You’ve probably heard of ‘extracurricular activities, and probably do a few of them yourself. The ‘extra’ refers to an activity being outside of your regular curriculum such as doing a sport or enrolling in a First Aid course.
Supra-curricular activities are those that take your regular curriculum further. They take the subjects you study in the classroom beyond that which your teacher has taught you or what you have done for homework. For example, you may go into more depth on something you picked up in the classroom, or learn a new topic altogether. These activities are normally in the form of extra reading but they can take many other forms, like watching videos online, downloading lectures, visiting museums or entering academic competitions. It could even be an independent project like the Welsh Baccalaureate study completed in Year 13.
To do well at a top university, it is important to have two things:
- Passion for your subject
- A capacity for independent study
These are two of the most important qualities that top universities look for in potential students. Doing something like extra reading or entering an essay question in your subjects are good ways to check if you have the passion for your subject, even when your homework is done for the week, it’s a positive sign that you’ve chosen the right thing!
It is important that you love your subject, as from this naturally comes the motivation to study for yourself and explore what’s out there. Universities look for you having done this as it can indicate not only your capacity for self-study which is vital for a successful time at university, but how you respond to the new ideas that you come across. This is something that you can work on, by pushing yourself to absorb new information actively, getting to grips with arguments, challenging assumptions and uncovering weaknesses.
SUPRA CURRICULAR ACTIVITIES
The Clever Podcast is all about design and inspiring interviews with top designers.
Chemistry – RSC learn chemistry
Edge magazine is an online resource that brings together leading thinkers in their fields and within broad subject areas – mind, life, culture, universe and technology. Expert conversations range from Alzheimer’s prevention to ‘How to be a systems thinker’.
Films, Documentaries and Radio Films and documentaries are a good study point for understanding your subject. The radio, particularly BBC Radio 4 have a wide range of programmes and podcasts. For example, ‘The Infinite Monkey Café’ if you are a scientist.
Isaac Physics Is described as a Department of Education project at the University of Cambridge. It aims to give students transitioning from GCSEs to Sixth Form, to university, insight into and understanding of physics by problem solving. A Level resources range from problem solving, mentoring schemes to extension resources (includes a section on maths questions to help prepare for a STEM course interview).
Khan Academy has free online courses and lessons.
MOOCs – online courses
MOOCs is short for Massive Open Online Courses that are mostly free. The range of online courses available is huge, from those that may be related to the subject being studied at university level to those that help develop soft skills. By selecting courses carefully, students can show a passion for their subject at university level.
- Alison (https://alison.com/courses) offers a range of courses, from art to humanities.
- Coursera (https://www.coursera.org/) has a range of courses and works in partnership with top universities and organisations to offer courses online. Courses range from an Introduction to Engineering Mechanics to Introduction to Mathematical Thinking, and more.
- EdX (https://www.edx.org) has a wide selection of courses, ranging from science to languages and law. EdX was founded by Harvard University and MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology).
- Futurelearn (https://www.futurelearn.com) has partnered with leading universities to provide a wide range of MOOCs. See their website and go to individual university pages to explore the range of MOOCs available
- Udacity (https://eu.udacity.com/) is focused on courses related to computing.
- Udemy (https://www.udemy.com/) has a wide range of online courses, from design and photography to IT and software.
Moral Maze –
Interesting debates on BBC Radio 4
Museums – various
Guggenheim has many free art books
My HE Plus is hosted by Cambridge University. The website aims to give students the opportunity to explore different subjects beyond the school curriculum. Each subject section has been put together by Cambridge postgraduate students and academics who are at the cutting edge of research in their field. As well as guided activities, there are questions to think about and suggestions for further reading.
Created by Oxford University, Oxplore aims to engage young people in debates and ideas that go beyond the classroom. A wide range of subjects are covered, from archaeology to zoology, and linked to the latest research being carried out at Oxford.
Societies and Clubs Enrol in a relevant society and club they usually have cheaper student membership and it will give you access to all sorts of resources.
Staircase 12 is hosted by Oxford University and has a wealth of an online resources and information with lots of ideas to help students extend their knowledge beyond the school syllabus.
TED talks. Most students are familiar with TED talks and they are a great source of inspiring talks from leading experts. A good place to start are ted talks recommended by students for students.
https://blog.ed.ted.com/2017/03/16/9-ted-talks-recommended-by-students-for-students/ or https://www.weareteachers.com/ted-talks-students/
Trips and Visits Visit museums as there will be a museum for every subject. Arrange a visit to a factory if you wish to study engineering or a trip abroad if you wish to study a language. Visit local theatres to enhance your understanding of drama, arts and media. Attend lectures offered UCW Aberystwyth.
Volunteering is a great way to get experience and do something good while also gaining a range of transferable skills to help with students’ university applications.
Students should think carefully about the time commitment needed as well as what they will gain from the activity, and what they can offer too. It might help students to volunteer for activities that relate to their preferred university degree course. If this is not possible, then to think about the transferable skills they may gain that relate to their degree course. Volunteering could also provide the opportunity to develop soft skills that says something positive about a student. Students can look for volunteering roles via several organisations:
V-inspired is the UK’s main volunteering charity for 14 to 25-year olds. The charity helps young people to make a mark on causes they care about while learning new skills at the same time. It is possible to search by area and a specific interest or activity and find something to suit the student’s interests. There are also activities that you carry out online.
Do-it lists volunteering opportunities for all ages so with a little persistence, students may find volunteering opportunities locally, searching by activity and area or postcode.
Why Not Chem Engineering has everything students need to know about chemical engineering.
Students are advised to read around the subject they plan to study and keep up to date with developments in their subject of choice. This can be through journals or through books written by experts in their areas of interest, or documentaries. A starting point may be to look up university research/areas of development/projects, which can be found on individual university websites. Use the suggestions for your subject / career choice on the Unifrog site.
Students are advised to gain work experience relevant to their chosen field of study. This will not only give students an insight into their preferred subject/career, but it enables them to make an informed choice and it shows a level of commitment to the degree subject they are planning to study.
Yale lectures. Yale, one of the best US universities publish all their lectures for some of their courses on you tube
Note to parents/guardians
Some students will be self-motivated enough to read, listen and organise these things for themselves. It is worth talking to friends and family about places of relevance and asking for contacts of local businesses.
Note to students
Whatever you do, keep a log and perhaps more importantly, what you have learned from the experience. It is really easy to forget about the trips that you have been on and books that you have read. You can create your own lists or use the Unifrog site.