You have probably heard the phrase ‘well-rounded student’ before, but what does it really mean in relation to extra curricular activities, and why is it so important for university applicants?
Well, in short, being a well-rounded student means being able to prove that you are not just an exam-sitting machine. To stand out from the crowd during the incredibly competitive university entrance process, students need to show that they are more than just a solid academic brain, and that their interest in their subject goes beyond the classroom.
What’s more, getting involved in a diverse range of activities will not only help you to perform better at school, but it could help you to discover the passion you want to pursue at university.
Still wondering why admissions officers love to see a colourful UCAS form? The Save My Exams Higher Education experts have broken down the facts for you in this informative blog post.
Getting the balance right
Achieving top grades in your GCSE and A Level exams is already a big challenge, and we are by no means downplaying their importance! However, although grades are a key determining factor, they won’t be enough to guarantee your place at a leading university.
Alongside a stellar academic record, ambitious students should also have a minimum of two strong extracurricular activities on the go. We’ll include some examples below! It’s important to note that this should be possible even if you only dedicate a few hours a week. The secrets are quality (try to do a couple of activities to a high standard rather than cramming your time with half-hearted commitments) and consistency.
Ideally, you should try to stick with the activities you choose for a long stretch of time. This shows that you can commit to a cause and be relied upon by others. If you’ve played for the same football team since you were a child or have been in the school orchestra since Year 7, that shows real sticking power – especially if you can keep them up alongside the pressures of Year 11 and Sixth Form.
Getting the balance right between schoolwork and extracurricular activities can be tricky. However, you don’t have to be a superhuman to keep up with both. It’s all down to effective time management.
As you get older, explore the opportunities for taking on more responsibilities within your extracurricular commitments. This will show your developing maturity, and help you to grow your leadership skills.
For example, if you are part of a debating club, join the committee and offer to organise for guest speakers to attend. If you take dance classes, look for opportunities to support the younger children or to organise a charity performance.
Which activities should I choose?
Ultimately, it’s important that you enjoy whichever activities you choose to participate in. They should serve as a distraction from the pressures of exams, and help you to make new friends and learn new skills. It also helps if the activity is convenient for you to do regularly – this will mean you are more likely to stick at it for the long term.
Here are our top-rated suggestions:
- If you play an instrument, join a band or orchestra, and if you enjoy singing, find a choir
- Volunteering in your community is always a good option, check out this website for some great suggestions
- Drama or theatre groups are a great way to build your confidence and creativity
- Budding scientists should talk to their science teachers about clubs, competitions and projects
- Local politicians often accept interns in their constituency offices, so if you’re interested in politics this could be a great opportunity to learn
- The Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme is well-regarded by many universities: read our blog post about it here
- Completing the EPQ can also help you to develop some valuable academic skills: read our blog post about it here
Don’t let yourself be limited by this list! There are hundreds of great options out there, and the more unusual options are even more likely to stand out.
What about sports?
Alongside the physical and mental benefits, getting involved in a team or individual sport can be a real asset to your university application.
This is because playing sport at a high level demands real focus, effective time management and a single-minded dedication to success.
If you have the chance to represent your school, county, or even your country, you should definitely seize it. Some universities even have special scholarships for talented sportspeople, so do your research when submitting applications.
Advice for aspiring medical students
To secure a place at a medical school, you’ll need to show that you have taken the initiative to gain some experience in the field.
It can be difficult to get work experience or volunteering roles in a hospital, so be prepared to explore alternatives. Hospices and care homes are often more readily-accepting of volunteers. Did you know that working with people with disabilities or special needs can also prove that you have the caring skills needed to become a good doctor?
If we could summarise the advice in this blog post in one sentence, it would be “Seek out extra curricular opportunities which you are passionate about, commit to them and always go the extra mile in your participation”. And of course, it’s never too early to get started!
We hope that you’re now feeling inspired, and that you have some new ideas too. We would love to hear more about the extracurricular activities which you love to participate in – send us a message or comment via our social media channels! (@SaveMyExams)