Extracurricular activities for uni application

(158 Posts)
Puzzledmum Sun 04-Sep-16 08:42:14

Hi, could you share what extracurricular activities did your DC in order to earn "brownie points" for their uni applications?
My DD has been doing music to a high level (since the age is 3) and is planning to do some volunteering next year.
I know they need to do something which will show they have leadership skills too and am trying to help her decide on what to do about it. But what else? What have your DC have on their CVs which helped them to secure a place at a good uni?

yeOldeTrout Sun 04-Sep-16 08:46:06

I thought XCs made no diff on British applications, but they can give a person something useful to talk about at interview.

BertrandRussell Sun 04-Sep-16 08:46:17

it's really important to know that extra curricular activities carry no weight at all for university admissions unless they are directly related to the course being applied for. So if he wants to study music, then his music is relevant- otherwise it's not. If he has an interview it will give him something to talk about. But really, it's grades they want.

haybott Sun 04-Sep-16 09:01:07

Extra-curriculars and leadership skills are irrelevant for the vast majority of UK courses. Around 90-95% of courses (including many at higher ranked universities) give offers based entirely on grade profile, with the decisions made by administrators according to set criteria. Students with the required predicted grades, or close to the predicted grades, would then get an offer automatically.

At the 5-10% of courses which are more selective, selection is also based on interview, aptitude tests and other factors if appropriate (e.g. portfolio, work experience for medicine/vet candidates) but still not on extra-curriculars which are not relevant to the course.

Only 5% or so of university courses interview these days.

BertrandRussell Sun 04-Sep-16 09:08:59

I wonder whether a "sticky" saying this could go at the top of the education board.

Puzzledmum Sun 04-Sep-16 09:08:59

That is very surprising and interesting for me! In fact it is also a bit of a relief!wink thank you very much, I'll let her know to get working on these grades and not worry too much about extras!

Brokenbiscuit Sun 04-Sep-16 09:14:34

I think the point is that our DC should do extra-curricular activities for the intrinsic rewards that they bring - enjoyment, satisfaction, confidence etc. Not for university applications, where they are a complete irrelevance, as others have said.

Needmoresleep Sun 04-Sep-16 09:38:12

Haybott's percentages are about right. DD sucessfully applied for a medicine course where, unusually, 80% of the weighting on the initial sift was from PS, about as high as it gets. Even so her strong EC achievements were covered in a single sentence. (All those hours ferrying her places!) Her emphasis was on what she had gained in terms of resiliance , the ability to juggle priorities and achieve a work-life balance, plus how she used her skills in a volunteering context. In short, that sucess in EC had given her life skills that would make her a better student.

That said from observation, EC do seem to make some difference at the margins on very competitive courses. Haybott may correct, but other things being equal and they do seem to need to be equal, Oxbridge colleges seem to like choristers, musicians, debaters, and people who are strong rowers, hockey players etc. I assume its partly the fact that an applicant can not only meet entry standards but has time for other things, and that they are likely to make a contribution to college life. The same does not seem to apply to London Universities, though might make a difference elsewhere. These applicants though tend to be the ones who, if they are interested, will pick up offers from Ivies.

sendsummer Sun 04-Sep-16 09:40:55

I think the point is that our DC should do extra-curricular activities for the intrinsic rewards that they bring - enjoyment, satisfaction, confidence etc. Not for university applications,..
It would be good for this and PP's comments to be a sticky to save DCs being pushed into doing 'self improving' EC activities to build up a cv for university entrance . I think part of the confusion comes from the role of EC activities in gaining admission to selective independent schools. Also of course some parents may be thinking ahead to the profile required for USA universities.
Even for post university job applications interviewers will appreciate more the articulated enthusiasm about some present or past activity rather than a list of accomplishments.

BertrandRussell Sun 04-Sep-16 09:46:27

"That said from observation, EC do seem to make some difference at the margins on very competitive courses."
I really really hope they don't. Think how unfair that would be.....

sendsummer Sun 04-Sep-16 09:46:35

EC do seem to make some difference at the margins on very competitive courses. Haybott may correct, but other things being equal and they do seem to need to be equal, Oxbridge colleges seem to like choristers, musicians, debaters, and people who are strong rowers, hockey players etc. I assume its partly the fact that an applicant can not only meet entry standards but has time for other things, and that they are likely to make a contribution to college life..
These are a bonus for the college and the university once the candidates are selected but not part of the undergraduate academic selection process. Choral awards for example do not make academic selection easier nor does playing rugby for England.

Whatdoesaduckdo Sun 04-Sep-16 09:53:17

There are activities that can gain you additional UCAS points and that is really what is needed

Music
.....to learn that the exams you do will give you extra UCAS points from Grade 6 upwards. The points you can gain range from 5 UCAS points for a pass at Grade 6 to *75 points*for a Distinction at Grade 8.....

