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A 2:2 is not the end of the world

A lower second is not the disaster it seems, says David Ellis. You still have plenty of options
  • @dvh_ellis

Walking to work, I fall in behind two grads discussing their results. One turns to the other: "Wait – what? I thought you were too smart to get a 2:2." Ouch, right in the ego.

While students fret over their achievements (and under-achievements), it’s necessary to dispel some of the lazy, disheartening conclusions which they're are exposed to. For instance, contrary to popular conspiracy, employers don’t take out restraining orders against candidates with a 2:2 and having one won’t get your number blacklisted by recruiters. Nor will a 2:2 break up relationships, end in eviction or kill your dog.

The total fear a lower second causes to is not only unfair and futile, it’s also infuriatingly melodramatic; success depends on far more than figures on a certificate. University accomplishments take candidates a little of the way - but the rest owes something to talent, luck, hard-work, office politics and flirting at the weekly drinks. Put simply, having a 2:2 isn’t the end of the world.

Work with what you've got

In truth, most candidates with 2:2s were likely capable of a 2:1 but remained loyal to their primary school form ('must try harder'). Logically, landing a first job should be easier with a better degree and there will be a number of employers who discard applications without top marks. Life is full of such arbitrary distinctions - think around them.

Lessons from a 2:2 are obvious: always spell your name correctly on an exam paper, never pay more attention to a bartender than a lecturer - unless you’re hosting a party - and work harder now to make up for previous poor form. A degree slicks the move from university to work and a higher grade makes it slightly easier to battle through the opening rounds of the employment process, so consider your 2:2 a wake-up call; it’s finally time to put the effort in.

Employers give no benefit of the doubt to an application with a 2:2, meaning the rest of it must be perfect to countervail your grade. If your cover letter could suit a job at McDonald’s just as well as it could a role with JP Morgan, you’re doing it wrong.

While many of the traditional graduate schemes do not accept those without a 2:1, not every high-flying institution will disregard a lower degree: earlier this year I interviewed with a senior editor of a top British newspaper and was laughingly told my '2:2 just shows you had a good time!'

Make your own luck

For those with a hard will to succeed, opportunities can be made to present themselves. Remember, no degree classification has single-handedly gotten someone a career and conversely, no employer has considered an application and thought 'Damn, they’re just so perfect. No-one else comes close. Still, that degree means I couldn’t possibly hire them'.

The only people are hindered by a 2:2 are the kind who let it hinder them. There isn’t a person in the world, though, who should be hindered after their first year of experience; your day-to-day results matter far more than those earned with an overworked, exhausted brain in a sweaty exam hall.

To someone still stinging from their results, all this might seem glib and patronisingly flippant – but it’s not long since I graduated with a 2:2 myself. While I’m no measure of success, this week I’ve written for the Independent, the Daily Telegraph, the Guardian, the Huffington Post and had a front page feature on Buzzfeed. Meanwhile, the student website I edit has received 48,000 hits. I’m evidently a hive of arrogance too, but the point is, I’m not desolate and my 2:2 has never, so far as I’ve seen, held me back. There is no reason why it would anyone else – so swallow your disappointment down and plan the alternate route to your ideal career.

David Ellis is the editor of student finance website studentmoneysaver.co.uk. He tweets here.