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The ultimate guide to super-curricular 

Getting into a top UK university can be extremely challenging, and the difference between being successful or not can often be found outside of your academic studies. 

Universities look beyond your grades, searching for students who are independent thinkers and learners. If you’ve got your heart set on getting into one of the best UK universities, then you need to identify what your interests are, and develop those interests intensively - both in and outside the classroom. 

This is where super-curricular activities can play a major role. In this article we will take a look at how super-curricular activities differ from extra-curricular activities, give examples of why they are important, and explore which activities the leading universities are looking for.

Super-curricular vs extra-curricular activities

There is every chance you will have heard of, and probably taken part in, extra-curricular activities, but you may not be as familiar with super-curricular activities. 

Extra-curricular activities are commonly referred to as activities that you undertake outside of your normal academic curriculum. These could be sports, music, or enrolling on a course of some kind. Extra-curricular activities can be used to develop skills which you may use throughout your life, here are just a few:

  • Soft skills are the personality traits, behaviours, and interpersonal skills that we use to interact with other people.

  • Leadership skills

  • Teamwork

  • Time management

Super-curricular on the other hand, are activities that take the subject that you’re studying beyond the syllabi set out by your course or your teacher. You may take something you’ve learned in the classroom or through homework, and go into greater depth, or you may focus on a new topic all together, as long as it still falls under the subject you’re studying, and take it upon yourself to learn more about it. Super-curricular is similar to extra-curricular in the way that it takes place outside of the classroom, but it differs by being intrinsically related to your academic studies. 

Why is super-curricular so important?

So why are super-curricular activities important? To begin with, they are key to doing well at university, but more importantly, if you’re applying, or planning to apply, to a top UK university then these activities are things that will stand out for admissions teams. This is because they demonstrate:

  • Passion and enthusiasm for your chosen subject

  • The desire to go beyond your high school curriculum, and

  • The ability to study independently

They can also help you settle more confidently on the subject you want to study at university. If you find yourself enjoying the exploration of a subject outside of your school work, then it’s a strong indicator that you are indeed passionate about that subject.

There are also skills to be gained from super-curricular activities which will help you do well in university interviews and assessments that you may have in the future. The ability to think critically, take on new information and consider topics from different perspectives, are all things that those interviews and assessments are designed to evaluate. By pushing yourself to learn new information, different concepts, and challenging the things you have already learned, you develop those skills independently. These skills don’t just apply to getting admitted to university. They will help you be a better university student, helping you achieve your academic goals.

Five super-curricular activities to support your university application

While super-curricular activities are important to your future studies, you may be wondering which ones are best to focus your time on to give you the best chance of attending a top university. Here are our top five super-curricular activities to help maximise your chances of getting into a leading university:

1. University-level study

This can come in several different forms depending on your circumstances. One option is a summer school, which provides degree level study in a program outside of the regular academic year. Another option is online courses, which have become prevalent in recent years and are an excellent way to access a higher level of learning in the subject of your choice. Remember to do your research carefully though, as choosing the right course that covers additional topics within your subject is important.

2. Essay competitions

These can be very helpful, especially if up to this point your studies haven’t involved much essay writing. This can often be the case for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects especially, as often the A level syllabi focuses on subject knowledge and requires very little writing. Again, make sure you do your research, and find a competition that meets your criteria. These are a great way to demonstrate your passion for your subject to university admissions officers

3. University-level independent research projects

This is where students can develop their communication and research skills to a high standard in an academic setting. Students elect to produce a theoretical, interdisciplinary or practice-based response to a topic related to their subject. Research projects can be especially helpful in developing some of the skills mentioned previously, such as critical thinking and challenging the things you may have learned until now.

4. Further reading

This is one of the simpler super-curricular activities for you to be able to further your subject. The internet provides innumerable resources on any given subject and every topic, giving you plenty of options for further reading in your chosen field of study. Libraries will also have things available for further reading if access to technology is an issue, or you are looking for journals and research papers, with many academic publications found on their shelves. Here are some excellent resources for further reading: 

5. Attending events or conferences

Events and conferences are a great way to take on new knowledge in your chosen subject. They are often hosted by universities, so that is always a good place to start, but places like museums, galleries, technological centres and general conference centres also put on a range of academic events. There is also the option of virtual events and conferences, which are becoming more and more common. With the addition of resources such as TED Talks there are many options out there for you.

Just do the research!

How to showcase your super-curricular activities

Taking part in super-curricular activities is only the first step, and in order to get into leading universities it is vital that you are able to demonstrate your participation in a compelling way. 

With any university application comes the writing of a personal statement. When applying to UK universities, candidates have just 4,000 characters with which to outline what they have done in order to show commitment to their chosen subject and their ability within that subject. This is where super-curricular activities come into their own, and it is the ideal place to showcase them. 

Personal statements

If you have been careful as to which activities you take part in then this shouldn’t be a problem, but it is worth mentioning that with a personal statement being relatively short you should make sure to include activities that a) relate directly to your subject and b) demonstrate your passion to study outside of your curriculum. You can find more guidance for writing your personal statement for UK universities on the UCAS website. 

Presenting your work

One of the other ways to showcase your super-curricular activities is to put on an event presenting your project, essay, or higher level study. This is a good way to make it public that you’ve participated in the extra study, not just to prospective universities, but also prospective employers and your family and friends.

Publish your work

Lastly, if you've engaged with an essay competition or maybe a research project, then consider submitting your work to be published. This may take some time but the options are out there. There are journals within many different fields that publish work of certain levels, but there are also numerous websites that publish articles and essays, and this can be a great way to showcase your super-curricular activities.

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