Getting a degree from the University of York is a great achievement, and an indication of your ability and hard work. You may however be feeling disappointed if you did not get the grade you were hoping for. It is important to take time to put this in perspective and think about your next steps moving forwards, in terms of looking for work and starting your career.
HESA, the Higher Education Statistics Agency, collect, assure and publish information about UK Higher Education. Their statistics show that over recent years, the number of students gaining a 2:2 or a Third/Pass degree has been fairly consistent, with the most recent figure at 18%. So nearly one in five students are in a similar position to you.
Ashley Hever, Director in Enterprise Rent-a-Car states that, ‘Graduate recruiters look at so much more than just your degree result. Companies such as Enterprise want a diverse pool of talent applying to them, so they will visit more universities than ever before and will accept applications from any degree discipline, in order to attract the best possible talent. Not just from those that fit a particular stereotype.’
While it is true that some graduate training schemes demand a 2:1 degree or higher, there are many who do not. Larger employers often simply need a way to limit the numbers of applications they receive, which is why they impose a grade restriction. However, increasingly employers are removing this specification (the Institute of Student Employers survey 2023 found that only 44% of employers require a 2:1). This is because they are recognising that this opens them up to a wider pool of candidates, who often offer desirable skills and valuable experiences - don't forget that your personal qualities and strengths are important too.
It may be helpful to try to understand any particular reason behind your final grade, for example any extenuating circumstances or involvement in other activities or responsibilities.
Were you busy with other activities, caring responsibilities, or your own business, and therefore not dedicating enough time to your study? Many organisations value the transferable skills that you develop through extra-curricular activities, and can be flexible with entry requirements for people who have achieved highly in other areas.
Did something go wrong at the time of your final exams? If you have extenuating circumstances, you may be able to present these as a reason for not achieving a higher grade, and still be able to apply for positions requiring a 2:1. Speak to your Supervisor about your situation if you can, so that they can support you with their reference. It might be useful to have some form of proof, eg medical notes.
You will be employed for the skills you have, so consider what your strengths are, and play to these. The York Strengths Online programme on the VLE is a great way to explore your strengths.
Even if your course did not play to your strengths, it is not the end of the world - in fact you have shown great perseverance by completing it. Think about what you have enjoyed doing outside your academic studies and make sure you can sell the skills developed through these activities on applications.
Think about what your key selling points are. These could be your A-Level results, work experience, volunteering, involvement in student societies or part-time work. Remember employers will take all of these things into account when assessing an application.
Remember that your degree result will have less significance once you have gained a few years' work experience.
You could start work within an organisation in a lower level role, eg technician or assistant level. By proving yourself competent and motivated within the workplace, you will be in a good position for internal promotions. Be open to all options. Look beyond the job title to see what the job involves and what skills you could develop within it.
Try to build up relevant experience in your area of work, through temporary work, volunteering or internships. The NCVO website lists volunteering organisations, and you could look for graduate (paid) internships Inspiring Interns or the University of York's York Internship programme.
The best way to present your academic results will depend on what you are applying for and how you can market the entire package of your work, leisure and academic experiences. A skills-based CV can be very effective.
Use the first page to showcase all your evidence for the key skills for the job, and put your academic results on page two. State any high module results, or project results, as bullet points in your Education section. You don’t have to list all your module results, so be selective, especially if the modules are relevant to the position for which you are applying.
If you do not include your degree result, a recruiter will wonder why and will have concerns. It is better to include the result and provide plenty of good, detailed evidence that you are capable of doing the job.
If you have extenuating circumstances, state them briefly and factually in the section on your academic achievements. Ask your referee to back this up. You may need to bypass the automatic online application forms, which might reject your application, if your qualifications do not match the specified criteria. Contact the employer’s Human Resources department or Graduate Recruitment Team for advice about how to proceed.
Whatever happens, do not lie about your results! You are likely to be asked to show your degree certificate at some stage in the recruitment process.
You may prefer to look at direct entry roles rather than graduate schemes - find out more about the differences, and the kinds of graduate work available.
However, you can apply for a graduate scheme at some organisations without a 2:1. Here is a selection of organisations who have graduate training programmes which are also open to people with 2:2 degrees or lower. (Check the websites before applying.)
Small and medium-sized enterprises (from small start-ups to those employing up to 250 people) are sometimes more flexible about entry requirements than larger organisations.
These smaller companies provide some exciting opportunities at graduate level. As numbers of applicants are lower, a personal approach can be very effective. Build up your network and use social media, eg LinkedIn, to make contacts in your chosen industry.
Attending a virtual or in-person careers fair can be a good way to meet employers before applying. You can showcase your skills, qualities and motivation in person, and they may offer you an interview based more on your personality and achievements than on your degree result.
Many job opportunities are not advertised. If you are interested in a particular SME, contact them directly with a polite, well written cover letter and CV and they may consider you for future opportunities.
Some Masters courses are open to applicants with a 2:2 - check individual course entry requirements. If you can get some relevant work experience, that will strengthen your application.
Before you apply for further study, take some time to reflect on why you want to do this. You need to be confident that you can meet the demands of postgraduate study, but you may find that concentrating on an area of particular interest, or taking a vocational course, suits you better than your undergraduate degree. Or you may have had some extenuating circumstances, or feel that you didn't work hard enough to do yourself justice in your first degree. Either way, you will need to convince the admissions tutors of your potential and commitment to their course.
Remember the further you go in your career the less important your degree result will seem. Build up your experience as suggested above. Seek support and advice. You are welcome to keep in touch with us at Careers and Placements after you have graduated. See our pages for alumni to find out more.
Be confident - you will get there and we are here to support you on the way.