Our Blog

What extracurricular activities look best on a university application form?

24th May 2018

What are extracurricular activities?

Extracurricular activities are activities that are not required on the set school curriculum, but which you take part in out of school hours or during school lunch breaks.

When you are applying to university, extracurricular activities are important because they teach you skills you will need at university such as time management. They also develop your interests.

What skills do not necessarily count as extracurricular activities? 

If an interest is purely self-centred, then it won’t add anything beneficial to your university application form. The extracurricular activity has to contribute some value to your application.

Sometimes you can turn an enjoyable pastime into something more valuable for a university application. For example, if you enjoy playing computer games you could look to join a computer gaming design club or a computer animation club. You could also start your own blog or website about computer gaming.

What do universities look at aside from academic results?

When it comes to university applications, admissions officers will always look at the applicant’s academic results in the relevant subject areas.

However, admissions officers look at extracurricular or after school activities to help distinguish between applicants with the same grades, as predicted A-level grades are not always reliable. 

Extracurricular activities help the admissions team to assess your personality and your strengths - enabling them see if you will be happy and thrive at their university. These activities can be seen as a tool that helps the admissions team to see what your interests and passions are.

Ideally, your chosen extracurricular activities should enrich your academic interests and you must enjoy the activity.

Before choosing an extracurricular activity to highlight on your university application, you need to carefully think about:

  1. What skills you can offer

  2. Causes you are most passionate about that you can give your time to

  3. How much time out of school you have to offer

On your university application form, your extra curricular activities or after school activities need to demonstrate:

  1. What transferable skills you have from the activity to the academic subject that you will be studying at university

  2. What strengths you can display 

  3. The impact that you have made to others

  4. Any rewards or praise you have received 

What are the different types of extracurricular activities?

There are several types of extracurricular activity, including: 

The academic extracurricular activity

An academic extracurricular activity can directly relate to your chosen university subject. This shows the admissions team that you are genuinely passionate about your chosen degree subject and not just picking it at random. Students who are genuinely interested in their chosen subject will be more likely to succeed and more likely to innovate.

 After school clubs can illustrate this. If your school doesn’t have a club that you want to join, you could start your own. You can easily set one up with the help of teachers. Include club badges so that members instantly feel part of a community.

Volunteering extracurricular activities

Volunteering work - whether in your local community or abroad - can display commitment, problem-solving skills, care and leadership skills. It will show that you are a concerned citizen, take responsibility and will be a potentially inspiring leader. Universities are looking for students who can make a difference.

There are numerous way to volunteer - from volunteering at your local elderly people’s home to working in wildlife conservation. 

Others include:

  1. Community festivals

  2. Charity events

  3. Local government

  4. Student council

  5. Amnesty International

  6. Cancer charities

  7. Environmental clubs

  8. Animal shelters

  9. Homeless shelters

  10. International volunteer program

  11. Mentoring

Extracurricular activities that display your personality

You might take part in some activities solely because you have a real passion for them, but you might not be taking that subject further. These activities can provide a real insight into your personality and ability and may include: 

  1. Scouts

  2. Chess club

  3. Equestrian club

  4. Fashion club

  5. Sewing club

  6. Photography club

  7. School or local magazine

  8. School or local newspaper

  9. School or local radio station

  10. Military clubs

  11. The Duke of Edinburgh Award

  12. Dance club

  13. Debating club

  14. Political clubs 

  15. Sports clubs

  16. Religious clubs

  17. Music clubs

  18. Bands

  19. Choir

  20. Orchestra

How to fit extra curricular activities into your schedule

Using your time after school wisely can help shape your future and add to your university application. You can also look out for lunch clubs, weekend activities and school holiday activities. 

Firstly brainstorm all the extracurricular ideas you have, then choose some that relate to your skill-set and interests. Don’t take on too much - it’s about quality rather than quantity.

Take this opportunity to find a new interest, or to turn something you already enjoy doing into an activity that will benefit your university application form and others in your community.