How important is a first?

(48 Posts)
SarfEast1cated Thu 17-Mar-16 07:21:04

I am in my final term of my degree, with two essays and a dissertation to complete by May. These pieces of work (plus one essay already completed) make up 60% of my final degree mark. In addition to my degree work, I also work full-time in a demanding deadline driven working environment.
I could use all my annual leave and work really hard to maybe get at first, or I could do my best to fit the work in at weekends and get a 2:1. I have been offered a pgce primary place conditional on my getting a 2:2 so that's not really an issue, but will I feel disappointed with myself if I don't get a first, and will it effect my employment chances.
Any thoughts?

Gasp0deTheW0nderD0g Thu 17-Mar-16 07:26:53

I could be wrong, but there aren't many jobs, surely, where having a First gives you a huge advantage over having a good 2.1. Academic careers would be one, but even there if you can get onto a good Master's programme and do well on that you can still end up with a funded Ph.D. place, especially if you have had a good research assistant post or two along the way. In teaching, I'm happy to be corrected, but I would be amazed if it would make any difference at all to your long-term career progression. If you're not on for a surefire First (and with that much riding on your dissertation, I'd say you couldn't be sure unless your tutor has advised you otherwise), I must say in your position I'd be striving to do as well as I could, but not to bust a gut at the expense of normal family life and my health and sanity. But maybe just for a couple of months....?

Good luck, whatever you end up doing! Sounds like you've done amazingly well anyway. If I were an employer I'd be hugely impressed by anybody who managed to get a good degree alongside a demanding full-time job.

BoboChic Thu 17-Mar-16 08:32:17

As Gaspode says, the importance of degree classification is somewhat dependent on your plans. It sounds as if you will be fine with a 2.i.

FakaP Thu 17-Mar-16 08:44:39

I was 1% off a first for my degree and was gutted at the time, but I've never been asked for my degree classification when applying for jobs. I would love to be able to say I have a first, but it doesn't seem to have mattered in the world of work for me.

DurhamDurham Thu 17-Mar-16 08:47:26

I suppose if you've got a first it would seem to be very important indeed....for the rest of us who managed a 2:1 not so much so grin

senua Thu 17-Mar-16 09:13:47

I'm going to be controversial and say go for it.
It would involve working all the hours that God sends - which would give you a good insight into what a teacher's whole working life is like.

AyeAmarok Thu 17-Mar-16 09:20:20

It would be great for you to have a First, for your own feelings of achievement. And I think in interviews they probably wouldn't ask you, but would be impressed if you told them IYKWIM.

So a 2:1 wouldn't hold you back at all. Bit the First would definitely be a nice to have so, what's two months in the grand scheme of life? Go for it!

SarfEast1cated Thu 17-Mar-16 09:56:35

None of this would have been an issue if I hadn't misread an exam question and got 56 for one module shock and ruined my average. I had been hovering around the 68 - 76 mark for my other modules.
I feel I am running on empty a bit now, as am working very long hours for my day job, college reading in the evenings and library at the weekend. We are also trying to move house, so there's a lot of daily cleaning goon on. And I have to try to be a passable mum to DD8 as well! <gibber>
I really wanted a first for my own pride, as I did pretty badly at grammar school and spent most of my life feeling intellectually inadequate.
I really appreciate you all posting on here though - thanks for your support and encouragement smile

W33XXX Thu 17-Mar-16 10:22:59

I was also 1% off getting a first sad though pleased as I managed it whilst helping with taking my nana back and forward for her cancer treatment, and in the later stages sitting by her bedside with my laptop/notes. My sister got a 1st in the same degree as me though hasn't done as well in the industry. I qualified during the recession, and each job was getting hundreds of applications, though I managed to fight off some of the 'high achievers' in my year and was the first in my class to be offered a job.

I've since had a couple of jobs whilst working my way up the ladder and have found that on talking to senior staff within my work places that they personally look for a 2.1 or a 1st (along with a good CV) to take to interview stage, they then look at previous experiences, volunteer work, personal attributes, the persons appearance etc. A couple have also said that they have found in the past they have employed or found at interview that the candidates with the 1st could be quite arrogant (I'm not saying all just a handful - so please don't bash!), I also worked with a firm as a trainee whilst at university and they employed two graduates at the same time, one with a 1st and one with a 2.1; the one with the 1st was hopeless!! She was book smart but had no idea how to apply the knowledge in the industry, the one with the 2.1 excelled. I've also seen a few people with 2.1's and 1st's who have been out of the game for a while (namely due to chasing the money too soon) and who are now 'no good' in our industry as employers are wanting fresh young graduates, on lower wages, with no (or little) 'bad habits'.

I would aim for your first, though if you do get a 2.1 it is not the end of the world. You have managed to get a conditional offer for a job, so long as you get at least a 2.2 that guarantees you experience which will definitely go for you when looking for future jobs.

whatwouldrondo Thu 17-Mar-16 12:21:46

If you want an academic career then go for a first but then if you miss it by one percent you provide your transcripts in the application so they will know exactly what you are capable of, good and bad.

For any other career it just gives bragging rights and as long as you nail a 2.1 you will be fine.

Many moons ago I met my husband on a Masters when they only gave distinctions over 70%, no merits. He did the bare minimum to get by the 50% passmark, I worked my socks off and missed a distinction by 1%, absolutely no difference in it on our CVs....... angry Though my feminism makes it hard to admit it that pragmatism over vanity probably is a very teeny part of the reason his salary overtook mine........

maryso Thu 17-Mar-16 13:10:16

I have never met anyone with a really good first from a serious place that has ever bragged about it. I cannot think of any constructive scenario where one would wish to, certainly ever need to. Even in the days when firsts were rare (5-10% of graduates), and universities only served 5-10% of school leavers.

