Not everyone follows the traditional route of going straight from high school to college. Maybe you needed to take a break from your schooling or career to start a family, or you got caught in the undertow of the recent economic downturn and lost a job. Now that you're returning to school, it's time to put your best foot forward to secure a spot in your first-choice program, whatever your circumstances. Follow these four critical tips to address any gaps in your resume and show that you're ready to embrace the excitement and challenges of earning your degree. First of all be straightforward without blaming others or making excuses. Even if what happened really was out of your control, over-explaining or making excuses can be perceived as immaturity, hedging. Simply state the facts of the situation by conveying the events that led to the gap. In case you were genuinely wronged in a situation, this can be especially challenging. Your college application is about you and not the people in your past, however. Yes, you don't need to dwell on it or defend yourself against the actions of others, but you need to explain what happened.

How to explain a gap in your resume

Show them that you are a better, more mature person because of your past and trust that the admissions officers are sophisticated people who understand that life does not always go as planned. Were you able to build your skill set during your period of transition? Did you do any volunteer work related to the degree program you are seeking? Were you able to complete some independent studies to prepare for the program? Maybe you took a volunteer position for two hours a week to see if you were a good match for a new career or perhaps it was only 10 minutes per day of reading while you recovered from an accident. Small though it may seem to you, showing the admissions officers that you have made progress during a time of transition demonstrates that you have the commitment and focus to excel in their academic program. Spending too much time focusing on what previously occurred instead of what is happening in your life now can inadvertently suggest that you are stuck in the past. Take the time to write out the entire story first to get it out of your head and onto paper when writing an essay. Next, begin trimming the story down to the essential elements. Even if it was something positive like the birth of a child, and then focus the admissions officer's attention on the person you are today, streamline the incident or time that caused the gap as much as possible. The person you are now is the person who is applying to the program -- and that's who the admissions officers want to get to know. Things can happen that are truly beyond our control, and we might feel tremendous guilt about mistakes we made when we were younger.