The Student Room Group

Is there a point of getting a high first class undergraduate degree?

I'm starting Uni this September and I'm wondering if its worth putting more effort into studies to get a high first or just doing enough to get a lower one.

So a lower first is like 70%+ I think. If I was to completely sweat at Uni and try aim for a high first (so like at least 85%+) would that improve my chances of getting to a top post-grad school and for career jobs? Or does it not change anything because at the end of the day both the 70% first and the 85+% first is the same grade - a first? Let me know please so I can make my timetable for September. If getting a high first does improve chances for post-grad etc then I'm going to make a ridiculous timetable to try achieve that goal.
It might affect post-grad but it's not going to affect your recruitment possibilities. You're honestly better off having more fun. A "low first" as you call it, isn't easy either.
Reply 2
I'm not even sure it made that much difference with my PhD funding to be honest.

Sure, it's nice. But is it that consequential, I don't think so
Reply 3
Original post by Anonymous
It might affect post-grad but it's not going to affect your recruitment possibilities. You're honestly better off having more fun. A "low first" as you call it, isn't easy either.

So basically if I get a high first then I've got a better chance at getting to the top post-grad universities? Aight thanks, thats enough to know that I need to sweat when Uni starts. I'm personally aiming for a top 30 school itw for postgrad, so I was just wondering if a high first would make me look better than a low first or if they wouldn't care too much but I guess it seems like it'll look better so I might aswell put more hours into my studies to try achieve it.

Original post by gjd800
I'm not even sure it made that much difference with my PhD funding to be honest.

Sure, it's nice. But is it that consequential, I don't think so

Wait, so if I was to get over 85%, it doesn't really put me in much of a better position than those that just scraped a first? Like I said in my other reply, I just wanna get to a top 30 school itw for postgrad. Maybe a bit too ambitious but I just wanted to know if a high first would make me look better applying to those post-grad uni's.
Depends on what subject you are studying. If you study a STEM subject, getting a high first (80%+) would be possible but wouldn't be easy at all. Getting a first wouldn't be super easy either but you can definitely achieve it if you work for it. For non-STEM subjects, I think it is quite difficult to get 80%+, and it won't be demanded either. In that case, getting a first in itself would be impressive.

Just to give an example, if you want to get in Oxbridge for masters in maths or physics, they'd expect you to get 80%+ unless you have very good super curricular activities and/or strong letters. However, I don't think that applies to subjects like English or History where getting something above 75 is considered very good and will put in a competitive position for unis like Oxbridge etc.
Reply 5
I think it really depends - my A-Levels were not great and I didn't go to a Russell Group, so like most things in life, you try to make up for it and in this case it was getting the best grade. The subject that you study and what you did whilst studying (internship, extra-curricular activities etc), would also certainly help anyway even if you didn't get a First.
Reply 6
Original post by Anonymous
So basically if I get a high first then I've got a better chance at getting to the top post-grad universities? Aight thanks, thats enough to know that I need to sweat when Uni starts. I'm personally aiming for a top 30 school itw for postgrad, so I was just wondering if a high first would make me look better than a low first or if they wouldn't care too much but I guess it seems like it'll look better so I might aswell put more hours into my studies to try achieve it.


Wait, so if I was to get over 85%, it doesn't really put me in much of a better position than those that just scraped a first? Like I said in my other reply, I just wanna get to a top 30 school itw for postgrad. Maybe a bit too ambitious but I just wanted to know if a high first would make me look better applying to those post-grad uni's.

I don't think it made much difference for me having an ~80 degree average. Some fellowships etc I have applied for (and not got!) since have put an emphasis on it but it's very niche and usually only at the likes of Oxbridge or the Ivys

Hard to gauge though, really.
Reply 7
Original post by Anonymous
Depends on what subject you are studying. If you study a STEM subject, getting a high first (80%+) would be possible but wouldn't be easy at all. Getting a first wouldn't be super easy either but you can definitely achieve it if you work for it. For non-STEM subjects, I think it is quite difficult to get 80%+, and it won't be demanded either. In that case, getting a first in itself would be impressive.

Just to give an example, if you want to get in Oxbridge for masters in maths or physics, they'd expect you to get 80%+ unless you have very good super curricular activities and/or strong letters. However, I don't think that applies to subjects like English or History where getting something above 75 is considered very good and will put in a competitive position for unis like Oxbridge etc.

I'm doing management and I'm gonna try get into Oxbridge to do it for postgrad. If not them then elsewhere thats a top 30 itw so possibly an Ivy even. I'm gonna study at the University of Leicester for it so its a decent uni. So if I'm to get 80%+ does that put me in a better position than if I was to just come out just above the minimum for a first (70%)?

Original post by Telifa
I think it really depends - my A-Levels were not great and I didn't go to a Russell Group, so like most things in life, you try to make up for it and in this case it was getting the best grade. The subject that you study and what you did whilst studying (internship, extra-curricular activities etc), would also certainly help anyway even if you didn't get a First.

My A Levels aren't amazing either but I'm at a decent Uni I guess (only got in through clearing though). So if I was to come out with over 85% or something, I can put it down right and the Uni's will rate it higher than someone with a lower one?

Original post by gjd800
I don't think it made much difference for me having an ~80 degree average. Some fellowships etc I have applied for (and not got!) since have put an emphasis on it but it's very niche and usually only at the likes of Oxbridge or the Ivys

Hard to gauge though, really.