Having a worthwhile first never matters when you have one.You may find however, even without postgraduate distinctions, a double first in your first degree from a very competitive place in a very competitive subject almost always catches the eye of decision makers in very competitive situations. This is not to say though that others may have completely different experiences. Most situations are by definition not extreme, despite how they may feel at the time.

You could also say that this is your only chance to get a first in your first degree, so why not go for it, provided the 'cost' of doing so is reasonable, and it has some value to you? I agree with other posters that subsequent progress depends on your choices and actions at least as much as your gifts.

PurpleDaisies Thu 17-Mar-16 13:12:58

I'd go for it. It will be on your CV forever. You never know when it will make a difference. Do you really want to look back in ten years time and wonder what you might have been able to achieve if you'd really busted a gut for it?

SocksRock Thu 17-Mar-16 13:13:11

I have a first, it made no difference whatsoever in my career.

ono40 Fri 18-Mar-16 13:47:59

Agree with Socks - I have a first from way back in the day, no-one has ever asked me about it or commented on it and it has made no difference to my career or job prospects.

CottonSock Fri 18-Mar-16 13:52:11

I got a good first, then a fully funded scholarship for my MSc abroad worth a lot of money. For that reason alone it was worth the slog. Good luck anyway, just do the best you can.

beansonbread Fri 18-Mar-16 14:01:54

I got a 2:2 in my teaching degree and have managed to get three teaching jobs where no one even asked what I got for my degree! I think as long as you passed that's all that matters to be honest.

rightsaidfrederickII Fri 18-Mar-16 23:33:21

I narrowly missed out on a first (<1% - all due to one particularly harshly marked module!), and it has never held me back.

It will depend on the industry you're thinking of going into, but unless you want to do (some/all) PG courses at Oxbridge, or want an academic career, then it's highly unlikely to be an issue. I can't remember the last time that I saw a job advert that required a first - though most will want a 2:1.

SarfEast1cated Sat 19-Mar-16 07:15:41

Thanks everyone - I seem to be using the First as a stick to beat myself. When I left school in the 80s I went to art college and got and HND which has served me well, and I have had a successful first career. I have always had a bit of a chip on my shoulder about not having a degree, so now I am in a position to get one, after four years part-time study, I want the best!
I am about to embark on a PGCE, to retrain as a primary school teacher so I imagine that the result of that will be the most important.

CottonSock Sat 19-Mar-16 07:29:58

I was a bit the same op. I didn't do great in school, but well enough to get a uni place, just average grades and minimal effort. Once I realised I could do well and uni I really went for it. I don't think having a first made a difference in my career, but the doors it opened for scholarships was amazing. Might not be an issue for your pgce

BikeRunSki Sat 19-Mar-16 07:48:26

I'm another who average 64.5% and got a 2:1; I have a good friend who averaged 65.5% and got a First. He says he never tells employers unless they ask, because once they know, you are never allowed to have a bad day!

As an employer now, I look for a 2:1 or First, but don't really differentiate between them. I'm also interested in CPD, dissertation topic, membership of professional body (and activities undertaken with them), extracurricular interests, personal statement, route to chartership, and the grades up got in your degree modules that are pertinent to the job.

I would not beat yourself up to get a First to the detriment of other things.

senua Sat 19-Mar-16 11:27:49

I am about to embark on a PGCE, to retrain as a primary school teacher so I imagine that the result of that will be the most important.

I don't think so. It falls pretty much into pass/fail. I think some places award Distinction but that's not what schools offer places on. In interview, they want to see if you can do the job; what you know in theory is not so important (and quite right, too).

Sgoinneal Sat 19-Mar-16 11:33:40

I've got a first and I think it's opened a few doors but not guaranteed anything further - and I often think I've had higher expectations subsequently put on me as a result. However I agree with pp who said this is your one chance to do it, for the sake of a few weeks out of your life I would bust a gut (and did!) rather than wondering 'what if'

jellybeans Mon 04-Apr-16 00:10:38

I have a First too and am undertaking further study so not sure yet re workplace. For my own piece of mind it has meant so much to my self esteem though. I would go for it if you can.

BackforGood Mon 04-Apr-16 00:18:07

No idea if you will feel disappointed, but it won't make any difference to your teaching, or your career progression.

unlucky83 Mon 04-Apr-16 00:57:18

I was a mature student, no DCs, no DP but no savings and desperate not to get into debt. I worked two different low paid jobs - the equivalent to full time hours in evenings and weekends all though my full time degree and had a third job in the holidays. No paid leave I had to save up to take time off just during the exams....
In my final year I was fretting about project reports etc and fitting everything in and not doing well enough.
A friend gave me the best article - I wished I'd kept it ...it was about degree grades. It listed famous successful people and their degrees results.
Basically it was saying degree grades weren't actually that important. A number had no degree, a few thirds and 2.2s and 2.1s ...
The article said that actually getting a first was no reflection on intellect or drive - it just meant you were better at saying what the examiners wanted you to say, were less capable of original and independent thought - a bit of a 'yes man'. And it might actually count against you in some fields grin .
Not saying its true or accurate (no disrespect to anyone who got a first intended) and have no idea what degree the journalist who wrote it got! ...but I don't think it matters ..it did make me feel better about just winging it, much less stressed.
(I got 2.1 -which is what I wanted and needed to do a Phd...I think I would have been embarrassed and disappointed to get a first after reading that! smile )

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