Do British universities neglect extracurriculars?

Let’s be clear. When it comes to university admissions in the UK, achievement in extracurriculars would never compensate for low academic ability. But if you are considering ditching all your after-school activities, think again.

It is true that UK universities are not particularly keen to learn about your non-academic interests – you will be assessed according to your academic ability and potential for the subject you wish to study at university. However, if the activity is closely related to your chosen subject and that you do well in it, that’s a whole new ball game.

The concept of “supercurriculars”

Supercurriculars are activities that fall outside the realm of the normal school curriculum, but are specifically linked to an academic subject. Think of them as the “next-level extracurriculars” with a primary purpose of extending your knowledge of the specific subject in greater depth and breadth.

Engaging in supercurriculars is one of the best ways for students to stand out from the crowd in the application process, especially for high-flyers who are aiming for top universities or popular courses, where academic excellence alone is no longer the deciding factor.

How to pick the right supercurriculars?

Your choice of supercurriculars will depend on your passion (what you enjoy most) and strengths (what you are good at), so there isn’t a single winning set per se. But based on my personal observation and experience with successful placements, there are 5 guiding principles on choosing supercurriculars that will help you stand out from the crowd and optimise your experience, regardless of the subject:

1. Identify your area of interest

This should be your starting point. Supercurriculars are here to offer stimulations of your favourite subject. It is crucial that you pick an area within your chosen subject that you are passionate about so that you can truly enjoy the activity and maintain motivation to keep stretching yourself in the process.

2. Make sure it is highly relevant

The whole point of supercurriculars is to deepen your understanding of your area of interest, so the activity that you pick should be closely related to your chosen subject. If there is no meaningful connection, don’t waste your time on it.

3. Maximise your involvement

Supercurriculars are only helpful when you are fully engaged, both for the purposes of your own academic exploration and for impressing the admissions office. Aim for achievement and not mere participation.

4. Articulate your learnings

A long list of supercurriculars without your personal input tells people nothing about your academic ability. The admissions office is eager to know what interesting insights or new perspectives you’ve developed from the activity, so make sure you articulate your thoughts on the personal statement and at the interview.

5.Don’t be too greedy

Many students are over-scheduled with all kinds of activities, but the truth is: quality is far more important than quantity. You’ll benefit a lot more if you do exceptionally well in one activity than just muddling through a thousand of things superficially, as a focused approach will help you delve into the subject more effectively.


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The Edge Learning Center is Hong Kong’s premier Test Preparation, Academic Tutoring, and Admissions Consulting services provider. Founded in 2008, The Edge has helped thousands of students improve their ACT and SAT scores as well as their IB and AP grades. The AC team has just finished off another successful period in which students gained acceptance to schools such as Columbia, Yale, UChicago, UPenn, Oxford, and more! Check out our latest Admissions Results!