Careers fairs, university bias and sneaking under the radar...


Hi all,

I chose my current uni because the course is unique - I applied to better unis (ie. in the top 10) and got offers but in the end I turned them down because the courses just weren’t as focused on what I wanted to do. I wasn’t thinking about careers at the time, just how to study something for 3 years without losing all interest and screwing it up! Now I come to planning my career and realise I might have shot myself in the foot somewhat when it comes to getting onto a really top-notch graduate scheme. A lot of careers books and websites I’ve looked at stress the importance of careers fairs - you can talk to actual employees and get inside information etc. However, my uni (being outside the top 10 but in the top 20 according to the Times) has sod all big firms at its pitiful “careers” fairs (I wouldn’t class the BBC and Army as part of the “big 4”…). My questions to you:

  1. Have you ever snuck into a careers fair at one of the top 10 unis? Or, if you attend one, how easy do you think it would be to do?

  2. If you’ve been to a career fair with top firms, how useful was it in finding out about the company and getting advice which you wouldn’t have been able to find out in other ways? Did it help you make a choice between firms or give advice which later got you a job/interview?

  3. What are my chances of even getting my application form read given my choice of uni?

I’m interested in energy/environmental consultancy, and my degree is in the field of engineering and energy (BSc). Any and all comments are most appreciated!



Hi kilogranules

Going to career fairs are a good idea and you don’t have to sneak into other uni fairs, there are national fairs open to all. In terms of your situation with your Uni ranking, your course may be ranked more highly so check that out. Some employers may stipulate a certain university as a requirement so don’t apply to them - there must be hundreds of compnaies in your field that would be very interested to hear from you.


  1. I am sure careers offices wouldn’t really like you to do this. They can be quite protective of their fairs and candidates. …but this is your career at stake, and if your university aren’t providing you with enough access to employers and you feel you need to go elsewhere, my advice is that you should. There’s no way a careers office could find you or block you from attending their fair. Just turn up… see what you can find.

There are also careers fairs run by organisations such as the Guardian and The Times that are open to any student or graduate or any institution in the UK. These could be another avenue to explore.

  1. They are another means of communicating with recruiters/employers. They let you talk face to face, which adds another dimension to online material. They allow you to make contacts - which you can then follow up with emails in the future and ask advice on things like that company’s application form. You might be lucky and find a careers event very useful. Or you might just fin it slightly useful. One thing’s for sure, if you learnt nothing, you wouldn’t have lost out in any way - you have nothing to lose by going along.

  2. I think you are wrong about this. You don’t need to worry about the university you studied at - you need to worry about the grade you get (really, you need a 2.1 minimum).

We live in a time when employers are trying to diversify in relation to who they employ. Top law firms are rejecting oxbridge graduates in favour of students of ex-polytechnics. Investment banks are recruiting from all kinds of university… whoever told you that employers don’t recruit outside the top ten universities is totally wrong. And frankly a top 20 university is great anyway. You did the right thing picking a course you wanted to do - you probably enjoyed your time more, and get a better grade as a consequence.

I doubt any employer in the country would turn you down because you came from a uni outside of the top ten. Relax!


They have “equal opportunity” policies and it is really up to yourself. If your grades a good and you did some leadersip and organisational work then you should be fine. If your uni is at top 10 then you are even better positioned but do not worry too much just keep applying. Companies have target lists of universities but they still want to see more from outside. Your uni might be in Russel Group, that’s even better.

I will give you a specific example. Everyone knows that Londonmetropalitan University is not even in a ranking. I know so many gradutes who have been employed by BIG4 and Ibanks, manily because of their uniqueness, their skills, their grades, etc. My friend is a graduate from there, he is now a trainee at an IBank.
Good luck.


Thanks everyone for your posts, you’ve really helped! I’ll check out the Guardian fairs, I didn’t know they existed. I still think I’ll plan a mission over to a higher-ranking uni’s fair though, if only because of my contrary streak and general tendency to indignation :stuck_out_tongue: It’s also good to hear confirmation that the degree classification and - shockingly! - your skills and character are more important than the particular institution. Thanks very much for the help, and may I say what a useful website this is!



…thanks K! …that’s very kind - make sure you tell your friends that too! :stuck_out_tongue:

Let us know how things go.

Good luck.


I really don’t think that would be necessary. It’s not like you’re maliciously getting in to something you shouldn’t be going to, you’re just stopping by something intended for students of another university. Careers departments really aren’t that strict and I doubt anyone will be checking anything. Most students would have forgotten their IDs anyway and it looks good for fairs to be busy… if you want to go, they will let you in whenever you turn up.


i have never in my life been asked for id at any careers events. careers fairs at other unis - i didn’t even think anyone would have a problem with this!!! i think they’re useful in collecting literature about the company and roles, which you can later use in your application form or interviews.


I am studying at The University of Bristol and I am sure if you emailed / visited the UoB careers office and explained the situation they would be more than happy to accommodate or at least suggest an alternative.

I know this year many of the larger FI’s didn’t attend as many fairs as in the past, but should there be space I cannot see many saying no. Clearly you would need to get a guest badge and possibly submit some proof of course/ID, but otherwise it shouldn’t be a problem.


Some colleges, e.g UCL, require students to register and their ID is checked - particularly for the specialist careers fairs.


Alot of the big organisations have pulled out of attending as many fairs and campuses as usual, due to cost constraints in the economic downturn, so apply online instead for the orgs you cannot meet with at the fairs.


true to a point. There are still lots of companies at careers fairs generally. There are still lots of companies recruiting graduates. Don’t be too disheartened - things aren’t as bad as you read in the papers… although they are pretty bad!


Hi there,

I think that I got myself into the little trouble while I was studying at uni. The point is that when I started studying at uni I was quite into it and at the begining of my first year I chose as elective module european language. Then when I finished my first year I found out that I did really enjoyed studying that language and during the summer I was studying it on my own and then in September I went to see my teacher and told him that I would like to go from beginers to advanced level and he allowed it. So at the begining of my second year I went right to advanced level. As a consequence my final mark dropped a bit and I know that if I was following the rules at uni and would go to the next level that follows beginers I could’ve gotten much better mark and thus I could’ve had much better chances of obtaining 2.1. Now my results are lower because of this and I am starting my final year and have to go to advanced 2. I am really worried that it will lower my degree and that I won’t be able to apply to graduates schemes.
Do you think that if I told this to employer do you think that they would consider it as a justification as why I did obtained 2.2 if I would. Your comments would be greatly appreciated!

Thank you very much