There are plenty of reasons why you might be um-ing and ah-ing about doing an Extended Project at sixth form. By the time the end of year twelve comes, you’ll probably be less than ecstatic about the prospect of working through your summer holiday. And you may well feel like school life in year thirteen is probably going to be stressful enough without needing to complete a five-thousand word written report as well.
However, there are always reasons not to do something. It’s stressful, you’ve got too much on, whatever. You can find some of those reasons at the bottom of this article. Yet, really, these aren’t usually legitimate reasons at all – sorry, but let’s be honest – and thinking just a little will make you realise that.
You have searched Google for the ‘benefits of the EPQ’ anyway, so you must be at least considering doing it.
And really, so you should be. Guys, this is potentially the first – and potentially the only – time at which you can pursue a personal interest in your secondary education. At which you can choose a topic that really interests you. At which you can do stuff actually by yourself. That’s important – and it does have actual benefits to your life. It’s not just something your teacher says.
Here, we’re going to look at some of these benefits of the Extended Project Qualification. Of course, we recommend that you do it. However, we’re not your teacher or your parent. We’ll tell you how it actually is.
Check out our overview of the EPQ whilst you're here.
Some of the Major Benefits of Doing the Extended Project
Yes, there are actually some benefits to doing the EPQ. And, believe it or not, it’s not all about your personal statement or applying to apprenticeships, higher education, or the world of work.
Of course, this stuff matters too – but it’s not everything. You’ll find that an EPQ helps you too. You know, you, as a person – rather than just as someone applying to university.
The EPQ helps all manner of things about you. But most of all, it probably helps your capacity for independent learning. Because think about it: you’re not going to have a teacher to help you to study forever are you?
You’ll be Exploring a Subject You’re Actually Interested in
Imagine a project in which the subjects you study are those that you actually want to study. That you are free to dive into and lose yourself in without being rudely awakened by a teacher or some reference to a syllabus. That you can shape yourself through independent study and for which you can manage your own timetable.
It would be nice, no? Well, that’s what Extended Project Qualifications are all about. Whether you are mad about maths or deeply passionate about English literature, crazy for medicine or media studies or fancy exploring a particular niche that no one else talks about, do an EPQ. Or just wait for university.
Find out more about choosing an EPQ topic here!
Of Course, It will Help Your UCAS Application
It is an indisputable fact about the UK education system that universities have entry requirements – and your attainment of the best grades in the best courses will set you up best in your university applications. It’s not like this in every country, but, in the UK, that’s the way it goes.
And UK universities love the EPQ. If you are applying to study at one of the top universities – Oxbridge, one of the Russell Group, or somewhere else – they will want to see a few crucial things. That you have interests that are extra-curricular; i.e. that you are a person. That you have some sort of independent research skills. And that you have a grasp of the basics of time management.
Given that the EPQ proves all of these, it shows that you can indeed succeed academically at university.
Universities will See You’re More than Just the Curriculum
Let’s talk about one of those points in further detail.
Say you’ve gone through secondary school having achieved the best exam results ever, having smashed your GCSEs and continuing to smash your A Level courses. You apply to university expecting to get in wherever you decide.
Another applicant might have slightly worse grades than you. However, in the interview, whereas you can only show a knowledge of the academic subjects you have studied at school, the other person can talk at length about things that interest them – and ways that they have pursued those things.
We’re not talking just about “extra-curricular activities” like playing a musical instrument or being the captain of the hockey team. Many of the top universities don’t care about this. They are interested in the level of your academic interests.
And the EPQ shows that you have some.
Employers too will Like to See Your Self-Motivation
UCAS points and Russell Group universities aside, there are plenty of other reasons to study for the EPQ. These include going into work.
Whilst employers care less about academic grades that you might be told at school, they do care about the range of skills you have. If you can prove that you have time management skills, some sort of independent initiative, and an ability to work on your own, you’re at an advantage.
Again, the Extended Project proves that you have all of these things.
You’ll Produce a Piece of Work that’s Really Quite Impressive
Throughout school, there are few things that you can look back on and feel really proud of. Most of it all gets lost in the frantic turnaround of pieces of homework and redrafts of coursework etc.
Yet, the thing with an EPQ is that you have done it all on your own. And you’ve actually got something substantial to show for it: an artefact or a five thousand-word essay. That’s really not something to be sniffed at.
So, do it – and feel good about yourself.
The Extended Project will Teach You Skills for Your Own Sake
Not every skill is a preparation for university or work. Not every qualification is something with which you can apply to the next thing.
These skills and qualifications have value in themselves – although you might not ever be told this stuff when you are at school. They do actually show you things about yourself that maybe you didn’t know before.
And that’s a good enough reason to get on and do them.
Improve Your Public Speaking and Presentation Skills
If you are shy person, there may well be a scary bit of the EPQ that you have identified already. Right at the end of the process, as if a painful cherry on top of the whole thing, there’s the presentation. Gulp.
This is far from easy for people who don’t like public speaking. However, it can be one of the greatest achievements that make up the EPQ. If you don’t like it, feel the fear and do it anyway. It’ll make it easier next time – and there will be a next time.
You can find out more about the EPQ presentation here.
Prove Your Staying Power
They say it generally takes 120 hours to do an EPQ. That’s quite a meaty chunk of time – through which you need to stay dedicated, through which you need to remember what on earth you are doing, and through which you need to keep smiling.
It’s a lot to ask – but you can do it. And really, sticking at something through to the end is not something they really teach you at school.
And Some of the Cons of the EPQ
Sure, there are some bad things about doing the Extended Project too. Really, there are downsides to everything.
When you are considering the EPQ, you’ll probably hear some of these things going through your mind:
- You’ll just have more work to do
- You don’t like presentations
- You’ve got to do it all by yourself
- You don’t have any interests!
Guys, these are not downsides at all. To anybody else’s ears, they sound just like excuses – or, to put it more sympathetically, reservations. Whilst these things are completely natural, you need to see the for what they are – and judge them accordingly.
So, if you have five A levels to be doing already, maybe the first one actually is a legitimate concern. If you have severe social anxiety, the second one makes sense. However, the last two have no real basis at all. You should, really, just get on with it.
Find out all you need to know about the EPQ in our guide to the Extended Project.