Volunteering
You can gain up to 50 extra UCAS points and help out a good cause by taking an ASDAN Community Volunteering Qualificationn*. At Award and Certificate level (Level 3), these qualifications give you 30 and 50 points respectively.

sendsummer Sun 04-Sep-16 09:54:01

Debating is an exception though since the skills from that would be useful at interviews for certain courses.

Brokenbiscuit Sun 04-Sep-16 09:57:45

Do universities really care about UCAS points, though? I think grades and subjects are what they base their decisions on.

Whatdoesaduckdo Sun 04-Sep-16 10:02:41

My daughter has done:-

NCS
NCS leadership training
She really enjoyed and for the bargain of £50 she had two one week adventure breaks.

Volunteering
She volunteers in a nursing home - reading to the residents or just chatting
Brownie leader

Sport
Skiff Rowing

She is A2 this year so whilst it may not make the biggest difference to her application it does give her a lot to talk about in any potential interview but most importantly it's made her a more independent, rounded person

So if as its suggested the personal statement is all a lot of nonsense I'm grateful it encourages students to get off their bums and get out and do things

goodbyestranger Sun 04-Sep-16 10:07:01

Slight irony in forcing DC to acquire leadership skills. Leadership skills and team player must be as underrated on personal statements as the word passion is now recognized to be.

My DC haven't found leadership skills or team playing to be necessary to their courses at all, for what it's worth.

haybott Sun 04-Sep-16 10:33:24

These are a bonus for the college and the university once the candidates are selected but not part of the undergraduate academic selection process.

This.

There are activities that can gain you additional UCAS points and that is really what is needed.

But only the lower tier of university courses, which are recruiting courses, make offers in terms of UCAS points. The rest make offers in the form of specific A level grades. You should include other UCAS points on your form, but they will not be part of your offer.

University league tables currently list the average UCAS points on entry, and universities like this because it obscures what grades they are actually taking in August (sometimes considerably below published offers). I think the league tables are going to switch in the near future to listing average scores for best 3 A levels so that it becomes much more apparent what grades are actually being taken.

Sadusername Sun 04-Sep-16 10:43:22

Some unis seem more interested than others.
I think Cambridge make it clear they are not interested in EC activities, but looking on the websites other universities do seem to care more. Durham seem to want you to show how you will contribute to college life and Birmingham asks you to spend 25percent of the ps telling them about yourself, interests, jobs, hobbies etc.
Although the bottom line will always be grades.

LRDtheFeministDragon Sun 04-Sep-16 10:46:34

Oxbridge colleges seem to like choristers, musicians, debaters, and people who are strong rowers, hockey players etc.

This isn't true - particularly about rowers and hockey players. It is a really, really annoyingly persistent myth.

It is true that, if you are applying for a music degree, they'll like the music bit. It is possible that, if you are able to make a really good case in interview for why your music or debating or whatever will hugely help your English Lit or History or whatever degree, you might also pick up a bit of credit. But, frankly, the credit is for making the good case as much as anything else.

homebythesea Sun 04-Sep-16 10:46:41

Honestly there is very little room on the UCAS form to wax lyrical about all the extra curricular activities. The best thing to do is read around the proposed subject, attend lectures or Uni taster days in that subject and talk about why you want to study it. Subject specific work experience would also in my view be more important than talking about being in The school netball team or whatever.

BertrandRussell Sun 04-Sep-16 10:47:30

If you think for 30 seconds you will be able to see why universities just can't take the vast majority of extra curricular activities into consideration...........

Puzzledmum Sun 04-Sep-16 12:18:50

Thank you all, most helpful comments. I completely agree that the EC should be done out of personal interest, to make you a rounded individual etc. This is why my DD has done what she's done so far. However, some of the parents at her very selective grammar are talking about starting to build a CV for uni etc and it got me panicked. She intends to go to an American uni for post grad so there EC might actually play some part.

goodbyestranger Sun 04-Sep-16 12:23:20

Some parents at selective grammars can over egg it Puzzledmum, especially if it's a first child off to uni.

HuskyLover1 Sun 04-Sep-16 12:58:23

Both of mine were told by their school, that it was VERY important to have extra curricular stuff of their applications.

DS did Boys Brigade, Duke of Edinburgh, Guitar

DD is studying to be a Teacher, and it was imperative that she volunteered in schools, whilst still at school herself. So in the last year, when she had gaps in her timetable she volunteered in a primary school. She also volunteered at her own school, working with first years. She also did a few weeks full time at another school, helping teachers.

BertrandRussell Sun 04-Sep-16 13:05:17

"Both of mine were told by their school, that it was VERY important to have extra curricular stuff of their applications."

Yes, many schools are seriously crap about giving university entrance advice.

And the volunteering your dad did is the sort of extra curriculars that do matter.

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