Getting passionate about first class degrees with Nathan Ghann

[Kealie Mardell | Print Editor]

Nathan Ghann graduated from the University of Hertfordshire with a first class degree in Economics and Marketing, and has dedicated his passion and commitment to helping other students around the country reach their first class goals.

Selected as one of the Top Ten Most Outstanding Graduates in the UK, Nathan’s journey has seen success in founding the Herts Entrepreneurs society, his own business, and delivering inspirational talks to thousands of students on how to achieve a first class degree.

But Nathan’s path wasn’t always paved for these sky-high achievements. Back when he was studying A-levels, he received a U grade in Economics.

“That absolutely shattered me, I was distraught,” he said. “I didn’t know why that was happening to me.”

Not one to be knocked back by a challenge, Nathan took this as a chance to prove himself and got a place to study Economics and Marketing at Herts.

“I wanted to understand the nuts and bolts of how business works,” he said. “But I like the marketing side of things which shows how you say things work, how you sell it, that was what interested me.”

Even through his first year at university, Nathan held on to those self-doubts, the set-backs from low grades and rejections.

“I never thought that I was smart,” he admits. “I just thought I was academically challenged. When you think that and have those beliefs it stops you. It was a really limiting belief that I held.”

Things changed for Nathan. Not through grades, not through anybody else, but his own determination. He struggled with rejections when applying for his placement year and was averaging low and inconsistent grades.

“A rejection is always crushing, but it also highlighted how far away I was from the truth about what was needed to get a good job,” he said. “It created a passion in me to find out everything I needed to know about how to get a good job and what they’re looking for.”

This learning curve taught Nathan to recognise the attributes sought after by employers. From studying the job specifications before an interview, learning how to demonstrate the skills needed, and evidencing the things which make you stand out from the competition. One of the things Nathan identified a need for was a high class degree.

“I remember it so vividly, I woke up in bed one morning and said I have to go for the highest grades possible,” he said. “I’m going to try and get a first or die trying.”

In his final year Nathan started to see success. He had started the Entrepreneurs Society which had close to 1,000 members, and sponsorships from the likes of Microsoft. He had started his own business which received an award from the Federation of Small Businesses, and was selected as one of the Top Ten Most Outstanding Graduates at the House of Lords.

“I was coming into success in all these areas, and then I got the first,” he said. “But I still felt there was a little hole. I didn’t go through all of that just to be successful in my own right.”

Nathan realised that while everyone has their own strengths, their own gifts and talents, it wasn’t about using them for yourself. It was about finding how to use your strengths and progress them for others.

“There’s another student out there who is going to need this help, another student who feels that same way, feels inadequate like how I felt,” Nathan realised. “I wanted to show them that it can be done.”

Starting the first class journey

In 2010 Nathan gave his first talk at the University of Hertfordshire, before he had even graduated.

“I remember standing behind the stage and you hear all these students whispering amongst themselves,” he said. “I was literally shaking, I had to sit down, I was really nervous.

“As soon as I stood on the stage it became not about me anymore, it became about them. I think my confidence comes from my journey and my experience. This is the truth about what you need to know going forward.”

Through word of mouth and recommendations he was contacted by other universities around the country. He started to recognise the patterns across different areas and reaching out to more students.

“Before I knew it I’d spoken to over 2,500 students from 20 different universities and it just blew up,” he said. “There was this culture of people saying I can get a first, and going for it.”

At the time, this was something that nobody else was doing, something which seemed weird to Nathan. No-one was going out and sharing their experiences on how they had got their first class degrees.

“I knew I had to do it, it was very important to me,” he said. “Seeing today that we’ve helped 150 first class graduates is absolutely amazing. That’s my reward.”

Finding your skills and passion

Outside his first class talks, Nathan is still running his own business. was born from the need for small businesses to harness the power of the web and social media.

Utilising his strengths, Nathan recognised that there was a gap in the market and used his own skills and unique perspective to fill it. He urges students that they are immensely valuable, and that success comes from harnessing your value.

However, Nathan is not content to stay put with the success he has already achieved. He is working towards his Masters and constantly developing new programmes and materials to help students obtain their first class degrees.

“That place of inadequacy starts to loom over my head,” he said. “I don’t want to settle, I don’t want to ever go back to that place. I always want to push myself and challenge myself.”

These are some of the key attributes of first class students. With only 10% of UK graduates achieving a first class degree it takes a dedication and passion to reach your high class goals.

“The people that go for the first understand the value of the first,” Nathan said. “They understand that they need to separate themselves from other people when it comes to the job market, and that comes through in their passion and their hunger for wanting to get it.

“Those are the students that I love to work with. I can tell them the how, but I need them to want it first.”

Constantly evolving

His new mentoring programme for the University of Hertfordshire Business School aims to ‘sustainably help students to continue getting firsts’ through an all-round perspective.

“I’m training mentors who will have the knowledge and information I have to be able to help other students going forward,” he said. These students then continue on to mentor those in the years below them, creating a continuous cycle of high-achieving students pushing each other forward.

“I’ve been doing this for five academic years now,” he explained. “I looked at all my notes, and there are over 15,000 words. That’s like a dissertation on how to get a first.”

What started as Nathan’s own journey of getting a first has developed to include that of other students, the perspective of joining academic staff, and now from a Masters level.

“It’s a journey, I’m learning things all the time and noting them down,” he said. “I think it’s amazing how many ways there are to get a first, but I do see a pattern. The principles are around passion, discipline, focus, determination; these [are the] things that can’t be taught.”

The mentor programme is currently only available for students within the Business School, but Nathan hopes to open the principles across the board in the future. He also welcomes anyone to attend his development talks and apply his advice to their own disciplines.

These development sessions take place throughout the year and will be publicised on StudyNet. Nathan will also be continuing to develop his business, working towards his first class Masters, and is hoping to start lecturing in the future. With plans to leverage his skills in social media to reach out to more students around the country – stay tuned!

This year’s first issue of BlueMoon will include some of Nathan’s top tips for getting a first so make sure you grab a copy!

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