Extra-curricular activities now ‘more important’ to university applications

Most admissions staff believe achievements outside the classroom are more important to gaining a university place than 10 years ago, a new study says

January 15, 2015

Some 59 per cent of staff say evidence of extra-curricular activities has become more pivotal in their decisions, according to a poll of 63 university admissions teams commissioned by the gap-year provider World Challenge.

Only 5 per cent say non-academic achievements are less important than they were a decade ago, says the report, titled What is the Real Value of Extra-curricular Activities in the University Application Process, published on 15 January.

Some heads of admissions say they have placed more value on extra-curricular activities because predicted A-level grades are not always reliable, while others say they help to distinguish between applicants with identical predicted grades.

The demise of the AS-level, which is set to be decoupled from A-levels, is likely to increase the importance of non-academic achievements because they are a good indicator of academic performance at university, other tutors say.

When asked what type of extra-curricular activities add value to a student’s personal statement, 92 per cent mention work experience and 68 per cent say regular volunteering.

The Duke of Edinburgh Award is the third most cited form of activity (cited by 39 per cent of tutors), followed by fundraising (22 per cent) and captaining a sports team (18 per cent).

The report also includes 20 one-to-one interviews with admissions staff, as well as 32 further interviews with university staff, heads of sixth forms, university students and applicants.

Admissions officers cited in the report say it is useful for applicants to have some extra-curricular activities, but must do it for the right reasons, rather than simply to “tick a box in the application process”.

“It is like on the [TV show] The Inbetweeners when Will encourages all his friends to do the DofE because it looks good on your application,” said Dominic Davis, head of undergraduate marketing and recruitment at City University London.

“Unless you show why it will help you at university it is not that valuable – it is about being relevant and applied; not just ticking the boxes,” he added.


You've reached your article limit

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 6 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Featured Jobs

Reader/Professor of Race and Education LEEDS BECKETT UNIVERSITY
Professor of Teacher Education LEEDS BECKETT UNIVERSITY

Most Commented

question marks PhD study

Selecting the right doctorate is crucial for success. Robert MacIntosh and Kevin O'Gorman share top 10 tips on how to pick a PhD

Pencil lying on open diary

Requesting a log of daily activity means that trust between the institution and the scholar has broken down, says Toby Miller

India, UK, flag

Sir Keith Burnett reflects on what he learned about international students while in India with the UK prime minister

Application for graduate job
Universities producing the most employable graduates have been ranked by companies around the world in the Global University Employability Ranking 2016
Construction workers erecting barriers

Directly linking non-EU recruitment to award levels in teaching assessment has also been under consideration, sources suggest