A study of 216 graduates found that A-level students are more likely to complete degrees but their vocational counterparts achieve better scores.
The research - by Lesley Sumner and Richard Ralley, of Edge Hill university, Lancashire - suggests universities may be underestimating students on FE vocational courses.
While those with academic qualifications succumb to stress, those with vocational training have more stamina and are more focused on their future.
This is partly because vocational students are more likely to have taken a break from education and experienced the world of work.
Dr Sumner said: "They tend to be better at things like planning ahead, looking at situations and interpreting them in terms of positive growth and personal development, and acceptance of stress, knowing that sometimes you just have to get on with things.
"Those from A-level backgrounds perhaps aren't really considering their career options and life chances, and they almost go into higher education automatically, whereas the ones who have a gap and come back into education have really thought about what they are doing.
"It could be a relatively short gap, for travelling or to earn money, or they could have been in more formal employment, but the key factor is around them having some sort of gap, and that is true primarily of the vocational students."
The research focused on students from Edge Hill university, which has a higher proportion of vocational entrants. Academics hope to expand the research to other institutions.
Dr Sumner added: "This study could prove to be a real turning point into how A-levels are perceived and the kudos that is given to vocational courses.
"It has been long assumed that the most effective way to achieve a good degree is to sit A-levels first.
"However, this research indicates that this is not the case. Whilst there are undoubted benefits to sitting A-levels, getting a good degree is not necessarily one of them and it may be that we need an in-depth review of how to help our students achieve the best possible degree from university."