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So you've graduated: Coming to terms with your 2:2
By Niamh Burns
For many, the thought of graduating and entering the real, adult world is a seriously scary thing. University provides us with a safety blanket. We have our student loans to comfort us and we reap the benefits of being in one of the most social times of our lives. Arguably, some will never be in another setting with the opportunity of meeting so many new people.
However, that can come to a resounding halt thanks to graduation. Suddenly, gone are the days of enjoying our university freedom, having fun and partying till 5am and receiving a student loan every three months. The final year of university is tinged with a weird feeling: you want to pass your degree and get on the career ladder, but you refuse to accept that this experience will come to an end.
I graduated last summer with a 2:2 degree in English from Ulster University. As I sat sitting along a canal in Amsterdam, where I had gone to celebrate the end of my degree, I knew my results were live on my university portal. Here it was, the moment I would finally discover what grade I'd leave uni with, praying I would see the desirable upper-second classification.
I did not. Instead, I found myself staring at the words “second-class honours, lower division” and felt the worst experience of nausea in my life.
Sounds dramatic I know, but I was fed the idea that there was no point graduating with anything less than a 2:1. A so-called “drinkers degree”, I was devastated with my 2:2. Having achieved good grades all throughout uni, until the last semester where I was overcome with stress and anxiety, I was disappointed in myself. I'll never forget that moment in Amsterdam where I found out my classification, it was one of the most awkward times of my life where I had to appear happy for my friends who got 2:1s and first-class honours degrees. I wasn't resentful, I found it difficult trying to look happy when deep down, I was embarrassed of myself and scared for the future. The prospect of applying for graduate jobs with a 2:2 filled me with dread, believing that nowhere would interview me purely because I did not get that desired 2:1 grade.
I was always interested in becoming a journalist and had spent weeks and summers at a time interning at local newspapers and magazines from the age of 16. When I graduated, I was working odds job, applying for graduate jobs whilst wondering what I was going to do with my life. Should I go off travelling, apply for a masters, get a full-time job? I was so unsure.
Through my research I discovered my local college offered an NCTJ journalism diploma. Being aware of the journalism industry and the importance of the diploma, I applied for the course and was accepted.
This turned out to be one of the best decisions I've made.
Throughout the nine months, I learned the essentials of journalism and undertook work placement at newspapers which was invaluable. A very intense course, I found it in many ways much more demanding than my degree. However, I ended up getting a job at my local newspaper within the last three months of my NCTJ course. I was over the moon.
This might sound like a very idealistic scenario and admittedly, I have been lucky with my circumstances. However, I want to encourage those out there graduating with 2:2 and thirds, that degree classification is not the be-all-and-end-all. I believe times have changed and that many employers are not as strict with degree classifications as they were in our parent's university days.
There are many options out there, be it 2:2 friendly graduate schemes, masters and postgraduate diplomas to help “top-up” your degree. I also can't stress enough having a good career plan and seriously thinking about what you are going to do next.
It is scary and incredibly stressful but it is important to think about the next course of action. So to those unhappy graduating with a 2:2 or lower degree, it is not the end of the world like I thought it was, there are plenty of options out there. We should be grateful for our days at university and having the freedom and liberty of having access to education. After all, a 2:2 is nothing to be embarrassed about anymore.
Hi, I’m Niamh. I am a recent English Literature graduate from Ulster University, now studying an NCTJ Professional Journalism course at North West Regional College in Derry, Northern Ireland. I have always wanted to become a journalist and have spent the last few years interning at newspapers and magazines throughout Northern Ireland. I have a massive interest in currents affairs, politics and social justice. I’m really interested in student perspective, politics and activism, mainly in feminism and gender equality. I believe it is really important for young people and students to get involved in current affairs and politics, it is crucial for us to have a good platform in order to express ourselves.