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    • Thread Starter

    Hi there. Basically I've been trawling through searches of old threads about ECs/work experience and their importance and different ECs I could do for what I want to study in order to get some ideas about things I could do and generally how important they are.

    Now, this didn't really help at all. For every post saying "mention all your extra curriculars loads and relate them to the course!" there was a post saying "don't waste time on extra curriculars, just talk about the subject!".

    I'm looking to apply to top 10 unis (including Oxford or Cambridge) for History next year and I just don't know if to take up loads of ECs or take up none and concentrate solely on my studies and extra reading around the subject.

    (The only real EC I have is self-teaching guitar. I play basketball often with my friends but not on a competitive level or anything. Workwise I've done volunteer work with disabled children, worked as a temporary Christmas sales assistant and done a weeks work experience at an infant school )

    I have a few things I'd like to do anyway (learn a language outside of school, help younger classes in school...) but will it be worth taking up more?

    So what I'm asking is how important REALLY are extra curricular activities? Should I concentrate solely on academics and reading around the subject or take up a few more things??

    Never take up an activity that will damage your grades. Even if EC's are important, grades are so much more important they should always have priority.
    Look at it from the admissions tutors point of view. EC's have two values: showing you can handle doing a lot at once and combine school with otherthings, and showing your genuine interest in something. For the first purpose, briefly mentioning things like volunteer work are useful. For the second, probably more important, one, the activity would have to be related to the course. That's why people always stress to link your activity to your course. For History, none of the things you've done are very relevant, so don't put much emphasis on them.
    If you come across something History-related in the next half year that you're genuinly interested in and don't think will harm your grades too much, do it. Otherwise, focus on your schoolwork.

    The reason why you get some people saying ECs are important and some saying that its not is because it can vary greatly based on the uni and department.

    For example, my friend who recently got an offer from Cambridge for medicine didn't mention anything which wasn't directly linked to academia and medicine. At all. She only mentioned the relevant work exprience she had at the most and the rest was about her A levels. So, if she were you she wouldn't have mentioned pretty much all your ECs. She did this because that specific college in Cambridge (and I think for medicine) is well known for wanting academia only in personal statements.
    On the other hand, I applied for psychology and I mentioned a hobby (dancing) which I've been doing for 12 years, volunteer work in care home + charity shop which aren't directly linked with psychology but I found a way to link it in. (I did have psychology related work experience though.) So if I were you I would have mentioned the helping younger classes in school, volunteer work etc. I did what I did because its necessary for me to show ECs which involve interacting with others. I only mentioned 2 out of my 4 AS levels.

    The point is they are evidently both very different yet both yielded offers. You should probably look at previous History personal statements on TSR (but not copy), find others who are currently doing history at uni on TSR and politely ask them about their PS, check the university subforums to see if there is a 'style' which certain unis usually go for. (I think you'll only really find this for oxbridge) Check the university subject sub forum too for history.

    Generally though a couple of ECs are good to show you are a well rounded person. I think that a good thing to do for history would be to read around the subject and refer to a book in your PS. That way you have something academic and EC which directly links in with history. I wouldn't personally take up any more than what you are doing already. And yes, if you mention any ECs you do have to link it back to your subject, so perhaps mentioning basketball wouldn't be too beneficial in your case. :p: I find that if you can't find an obvious link between your EC and your subject then its worth mentioning what skills you gained from your EC which you can then use for your subject. Your grades take priority by far so don't do anything potentially detrimental to them.

    In one of my interviews at Cambridge, we spent a lot of time talking about extra curriculars, not even related my subject, just sports/music, what i'd join in if I came to the college etc.

    Personally I think it's good to do some non academic things and be a bit more well rounded. You don't need to have read a million books around your subject, just a few which you can talk about that you really like.

    The key is balance really. The priority of your application is your academics side, and if you don't have this then no amount of extra-curricular activities will save you. The more you can do to demonstrate an interest in your subject both inside and outside school the better. If in addition to that, you can do other things like voluntary work and sport then this is a feather to your cap which shows that you are a diverse individual and able to manage your time. This will put you in a good position relative to other applicants who are all work and no play. When it comes to personal statements etc, a good statement will include a variety of experiences, mainly academic from school to reading to work experience and positions of responsibility and as part of this it is worth including a small paragraph on your hobbies and interests and the skills you have developed through these.
    • Thread Starter

    Thanks for the help guys. Had a look at a few personal statements on this site and it's given me a bit of closure. I will still probably learn a language and do that volunteer work but I guess I was just fretting over how I can relate it to the course but I can see it's pretty easy to spin anything, really :p:
    • PS Reviewer

    PS Reviewer
    Don't take up anything just for your personal statement. As long as you can reflect on what you have done and show what you got out of it it isn't essential to do anything else.
    Some unis/courses like to see different things from applicants, so all your choices may be looking for completely different things anyway.
    However, if there is something you are already interested in, like learning a language, do it as long as it doesn't impact on your work.
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