Internet forums are full of students worried they will miss out on the top grades they ‘”so desperately need”. But how much does your final grade at university really matter?
Not that much, say two graduates who finished university with 2:2s.
Thousands of students all over the world worry their final mark will brand them a failure for life. Some student threads on these forums even go as far to describe a 2:2 or below as a “death sentence“. If the mark is less than they hoped for, often they fear it will negatively affect their career prospects and other aspects of their lives.
Scoring a low GPA in the US or not quite making the desired 2:1 mark in the UK can be devastating, but it is certainly not the be-all and end-all.
— MangoBaaz (@mangobaaz) November 22, 2017
Theresa Watt, a University of Southampton graduate who finished university with a 2:2 grade (roughly the equivalent of a 2.0 GPA) in Geography.
“At the time I went to Southampton it was considered one of the top universities for Geography,” Watt told Study International.
After receiving great A-level results, Watt eagerly embarked on a university education.
“My university experience was all I hoped for. Both from a learning point of view through expanding my knowledge, as well as socially.”
Watt was on form for a 2:1 at the end of her first and second years studying, but her final year took her down to a 2:2. “One of the modules [that were] compulsory in the third year I found incredibly tedious and incredibly boring and I didn’t really understand it.”
finding the current open university module very boring, and results are reflecting this. is a university degree necessary to be successful …
— Tim Visser (@timbovisser) January 20, 2011
Watt’s lack of enthusiasm in one important final-year module meant she didn’t quite make the 2:1 grade. “I suspect that that module brought me down significantly,” Watt said.
However, it affected her very little. “Overall, I don’t think it made any difference. I learnt a huge amount and genuinely enjoyed learning a huge amount,” she said.
Watt was employed within a couple of months of graduating. She applied for jobs in the summer and found employment shortly after graduation.
“Nobody asked about it [her 2:2],” Watt said. “I had been to university and got the skills. Once you’ve been to university you can do all these things. You can analyse lots of information and draw conclusions from it.
“It’s the skills you learn that carry you forward for life really, rather than that result.”
In Watt’s first job out of university, she didn’t work within the Geography sector. However, for the rest of her career, she has used her degree in Geography in nature conservation, using the ecology elements at work every single day.
“And nobody asks after that first job,” she said. “And nobody really minded then. It’s the skills that are important rather than the results.”
It is important to remind yourself that, while it can feel like the most important thing in the world at the time, often when it comes down to a few marks, it will not make a difference.
— Challenge People (@ChallengePeople) October 21, 2016
“Your grades pretty much become irrelevant as soon as you’ve passed that stage,” Watt said. “You work so hard for that particular stage of development and then it’s gone. It gets you on to the next stage.
“For example, once you’ve gone through university, nobody cares about your A-levels. And once you’re working, nobody really cares about what degree classification you got. They want to know what you’ve learnt and what you can do more than your mark.”
Watt feels she gained so much more at university than just a grade, and often the grade’s not a reflection of what was learnt.
“Make the most of your learning opportunity,” Watt said. “But understand that whether you perceive it that way or not, you are learning wide-ranging skills that will be very useful in later life. And that is what you should concentrate on.”
Getting a university degree does not equal to success. The same way the lack of having one doesn’t qualify for failure. It’s what you do with the knowledge and life skills you have that will make you successful. Don't let 'the paper' limit your success. #AskKirubi
— Chris Kirubi (@CKirubi) December 1, 2017
Rachel Muse, a Mathematics graduate also from Southampton, received a 2:2, too. Muse now runs a company of “private and performance chefs” and loves her job.
Apart from in the first few job interviews after graduation, Muse asserted that no one has ever asked about her degree mark.
At university, Muse claimed she realised it wasn’t for her, at least not a degree in Mathematics, but she stuck at it. And it hasn’t stopped her from succeeding.
It taught her a lot. “Don’t waste time doing things you don’t want to do, even if it is – on the face of it – a great opportunity,” she told Study International.
“Getting a degree isn’t right for everyone. Plus doing it straight out of school isn’t right for everyone. Some people would be better off waiting a few years then deciding if they want to study . . . then working out what and where.
“The goal is to be happy, not to be in a stressful […] environment that doesn’t suit you as a whole person.”
Much like Watt, Muse recognises the importance of the skills you gain at university irrespective of grades.
“Emotional intelligence is a vital life skill, and if you constantly feel yourself having to suppress your emotional intelligence to shine in your environment, it’s probably not the right environment for you to find true happiness,” she said.
“Yes, I got a 2:2,” Watt said. “But actually, I have used those skills ever since and it has helped me greatly throughout my career.”
Grades are not everything. If you have enough passion, drive and determination, you are bound to flourish after university, no matter what it says on your degree certificate.