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If you’re in the U.K., you may be feeling a bit down about your chances of getting into one of the top universities in the country after you graduate, due to recent changes in grading standards in the secondary school system that were implemented this year. However, there’s no need to panic; if you earned a Second Class Lower in your A-levels or International Baccalaureate (IB) diploma, there are still plenty of great universities that will welcome you with open arms.
The more universities you apply to, the better your chances
This might seem counterintuitive, but with so many universities and such fierce competition, you’re going to have to apply to multiple schools if you really want to get into one of them. In fact, depending on where you’re studying it may be impossible for you to get in just applying to one school (some top schools only take students from other top schools). While that means more work for you—having to research and apply—it also means having more options at your disposal. The most competitive programs are generalist programs; look for a broad range of programs that interest you and then choose two or three very well-regarded ones within each category of study.
Work on your CV early
Instead of putting it off, spend an afternoon improving your CV and cover letter by checking out free resources on university websites, or finding new templates online. Another option is to do some networking: meet with professionals who can offer you valuable advice about your CV and what recruiters are looking for right now (this might also be a good time to ask them if they could recommend anyone who might be interested in hiring you). Yes, it’s work—but doing something once will save you from having to do it dozens of times when you start applying for jobs next year. And really, who wouldn’t want to get an A+ on their resume from day one?
Choose a uni with lower entry requirements
In an ideal world, you’d apply to your dream university and get accepted for your perfect course with no problem whatsoever—but alas, it doesn’t always work out that way. Thankfully, as long as you have a clear plan of attack (and decent grades), there are plenty of high-quality universities where you can go to kick-start your degree without breaking the bank or getting into debt.
Most UK universities are going to be looking for good grades, and of course, will always consider A levels as one of their most important factors. If you’re afraid that your second class lower is too much of a drawback, then think laterally about other experiences you may have had that demonstrate your passion for studying — such as tutoring younger children or developing extra-curricular skills such as playing an instrument or producing videos for YouTube. Admissions officers don’t just want candidates who excel academically; they want students who are engaged and can contribute to campus life at all levels. Look beyond your current grades to find another example of why you would make an excellent addition to their student body.
For those who’ve already sat exams, it may be too late to apply for these institutions with that lower grade – but for future students, some words of advice: study hard and take every opportunity you can, because getting into university is just as competitive at home as it is in England or Scotland. The reason? Owing to differences between national education systems, courses are offered at different stages and there’s less standardization across boarders – meaning that grades can vary more between regions than they would within your own country.
Keep your motivation up
Don’t give up on yourself just because you got one test grade or result that wasn’t as good as you wanted it to be. More than anything, it’s important to keep your motivation up and remind yourself that your intelligence is not defined by one mark on a piece of paper, or one challenging exam you can’t prepare for ahead of time. There will always be things out of your control, and what matters most is how you react to them—which should be with optimism, not negativity and doubt about who you are and what you can achieve. Keep moving forward; sometimes mistakes make us stronger and more determined than we otherwise would have been before they happened (and they teach us valuable lessons along the way).