Why you're going to fail at life if you don't have a first


In general most graduate jobs and schemes are not going to be requiring all of the knowledge that you’ve learned at university. In fact, in general you really don’t need a degree to do the vast number of graduate jobs out there. Big4 Audit and Consulting jobs? You can learn all of that knowledge on the job. Now that we’ve accepted this fact, we can begin to question the necessity of a degree. Simply, a degree is a tool for dividing up applicants. Employers don’t want to spend tens of thousands of pounds interviewing and screening thousands people, so they need a tool to easily reject vast numbers of applicants.

GCSEs, A-Levels and now classifications (in a world where 40% of individuals go to university) are that tool. Let’s forget about GCSEs and A-levels; they’re in the past, and you can’t change them. When applying for a graduate position, you’re going to be competing with likely between 10 and 50 people. Put yourself in the position of a recruiter, you’re just a name on a page. They have to reject and shortlist people based on the variables they see. Often the most important variable for getting shortlisted is your degree classification. What other meritless variable can so easily be used to reject over half of applicants?

Let’s begin to look at how recruiters reject individuals from their shortlist.

Anyone with a 2:2? Instantly reject. It’s clear these individuals have absolutely no work ethic. They have applied for a course in which they likely have the greatest interest, and even then they have failed. They consistently failed to keep up with their peers and have shown no interest in academics despite being adults. “I’m not interested in education, but I know I’ll be good when working” I hear you say; unfortunately that argument doesn’t work. Graduate employers need people who are well rounded, not extremely talented at one thing and incapable at another. You need to be consistent, because guess what, one of those other applicants has actually got a first-class honours and is going to be just as good at the job as you.

Anyone with a 2:1? You’re mediocre. You also don’t stand out. Most other applicants are going to have your classification and unless you’ve done something special it’s unlikely you’re going to land the job. Did you study in another country for a semester? Did you do an internship with a reputable firm? Did you get a research paper published? Did you help orphans in famine stuck country for a summer? Unless you’re exceptional, it’s unlikely you’re going to get the very best of jobs. You’ve just been proving that you don’t have the ambition or work-ethic to excel above your peers.

Got a first-class honours? You instantly stand out, and will likely be short listed. You’ve worked hard and you know the academics. Careful though… are you shy and timid? Do you actually know what happens practically in the industry you’re applying for? Do you have work experience? Have you tried psychometric tests – you might be disappointed with your results.

As you can see, your classification is a wonderful tool to instantly reject you and question your dedication to your career. All of your circumstances will instantly be discounted, because winners don’t have extenuating circumstances. If something happens, they tackle it and beat it down (with a large stick).


I’d just like to say that I got an offer from Deloitte today with a 2:1 and have nothing spectacular on my CV/no extenuating circumstances. I think that you’re right that everyone who goes to uni should aim for a first but no, you’re not going to fail at life if you miss it.


This is absolute rubbish! You don’t need a first to get a job. The requirements are a 2:1 and a certain amount of UCAS points.

A candidate with a 2:1 who has some form of work experience and extra-curricular activities is MUCH more likely to be employed than a person who has a first with no work experience and no extra-curricular activities.

I have a 2:1 and managed to get an offer from Deloitte. I did do a year abroad and had various other jobs. I didn’t do an internship. I didn’t even do a relevant degree!

A 2:1 is not easy to get (or at least it wasn’t in my subject!). It is my greatest achievement so far and I do not think I have “failed at life” because i didn’t get 2% higher.


um, what? Most people with a 2.1 pass the application stage easily if they meet all the other requirements. OP, you are highly mistaken.

Or, maybe you wrote this as a joke.


Your a moron!


I completely agree with you…I respect Deloitte for their positive attitude towards accepting mediocrity to a certain degree… but it’s just one exception remember…other firms are’nt so lenient…


@KavitaRiaSingh: A 2:1 is NOT mediocrity. All accountancy firms who i applied to (most the top 20) accepted my application with a 2:1. A 2:2 would be an exception. A 2:1 is not.

NO accountancy firm is going to reject your application because you “only” have a 2:1.


Firms generally treat 2:1 and First classifications in the same way. They will only be used for selection if the candidates have no other differences.

However, I do have to agree that 2:1 is very mediocre. I just don’t see how people can fail to get a First at university. You’re doing your favourite subject and you have all the free time in the world to make sure you know your stuff.

Failing to get a First at university, to me, says you are distinctly average.


a 2.1 from Oxbridge is not mediocre I can assure you.


All the free time in the world? Not if you are at Cambridge reading history.


This is such utter rubbish it’s hard to believe anyone with a first could actually believe it.

