Sponsored feature, words by Russ Thorne

You've probably heard by now that going to university is about much more than getting a degree. Of course, the degree is a big part of it – but if you rummage around in the goody bag of what your uni of choice has to offer you could find some other treats too. Things like extra curricular or co-curricular activities can both entertain you and boost your learning experience, for example. To uncover just a few of the options that are out there, we talked to the team at Hertfordshire Uni.

1 – Develop your bright idea


Inspiration can strike you at any time: it doesn't have to wait until you've graduated. If you find yourself with a brilliant idea, the right uni might be able to help you develop it and spread the word via ideas challenges.

At Herts uni, the Flare competition does just that. It's a chance for students with a business start-up idea to win cash funding, support and even space at the uni's business incubator (if you haven't encountered the term before, it means office space and professional support, not a straw bed next to some chicks under a heater). Last year's winner collected £5000 for her winning idea – find out more about it here.


2 – Mind your own business


There's nothing to stop you starting a business while you're a student, particularly as many universities come equipped with facilities, experts and links with local and national professionals who can help you out.

Some go even further and let you get started as part of your degree programme. At Herts, you can run your own company alongside your studies: it counts towards your degree and gets you some solid experience of work and leadership.

There's even an entrepreneurs society that runs events and workshops to help, which Business Studies student Greg McClarnon took full advantage of when starting a photography business. “The workshops were brilliant,” he says. “I thought it was great how external businesses and business mentors came in to talk to us and it provided very good networking opportunities.”

Read more about Greg's story here.


3 – Get competitive


Sport and games are are an important part of any uni's extra-curricular offering, but it's also possible to get involved in a range of other competitive activities.

Some unis are involved in competitions that complement your degree course, for instance. At Herts, law students can get involved with Mooting contests, which test their advocacy skills. They also meet legal professionals and compete against other unis – so it's a chance to build contacts and have a friendly argument at the same time.


4 – Train up


The right uni for you will have the facilities to help you prepare for the industry you're hoping to go into once you graduate. If you're a broadcast media student, for example, it might have top notch TV and recording equipment to help you improve your directing or producing chops.

At Herts, meanwhile, medical students have access to full scale training labs and an on-campus pharmacy, so they really get a feel for the environment they'll be working in once they graduate. It's great for a getting a head start and also for getting your head around the dynamics of an operating theatre, a research lab or a host of other clinical settings. And you can use those slightly odd medical dummies, too.


5 – Get into the fast lane


Your chosen uni may even be involved in international competitions that let you pit your wits and expertise against teams from unis all over the world. It's a chance to put the things you've learned on your course into practice, but also to learn about teamwork, collaborating under pressure and thinking creatively, all while having a lot of fun into the bargain.

A great example of this is the Formula Student competition, which sees students design, build and race – yes, race – a single seater racing car. Herts uni is one of the top teams in the world and has competed for several years; what better way to put that engineering degree to the test? You can find out more about it here.

Your degree will always be the focal point of your student life. But pick the right uni for you and you'll get a lot more than that from extra and co-curricular activities: contact with business, support for your ideas, a head start for your career – and some great memories too.