Graduation season remains to be one of my favourite times of the year. A period of jubilation and celebration for the amazing achievement that is finishing university. For many, however, this time that they envisioned to be a spell of great joy can suddenly turn sour due to the unforeseen reality of graduating with a classification below what was expected. This was my experience graduating from the University of Warwick last summer with a 2:2 in BSc Economics. While falling short of your target is never a nice feeling I’d hope to provide some encouragement to those that may have found yourself in this predicament.
Firstly, there are a number of myths that may try to enter your head at this time which I’d quickly like to dispel.
#1 – Your life is by no means over and you surely will find a job.
A bit dramatic, I know. But one of the very real jokes you hear around campus. While the above statement is true, I’ll be very honest that my degree classification frequently pops up in interviews and conversations. There are definitely ways, with a bit of practise, to not allow it to work against you. Relevant work experience, positions of leadership and your general character are all major factors outside of your degree that will carry you forward into your career and beyond. Learn to make use of platforms like LinkedIn and Twitter to network and search out new job opportunities.
#2 – You absolutely did not waste three (maybe four, maybe more) years of your life and £27k to graduate with a 2:2/3rd.
There is so much more that university has to offer and the benefits it brings than just a degree. Of course, not to downplay its significance, but there’s a lot more to get out of university alongside your degree. Take the time to find out what it is you’re grateful for and hold firm to those; the friends you’ve made, the experiences you’ve had, the opportunities you’ve been exposed to, etc.
#3 – Your self-worth is still high and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
That initial feeling of regret and anguish you may be feeling is totally normal. For someone who arguably sailed through education before university, a large part of my identity and confidence was rooted in my academic performance. While to this day I hold my hands up that I may have not performed to the level I’m capable of, it’s a humbling experience realising that who I am and what I’m capable of is not solely determined by any measure of academic success.
I’ll be completely honest, for some of the more competitive job roles they may demand a higher degree classification and that’s the reality. The way I see it you can either accept the challenge now before you or allow the circumstances of life to shift you from your goals. I’ve seen friends beat the odds and land those highly coveted roles, forge their own paths in their respective fields, or even go onto further study. Ultimately, finding your desired role may be harder, you may start off on the ladder somewhere you didn’t necessarily envision. Your character, skill, perseverance and faith are all about to come together to make the testimony at the end that much sweeter.
“We must meet the challenge rather than wish it were not before us” – Justice William J Brennan, Jr.
It’s not all doom and gloom and while you may be feeling somewhat down about the whole ordeal, here are some of the ways I chose to deal with my disappointment.
Talk to someone. But not just anyone, someone you trust, maybe even God. Someone who’s not going to belittle you, or consistently try and find where you went wrong. Someone that will truly listen and encourage. Have an open conversation about the way you’re feeling and let it all out.
Celebrate yourself and others. Don’t allow this disappointment to steal your joy. Especially as everyone else has those lit graduation BBQ’s over the summer. Throw yourself one too, have that photoshoot, get that custom cake made, order the extra big mahogany frame graduation photo. This isn’t a pity party so don’t treat it as such.
Pragmatically think about and plan your next steps. If it’s increased networking, contacting your university careers department for advice, maybe an internship/work experience in the meantime. There are many ways into a stellar career, not always aligned with a degree/ graduate role.
Learn what there is to learn and move on. For me looking back on my time at university, I was faced with a number of ‘what ifs’. ‘What if I had worked harder?’, ‘What if I didn’t go out as much?’, ‘What if I didn’t sleep so much? (lol),’ the list goes on. I’ve learnt that the ‘what ifs’ and the feeling of regret they bring is something I never want to experience again. So my lesson learnt would be more vim, maximum effort, full steam ahead in whatever future endeavour I set my mind towards.
To bring this piece to a close. Graduating from university was very much expected of me from a very young age (if you have African parents you’ll understand). But while this was expected of me it was by no means easy and there are so many reasons that I’m grateful to God for where He’s brought me. Looking back I have friends that have dropped out of uni, gone to prison while at uni, and even, unfortunately, passed away during the course of uni. I can take no credit to say I’m standing where I am now, as a graduate, by my own volition, but only by the overwhelming grace of God. That in itself gives me joy, that gratitude is what plastered a smile on my face throughout my graduation despite the disappointment in my grade. That realisation is what gives me the courage to write this piece, boldly declaring that while our achievements may be great, they do not define us. So call it what you want a 2:2, cheeky Desmond (Tutu, get it?), the grade after a 2:1 or even ‘xyz’ grade point average. Stand tall in your success, big up your chest, and know that the truth still remains: “No goal is beyond your reach”.
Hope it helps,
(cheesy, I know)