First thing to say is that your degree classification doesn’t mean a lot in isolation (especially away from the big grad schemes which need to whittle down numbers quickly and cheaply). It only takes on meaning when one also considers the awarding institution. I’m afraid with the best will in the world you can get a first from Greenwich and you’ll still be behind all the people with 2:1s from the Russell Group.

Secondly, let me deal with the idea that it’s easy to get a first because it’s your favorite subject and you have lots of time. On the time point, all I can say is 'there speaks an artist"! In the sciences 9 hour days without lunch breaks are not unheard of at the top universities. As for your favorite subject, I would say that most degrees worth their salt are pretty broad. It is therefore possible to be the most amazing physical chemist for example whilst hating organic chemistry with a passion or vice versa. Similarly one can be greatly interested by the history of the First Crusade whilst being bored to tears of the First World War.

Finally, I would say to people that your success or otherwise ‘at life’ is not defined by your ability to get onto a grad scheme (although one has to admire the effectiveness of the propaganda that people seem to fall for this myth hook, line and sinker). In many cases getting a place on a grad scheme simply means you’ve just won the right to work twelve hour days and be the subject of ridicule of your colleagues.


Well said, purplemike. Couldn’t have put it better myself.
Also, I far prefer a candidate who has a lot more to offer than a 2.1 degree even from a Russell group uni. Eg., someone who has got a Blue or a Purple , or has been president of the JCR etc. That demonstrates a breadth of personal skills and good time management.

And, even if you get a 2.1 or a First , your A level UCAS points have to hit the prescribed number.

Interesting debate re 12 hour days. No pain no gain. Eg Junior doctors’ hours. It is often the only way to learn your trade by putting in the hours when you are young.


With the exception of Oxbridge, university courses at ‘better’ universities are generally no harder than those at ‘worse’ universities. I’d take a 2:1 from Oxbridge over a first from anywhere else, but the same doesn’t apply for any other university.


LOL! This is a very black and white way of judging candidates. do you really think employers care that much if you get a first or 2.1? They care much more about how you conduct yourself, if you will fit well into the firm, work ethics, being a decent person, a team player and someone who can lead/ take the initiative.
“In general most graduate jobs and schemes are not going to be requiring all of the knowledge that you’ve learned at university. In fact, in general you really don’t need a degree to do the vast number of graduate jobs out there.” you say this then directly contradict yourself by saying that the university degree is the single most important factor which employers look at! your main point is that you need to work hard at uni, get a good degree to show that you can work well and achieve high standards, and that’s the battle won! your degree is only to show that you CAN work well which should be a prerequisite for this type of job. A 2.1 or first is pretty inconsequential because both have shown that you have worked to a high standard (the basics that a firm wants). What accounting firms really want to do is to hire graduates who will become future partners. That is where they make their biggest return on investing in grads. Do you really think here is an extremely high correlation between partners and firsts achieved at uni?? or is it more about what the person is like and how well they conduct themselves? Please think a little more carefully before you condemn people who don’t get firsts.


@ tutor. Thanks. I don’t entirely disagree with you on 12 hour days - sometimes it is necessary, particularly if you’re aiming for the top. However, from a personal point of view, having done a four year PhD, I’m no longer young, free or single enough to go in for that kind of thing! It’ll have to be just enough pain for just enough gain to be comfortable for me I’m afraid.

One thing I would say in all seriousness though is that if you’re willing to work long hours, why do it for someone else unless you really have to? You’re likely to make far more working for yourself and it will be more satisfying. You’ll also be doing the economy a favour!

@ Sweeper. Sorry, I disagree. As an example let’s compare the Biochemistry degrees at two London unis who will remain nameless. University X is regularly in the top 5 in the country, whilst University Y is frequently found at the other end.

At X the entry requirements are quoted as AAA-AAB including Chemistry and one from Maths, Biology or Physics. Additionally one would need an AS pass and the A-levels must be from X’s list of preferred subjects.

At Y one needs 200 UCAS points (CDD equivalent) but these need not include any A-levels. No stipulation is made with regards to any prior knowledge of a scientific subject.

Therefore, given the huge difference in starting point for X and Y’s students, there are three options;

a) The teaching quality at Y is unsurpassed and they manage to get their students to the same level as X in the same time but from a much lower starting point.

b) The degree quality is the same and so X’s students with their ‘head-start’ get primarily firsts and 2:1s whilst Y’s students get primarily 2:2s and thirds.

c) The degree standard at Y is set lower in order to achieve approximately the same spread of results as X.

Now, I think it’s probably fair to discount option (a). Between option (b) and © all I will say is that if I was Y and I was trying to attract students I know which would seem the better option to me, given how many employers set a minimum degree classification.