to address the blemish, and support your cause. Nothing works better than an external recommendation for them to verify that you’re not a lost cause just because of a blemish. Have them highlight traits that make up for the blemish

In summary, we’re only human. Acknowlege your blemishes and share what you’ve learnt, gain, and grown in the process of troubleshooting it. Back it up by gathering evidence from others, and you’re good to go!

Not sure how to use these tips effectively and concisely? Contact an LMI admissions officer to help you through your fellowship or college applications today. We’ll train you in your interviews and help with your applications to turn every blemish into a powerful story that highlights your strengths. After all, we live to serve, and take pride in helping your achieve your dreams!


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