Get a First and you've got no life, get a 2:2 and you're a slacker. No matter what grade you get, people will be ready to make assumptions, so learn how to show the real you when you rock up at the interview.
So, you're not great in exams - if you barely scraped through with a Third then that's obvious. But what about the brilliant presentation you made? Just because it wasn't part of an exam it isn't less important. There are loads of examples of uni life you can draw upon to show your strengths.
Pull out your biggest achievements; your overall grade might not reflect the fact that you topped the class in your dissertation or excelled in a particular course. Be ready to talk about examples like this and explain why you did so well in those areas. University isn't all about studying. Future employers will be equally interested if you got involved in a club or society or spent time volunteering - and that rule applies whether your degree result was high or low.
No matter what grade you end up getting, there will be a stereotype associated with it. Here's how to make sure you can overcome your degree persona - both on your CV and face-to-face.
The sterotype: Boring, brainy Billy/Belinda-no-mates
The reality: You worked your socks off and got the grade you deserved, but you've also got a natural aptitude for exams and a flair for essays.
Get past it: While some employers will only take graduates on if they've got a glowing First on their CV, others might write you off in a 'we need someone with a personality' kind of way. Make sure you get to the interview stage so you can prove them wrong by getting your CV and application right.
Write a personal letter, explaining exactly why you want the role. Don't just talk about your studies, pull out personal examples to sell yourself. For example, if the role requires strong communication skills, talk about the brilliant bash you organised for your friend's 21st and how you organised the guests, venue and cross-dressing fancy dress theme while keeping it a complete secret from your mate. Do the same on your CV, mentioning your interests, places you've travelled to and how you like to socialise.
If you feel you've proved your worth with your grade, don't be afraid to kick back for a while. A First can bring with it a lot of pressure to be super-successful in everything you do. But after all that hard work, you might find that a stint of travelling, volunteering or just taking your time before embarking on a high-flying career path could be the best next step.
"My friend had a part-time job, did his dissertation while shooting his final year film with a cast of 20, was president of the breakdancing society, had the best social life of anyone I know and had all the usual essays to write. He got a First... and now he's happily working in a surf shop," laughs Stuart.
The stereotype: Perfect Paul/Paula
The reality: You worked hard when you needed to, but despite good marks, couldn't quite pull off a First. You always did enough revision to feel prepared in exams, but usually came out thinking you could have done better. Still, you can always drown your sorrows in the uni bar for a while...
Get past it: It might seem like the perfect place between being too slack and too geeky, but a 2:1 isn't an automatic ticket to a fantastic graduate job, as Kathryn found out. "I got a very good 2:1 and spent nine months finding my first job in the field I want to work in," she moans. Meanwhile, her best friends got 2:2s: one went straight into a well-paid job; the other was earning less but got a job she loved immediately, gaining great experience.
"The fact they knew what they wanted to do and were confident moved mountains for them. I left uni totally clueless with no direction and little confidence because I had no work experience except for part-time shop work. I believe that, not my degree mark, made all the difference."
Yes, a 2:1 shows employers you can work hard and maintain a social life, but it won't do all the work for you. When you get through the interview doors, you still need to prove you're the best for the job. So, do your homework on the company and be prepared to talk about why this is the job for you.
The stereotype: Average Annie/Andrew
The reality: You probably could have got a 2:1 if you'd worked harder - but you didn't. You still put lots of effort in, and turned up to (most) lectures. But hey, you had a bloody good time making sure that your uni years really were the best of your life.
Get past it: Show prospective employers how serious you were about your studies by demonstrating drive and ambition. Talk passionately about the course in Women's History that you excelled in or the dissertation that involved interviewing case studies in Spanish. Specific examples of work that inspires you will bring your time at university to life and show that you did so much more than prop-up the student union bar.
"I managed to get a fabulous graduate job within a month of getting my 2:2," says Melinda. "I found that a lot more emphasis is placed on experience than grades, as that's what sets you apart from other graduates."
The stereotype: Part-time Pete/Petra
The reality: You might have struggled a bit with your coursework and dreaded exams, no matter how hard you had studied in advance. Maybe you picked the wrong course, but realised a bit too late to change to one you'd have done better in.
Get past it: You can turn a Third into something positive. Know why you didn't get a better grade and work out how to communicate this positively without sounding like you're making excuses. Make sure you can talk about all the new experiences and skills you did learn during your time at uni. Even if it's a part-time job behind the uni bar, you can talk about handling money, dealing with difficult customers, organising special nights and working as a team. If you got involved in a club, society or some kind of volunteering work, then even better.