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Eight Myths about Applying to Graduate Schemes Debunked

By Mathilde Frot

Updated March 30, 2021 Updated March 30, 2021

There’s a lot of unwarranted negative talk and scaremongering around graduate schemes these days, with major websites publishing alarmist stories about graduate schemes and graduate jobs virtually every fortnight…  Read on for our eight myths about applying to graduate schemes, and don’t let killjoys and common misconceptions ruin your fun.  

Graduate Scheme Myth #1: “Only business students can apply.”

You don’t need to have studied economics or finance to get a graduate job at one of the Big Four. It’s actually very common, especially in some countries, to study something completely unrelated to what you will be doing later on, and that is especially true of non-vocational subjects like English literature or history.

For quite a few employers across various sectors and disciplines, in fact, your degree will primarily only signify two things: 1) that you are able to meet course commitments and deadlines and 2) that you are able to study a subject at a higher level.

Graduate Scheme Myth #2: “I’ve missed my chance. All the deadlines were in September.”

While most graduate schemes operate a September deadline for schemes running the following year, some schemes such as those with, for instance, PwC, Red Bull or Procter & Gamble, continue to recruit as late as July!

Also, don’t forget that you can apply for schemes after you graduate. If you don’t manage to get into a scheme the first time round, there will always be next year…Of course, it’s generally a good idea to apply as early as you can! The places are very few and the applicants many.

Graduate Scheme Myth #3: “I need a five-year plan.”

You’re not quite sure what job you want to do? That’s okay! Most people don’t figure this one out until they’re well into their late twenties and thirties. Not having a plan might even be an advantage and give you the freedom to explore different paths – which is exactly what graduate schemes are all about!

Don’t forget that new graduate jobs are created every day and that the workplace is undergoing such tremendous changes across countries and sectors, that most professionals today in fact would have a very hard time forecasting what their current job will look like in five years. 

Graduate Scheme Myth #4: “Graduate schemes are impossible to get into with a 2:2.”

While most schemes don’t ask for a specific degree, many do use classification as a filter in the recruitment process. Happily, many organizations such as Jaguar Landrover, the Civil Service, and Network Rail will accept a 2:2.

Volunteering, part-time work and leading a student society are just some of the many ways you could differentiate yourself. Once you get in, your performance in the workplace and experience will carry more weight than your degree classification.

Graduate Scheme Myth #5: “I need work experience.”

If you haven’t got Arrested Development character Maeby Funke’s talent for snatching up opportunities, and very little previous work experience under your belt, all is not lost! The whole point of graduate schemes is to help fresh graduates try a new field and figure out their strengths and interests.

Graduate Scheme Myth #6: “Graduate schemes are only for the private sector.”

False! Many public sector and not-for-profit organizations, such as the UK’s Metropolitan Police or Charity Works, offer graduate schemes!

Graduate Scheme Myth #7: “Graduate schemes = cash.”  

You might start off on a slightly higher salary on a graduate scheme (around £25,000 in the UK) than you would on a regular graduate job, but promotions will not necessarily follow. A job with a flexible and dynamic SME, by contrast, might be likely to expose you to more tasks earlier on in your career and to more frequent and systematic salary increases. So, sorry, but this belief is not always true!

Graduate Scheme Myth #8: “Only the biggest companies run graduate schemes.”

Only 14% of graduates find jobs with blue chip companies when they graduate. Most fresh graduates work with SMEs. The advantages of starting your career with a smaller company are in fact many! You can expect to find more flexibility, hands-on experience from day one, ongoing training and in some cases a friendlier work environment.

This article was originally published in May 2016 . It was last updated in March 2021

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I'm originally French but I grew up in Casablanca, Kuala Lumpur and Geneva. When I'm not writing for QS, you'll usually find me sipping espresso(s) with a good paperback.