What to do with a lower second class degree?

Getting a first or 2:1 degree classification is often seen as the “golden ticket” to the best graduate programmes and jobs. Last year the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA), reported that 70% of graduates obtained either a first or 2:1 degree, putting those that earned a 2:2 or below very much in the minority. 

With so many candidates to choose from, the 2:1 degree has become the minimum default grade for most graduate programmes.

But what if you didn’t quite make the grade? In such a competitive job market, what do you do if you have a 2:2? Here are five tips to help you put your 2:2 behind you.

1. Don’t panic if you get a 2.2 degree

Within the context of a long career, leaving university with a 2:2 should be viewed merely as a blip. Over time experience will trump your degree.

However, if you’re a graduate and trying to get your first step on the career ladder this can be hard to appreciate. But if you have the ambition and drive to succeed, don’t be despondent – you may just have to take a slightly more elaborate route to get there.

2. Honesty is the best policy

Be upfront and transparent from the start. State your 2:2 clearly on your CV. There is no benefit in hiding it. Don’t be tempted to withhold your classification in the hope you will have the opportunity to explain at a later stage.

On paper this can seem like a good idea, but in reality you will be wasting your own time and the employer’s. With more and more companies now performingbackground checks, it’s unlikely to go unnoticed.

Moreover, by leaving out your classification it may appear you are ashamed of your result. Be proud. You dedicated three or four years to your chosen subject and will have built up a lot of knowledge.

Lastly, don’t lie or “exaggerate”. If caught, the employer will more than likely withdraw any job offer and it will have a damaging effect on your own reputation.

3. Employer attitudes are changing

Unfortunately, a 2:2 will exclude you from a number of large graduate programmes. Understandably, with so many applications to choose from, degree classifications are often used as filtering criteria to narrow down and speed up the selection process.

However, some employers, particularly within the financial sector, are changing their approach and not considering degree classifications or even university institutions. Instead, they are selecting on the basis of aptitude tests. This is arguably a less biased approach.

For graduate programmes that do require a 2:1 degree or more, you should think carefully if it is worth your time applying at all. Applications can be highly time-consuming.

However, if a 2:1 is described as “preferred”, this could be a great opportunity. Apply and include all of your other strengths and skills including your degree result. Some graduate job boards even have specific sections for programmes and roles which consider 2:2s, saving you valuable time during your search.

Small and medium-sized companies (SMEs) and other sectors should also be considered. Despite so many graduates applying to large corporate programmes, SMEs employ the majority of graduates.

A role within an SME can have the added benefit of offering you wider exposure to different departments and the chance to take on more responsibility earlier.

4. Relevant experience

If you are still seeking employment several months after graduating, focus on gaining some relevant work experience to separate yourself from the crowd, either through an unpaid internship or a full-time temporary role within your sector of interest.

This can be another viable way to securing a permanent long-term role within a successful organisation.

Regardless of where you are applying, make sure to highlight the skills and experience you have gained beyond your degree. Whether work experience, volunteering or hobbies, it’s important not to focus solely on educational achievements.

Emphasise what you have learned and accomplished outside of your degree.

Remember, having a degree will only get you a seat at the interview. You still have to turn up and demonstrate that you are competent and able enough to make a beneficial contribution.

Your degree grade is only part of the professional makeup, along with your skills, experience and personal characteristics.

5. Positive mindset

You might regret not getting the grade you wanted, but move on quickly. A 2:2 can be more of a psychological burden for candidates than it needs to be. Identify what you have learned, what you would do differently and then put it behind you.

There will be some people for whom a 2:2 degree is an extraordinary achievement, having battled through adversity and hardship to get there. Everyone’s individual circumstances are unique.

The biggest determinant of success is not academic grades. It is ambition, determination and a continued taste for professional learning. It is also resilience and the ability to bounce back from defeat.

www.core-asset.co.uk/resource/second-class-degree

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