There is a substantial body of quantitative evidence about the benefits of higher education. However there is little qualitative evidence about the extent to which these benefits accrue to graduates from non-traditional backgrounds. This paper contributes to this gap in knowledge by exploring the experiences of a group of 15 graduates 10 years after they had started at university. The cohort was unusual because they had all completed a college-level qualification before going on to study at an elite university. We draw attention to the impact of higher education on their positions in the labour market, as well as to their development of learning identities that supported them to make changes in their personal and professional lives. Although higher education brought real benefits to the cohort, including better employment prospects and the development of confidence in themselves, we show that they were clustered in various caring and public sector professions at the lower end of the graduate labour market.