Thanks, I'm possibly going to try get into Oxbridge or the Ivy's so basically I'm gonna need to aim for the highest I can possibly get then. How much revision per day would you say would be a good amount to be on track to get over 80%? Just so that I can get my timetable sorted out right now so that I don't slack off at Uni or go out too much and instead mainly focus on getting the best percentage I can get.
Reply 8
Original post by Anonymous
Thanks, I'm possibly going to try get into Oxbridge or the Ivy's so basically I'm gonna need to aim for the highest I can possibly get then. How much revision per day would you say would be a good amount to be on track to get over 80%? Just so that I can get my timetable sorted out right now so that I don't slack off at Uni or go out too much and instead mainly focus on getting the best percentage I can get.

I was no clear enough in my previous post - I was talking about research fellowships that are open to you after a PhD! Oxon, Cantab, Harvard, Stanford etc are then still interested in your undergrad scores, but few other places are. I don't know that Oxon etc care that greatly about your first being 70, 75 or 80 - they weren't interested in details when I did a postgraduate qualification there, but I already had qualifications coming out of my ears that supplanted my undergraduate degree. Perhaps one of their admissions reps would be able to clarify that point.

I basically treated my degree like a full-time job Monday to Thursday. I did not work Fridays at all until the final weeks of my PhD writeup - I effectively went 7 years without bothering myself to work of a Friday. I am a voracious reader, and I can take things in quickly - that was and is my strength, and it is that which helped the most.

I also boxed clever and worked smart, so did modules that I knew I could blow out of the water etc.

But with all this said, whilst I understand (and endorse) wanting a first class honours degree, I don't think that you should put too much pressure on yourself to get over 80. It wasn't by design that I managed it (I wasn't sure it was possible in my discipline), just a happy coincidence because of an exceptional final year.
(edited 2 years ago)
Reply 9
Original post by Anonymous
My A Levels aren't amazing either but I'm at a decent Uni I guess (only got in through clearing though). So if I was to come out with over 85% or something, I can put it down right and the Uni's will rate it higher than someone with a lower one?

I think as long as you get the First, which on average is about 70% in most unis, then I would just leave it at that as you already have attained the highest grade, and they could see that you have turned it around as it is compared to your previous studies. The only time which an 85% mark for example could be useful to put down, is if you were ranked best in the year or something along those lines, where you'd usually get an award or recommendation to go with that by a lecturer. So in that regard, it's always good to aim high.

Rather than the degree as a whole, it would probably be more worthwhile for you to emphasise the individual modules themselves, especially the dissertation as it is a serious undertaking that also makes up a significant proportion of your overall grade anyway. Hence, employers or academic institutions would look favourably at achieving a high score on that module, or a normal module if it is most relevant to a job/course application.

All the best for your goals, and good luck. :smile:
(edited 2 years ago)
I think if you aim for a high first, there is nothing wrong in it. It is never too high for Oxbridge :wink: but if you want to set a realistic goal as well as have a decent chance of getting in Oxbridge for Masters then, I’d say, for a course like management, you should aim for 75+. I think 80%+ would be quite difficult. Also keep in mind that this only applies to Oxbridge. Even top 30 unis that are not Oxbridge level will probably not demand you to get that high of a score.
Original post by Anonymous
So basically if I get a high first then I've got a better chance at getting to the top post-grad universities? Aight thanks, thats enough to know that I need to sweat when Uni starts. I'm personally aiming for a top 30 school itw for postgrad, so I was just wondering if a high first would make me look better than a low first or if they wouldn't care too much but I guess it seems like it'll look better so I might aswell put more hours into my studies to try achieve it.


Wait, so if I was to get over 85%, it doesn't really put me in much of a better position than those that just scraped a first? Like I said in my other reply, I just wanna get to a top 30 school itw for postgrad. Maybe a bit too ambitious but I just wanted to know if a high first would make me look
better applying to those post-grad uni's.

1. I said postgrad MIGHT care, not that they will care. There are many other elements to a post-grad app, especially if this is management and not STEM or something.

2. I don't think you're quite grasping what an 80% is. This isn't A-Levels where the more you study, generally the higher you get because it's all knowledge regurgitation. Past 70-79%, marks are given for drastically different reasons. Generally to reach these levels you'd need to be writing work that would've got you full marks (or more if it were possible) at A-Level. You can speak to your lecturer about exactly what this means but it's not a simple case of revising more.

3. The incremental benefit you get from getting 80 instead of say 75 is probably not worth the extra time you'd need to get there. You're better off focusing time on 1. Having fun 2. Improving career prospects by getting internships (post-grad apps also look at your CV btw, especially for business type degrees) 3. Actively participating in extracurriculars (which helps with 2).

4. I saw you say you want to go to an Ivy. I'm pretty sure most Ivy's don't do masters in management courses. If you were referring to an MBA, well you can't do an MBA till you have several years in industry, at which point they care more about the quality of your work experience and your GMAT score than whether you got 80 at undergrad level.
Yes, bear in mind that trying to get 80 in a humanities subject will take enormous work and also there are no guarantees as an element of subjectivity can come into the marking.
I don’t think you’ve understood the difference between school and uni grades yet. Until you’ve done your first year, saying you’ll get a first or a high first is frankly pipedreams esp given your A level grades. Focus on what you are doing NOW not some imaginary future

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