Preparing your university application isn’t the most fun part of your school career. We know this well ourselves. Trying to make yourself sound like you’re the coolest, smartest, and most experienced person on the planet when you are not yet even eighteen is not the easiest thing in the world.
However, it is something that has to be done. And if you are going to do it, you may as well do it as well as you can. Sell yourself in the best possible way. Make yourself sound confident and competent, but not cocky. Show whoever is reading it that there are things that you are interested in beyond school or getting into uni.
You’ll have things that you’ll need to put on that application already. Proof that you’re academically able. Evidence that you the course to which you are applying actually interests you. All of those school-based clubs and activities that you are told to put down. Work experience would help too.
But something that you absolutely shouldn’t neglect to include is after-school activities, those personal interests and passions that don’t necessarily have anything to do with school at all.
Why Having Outside Interests Makes Uni Admissions People Happy
So, why is it that universities – institutions that are dedicated to research and academic knowledge – should care at all about your extra-curricular activities, interests and hobbies? Why should these things matter at all to them?
That’s simple. Because interests that you have outside of school do not stay outside of school. Extracurricular activities are not strictly extra. Hobbies and interests aren’t these random things that you just fill your time with. Rather, they are crucial to your growth and development as a human being – and they give you important soft skills too.
So, here are some of the things that universities will look for in your interests outside of school. Yes, it’s about transferable skills, but it’s also about showing that you are a well-rounded and independent person who is more than just a kid in a classroom.
Find out how relevant work experience can help your application!
It Shows You’re More than Just Your Academic Performance
So, whether you are volunteering for a political cause, playing in team sports, or beating the world at chess, having some sort of extracurricular activity on your university application will show that you are more than your exam results or your test scores.
Strong academic performance is no guarantee that you will be successful in your application. Most applicants to university have strong academic performance.
Rather, show the admissions team a bit of personality and character. You are – and should be – more than just your grades.
It Proves You are an Independent Person
Whether stamp collecting, marathon running, or guitar playing, your interests show that you have ideas and opinions of your own. Kids at high school age don’t necessarily have these – and yet they are something that universities are always on the lookout for.
Why? Because much of your studies will be driven by your personal interests – from research projects to essays. If you don’t have any personal interests at all, these studies may not turn out very well in the end.
Independence – meaning independent thought, ideas, and pursuits – makes a great student. It allows you to follow those lines of inspiration that are only yours.
Extracurricular Activities Show What You’re Passionate about
Passion is one of the great qualities of a student. It shows dedication, commitment, and perseverance, all things that make someone good at learning.
If you can be passionate about mountain climbing or ballet dancing, you can be passionate about your studies too. And that you are passionate at all – that you are actually enthusiastic about something – puts you in a better position to bring different ideas to your studies.
However, you do need to be sincerely interested in the thing that you are pursuing. If your involvement is solely for the benefit of your university application, don’t bother. People can see through it.
Find out how school activities and competitions can help too!
One of the questions about applying to university is actually quite an interesting one. Is it better to suggest that you have dedicated your life to the subject to which you are applying – literature, say, or science – or is it better to show how broad your interests are?
If you’ve noticed this heading above, you’ll assume that it is the latter. Right you are.
Simply put, no one is just interested in the one thing. It is probably rather unhealthy if you are. If lots of things interest you, it’s a sign of a more curious, inquisitive mind.
You’ve Seen the World Beyond the Classroom
So many kids know how to learn the course for their exams, but don’t know what it actually happening in the world outside the window. They can learn their notes happily enough, but they wouldn’t be able to apply their learning to any new scenario.
Extracurricular activities can show you more about the world than you would ever learn in the classroom. And this can show in the way that you interact with others.
You’ll Improve Your Grades
According to one study, there is a link between whether or not you do extracurricular activities and the grades you achieve. As in, if you do lots outside of school, you are much more likely to perform better in school.
So, if you are worried about your extracurricular activities getting in the way of your study time, don’t. They’ll probably have the opposite effect instead.
Acquire Different Life Skills
Call them what you will: communication skills, social skills, soft skills. You’ll develop a different sort of intelligence – and hone all sorts of different skills – by getting your head out of the textbook and putting yourself out there into different contexts and environments.
Your time management skills, your problem-solving skills, your planning and evaluating skills. All of these will flourish, as you will be challenged to think differently and in unfamiliar places.
Of course, universities know that those with greater life experience make for better students too.
Find out how to get a job and help your application!
What Counts as an Interest Outside of School?
So, what things in your list of hobbies can you productively use in your university application? Are there any that you should leave out? Are there some that should definitely be included?
Firstly, it is best to avoid anything that is illegal or generally unethical. If your favourite hobby is to burn ants with a magnifying glass like the evil kids in movies, it’s probably not worth mentioning in your personal statement. Let’s just be clear on this fact first.
However, anything that shows you to proactive, committed, and well-rounded can be effectively used. Do you like music? Get it in your personal statement! Do you attend a bird-watching club? Put it in your personal statement! If it’s skateboarding you like, why not put it in your application?
Concrete achievements in these fields are going to help: certificates, awards, clear markers of progress. Think musical grades or sports competitions.
Does it Need to be Relevant to Your Course?
Of course, it is going to help if your interests are perfectly aligned to the subject that you are intending to study. If you know your poetry inside out, and it is what you do in your free time, of course that’ll help your English application. Meanwhile, if you’re applying to a computing degree and making apps is your favourite thing, of course that is going to help.
However, your outside interests do not need to be aligned to your degree subject, by any means. Not at all. Trail running can speak to a history degree, just as writing poetry can help you apply to a geography course.
It’s much more about the skills you demonstrate and the character that you evidence than the activity per se. At the end of the day, commitment is commitment – and life skills are transferable.
Doing it Isn’t Enough: Selling Your Interests Well
However, as in any university application – and as with every element of your history and passions – doing the activity is not enough in itself. No university professor wants to see just a list of musical instruments you play or a list of sports that you enjoy.
Rather, the important thing is showing the characteristics above in your personal statement. Help out the admissions team by reflecting on what your interests have taught you more widely.
It’s not enough to have done the activity. You have to show them why it matters too.