The mid-degree challenge: Why it's more important than ever to balance that 2:1 with work experience

 

For us, the generation which in 2012 took that crucial, final step ahead towards higher education, the changes and challenges of the system came in waves. The first one, and perhaps the one with the biggest impact, was the rise in tuition fees.

This was closely followed by protests against unpaid internships, job cuts and disheartening media headlines and case studies which showed that nearly one in 10 new graduates is unemployed six months after graduation. Choosing between top grades and work experience while studying for a degree is definitely not a choice anymore.

Ideally, students should start applying for work placements and internships in their first year. As the academic workload and requirements are slightly less overwhelming when you're a fresher, the timing would be great for combining a work placement and your degree. But, as we all know, the competition is tough, and it's very likely that as a student with little or no previous experience in your chosen field, older applicants will be prioritized over you. This is a classic Catch-22: nobody will hire you without any previous experience, but how would you be able to get experience if nobody will give you a chance to acquire it in the first place? With that in mind, we reserve mainly our second year (and third, and fourth) of university to apply for these coveted positions, because let's face it: the prospect of graduating and having to spend months after applying for jobs - or worse, unpaid internships - is daunting.

That is why I decided to treat my second year as a deadline. At the end of those 12 months, I would  have something valuable to show for it: good grades and a considerable amount of knowledge and work experience on my CV; this was the case for many of my friends. Universities usually advise students to undertake placements or internships during Christmas and Easter break or summer holidays, but what happens if that's not enough? How do we know that those few summer applications won't result in a disastrous example of 'putting all your eggs in one basket'?

After tailoring and submitting applications, I was faced with a tough decision: I was invited for a coveted placement in a place I had long wanted to work in. Unfortunately, it was during term time, exactly before hand-ins and deadlines. You might think it was actually a simple choice, as did a few of my friends when I explained the situation - take the job, skip uni for two weeks, no big deal.

But then again, it is a big deal. Although it might not always feel that way from the very beginning, the second year of university is harder: bigger challenges and bigger expectations. If you're doing a joint degree, like I am, it's an actual milestone, as you have to decide which way you're going, which career path you'll be following for (hopefully) the rest of your life. That also means double the amount of applications, because it's impossible to decide without having any real experience and seeing what suits you best. You're expected to graduate with at least a 2:1 in order to secure a good job, but you need to have something practical to show for it, apart from university projects and assignments.

I remember thinking then, how unfair it is that we should have to choose between the two, when society, the job market and even ourselves expect us to graduate with both - good grades, academic knowledge and the experience. Luckily, one of my lecturers' advice played an important part: grab an opportunity with both hands, rather than sit in a classroom (as long as you feel capable to cope and catch up afterwards). Academic knowledge is important, but if you can't apply it to real-life, job situations, it loses its strength.

Successfully merging a degree with work experience may be hard work, but it's not impossible. So go on, have your cake and eat it too.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

Guru Careers: Graduate Marketing Executive / Marketing Assistant

£18 - 23k (DOE): Guru Careers: A Graduate Marketing Executive / Assistant is n...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Trainee

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading provider to the fa...

Ashdown Group: Graduate IT Analyst - Global ERP Implementation - London

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful & reputable global business is l...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: At SThree, we like to be differe...

Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test
Tour de France 2015: Twins Simon and Adam Yates have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

Twins have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

Yates brothers will target the steepest sections in bid to win a stage in France
John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

Forget little green men

Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

Dying dream of Doctor Death

Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy