What do top universities look for outside of school performance?

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itsyaboijosh
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I'm talking about universities like Oxbridge -- what do they look for? I'm starting my A-levels in a few days, and I'm uncertain about the types of activities I should be doing outside of my A-level stuff. Does anybody know what types of activities will help increase my chances of going to a top uni?

Thanks.
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Mirele
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(Original post by itsyaboijosh)
I'm talking about universities like Oxbridge -- what do they look for? I'm starting my A-levels in a few days, and I'm uncertain about the types of activities I should be doing outside of my A-level stuff. Does anybody know what types of activities will help increase my chances of going to a top uni?

Thanks.
I'm applying so this is stuff I've read but from what I've seen, both Cambridge and Oxford are pretty much all about the academics. Do as much course-related things outside of school is my suggestion. Pick some respected and academic books in the subject so you can make a decent and relevant comment on them in your personal statement. Unless it is vocational they seem to largely want someone who is strongly focused on the course and can reflect clearly and analytically on their experiences and relate them to the course.

Also target it to the course specifically. For example French at Cambridge at least is very literature based I think, so mentioning literature you've read, classic films or even something like acting in a French language play is a good idea and will have a lot of weight. It doesn't have to be entirely academic - I volunteer in a place connected to the course I want to go to, so I'm mentioning it. But most of my PS is academic: wider reading/my specific interests, essay competitions, my EPQ and how my interest in the subject has also strongly influenced my other subjects.

Other universities usually want some extracurricular to show leadership, communication etc (especially as they can't check these at interview). Usually you're meant to about 75-25 academics:extracurriculars, for oxbridge applicants it should be a bit less even but still usually mentioned. It should be a legitimate achievement or extracurricular - no low level grade music for example, but perhaps you've volunteered somewhere, participated in an inter school conference, play in your county sports team or work in a cafe. Ideally they can be linked to the course but don't stretch it - you're unlikely to be able to connect volunteering at a carehome to a politics course for example, it's okay to have it standing on its own as long as you reflect just a tiny bit ('as well as academic work, I have enjoyed volunteering at a care home for X months engaging with the elderly residents, I hope to continue volunteering in the community/with older people in the future'? Idk. I haven't seen much advice here). I don't think Oxbridge cares but the universities will understand you're writing your PS for multiple universities so I don't think they'd pénalise you for mentioning extracurriculars as long as it doesn't take up much space or detract from the academics!
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Pidge Gunderson
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Top universities in the UK only really pay attention to academics, unlike in America where a well-rounded student is preferred.
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itsyaboijosh
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(Original post by Mirele)
II don't think Oxbridge cares but the universities will understand you're writing your PS for multiple universities so I don't think they'd pénalise you for mentioning extracurriculars as long as it doesn't take up much space or detract from the academics!
Ah, okay -- thank you for the very helpful response!
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itsyaboijosh
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(Original post by Pidge Gunderson)
Top universities in the UK only really pay attention to academics, unlike in America where a well-rounded student is preferred.
I wonder why that is.
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HHJ11
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Activities such as volunteering, work experience and expanding your skills through online courses etc.
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artful_lounger
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As above, Oxbridge in particular don't give one jot about things not directly related to your intended area of academic study - there are numerous examples of admissions tutors going on record and indicating this. If you talk about your Grade 8 music or Duke of Edinburgh award they'll probably just be puzzled as to why you didn't use the space to talk about your interest in the subject you're applying to. Unless you're applying for an Organ Scholarship anyway...

Outside of Oxbridge, it varies - it's not really going to ameliorate poor grades or lacking preparation (e.g. not having particular subjects), and an otherwise meandering personal statement of the academics isn't likely to be improved much by it.

If you enjoy doing something that isn't specifically part of the academic curriculum, then do it. Don't do something just because you think it'll make your application to uni look better - it won't.
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itsyaboijosh
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(Original post by artful_lounger)
As above, Oxbridge in particular don't give one jot about things not directly related to your intended area of academic study - there are numerous examples of admissions tutors going on record and indicating this. If you talk about your Grade 8 music or Duke of Edinburgh award they'll probably just be puzzled as to why you didn't use the space to talk about your interest in the subject you're applying to. Unless you're applying for an Organ Scholarship anyway...

Outside of Oxbridge, it varies - it's not really going to ameliorate poor grades or lacking preparation (e.g. not having particular subjects), and an otherwise meandering personal statement of the academics isn't likely to be improved much by it.

If you enjoy doing something that isn't specifically part of the academic curriculum, then do it. Don't do something just because you think it'll make your application to uni look better - it won't.
Thanks for the advice
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nicholasflee
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you can put some recreational stuff in your personal statement because you're applying to other unis as well but in the interviews focus on the academics for oxbridge. If they ask you, why do you want to go this uni? Don't say, errr the clubs and societies look lit fam or similar
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maroumarou
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A passion in your subject basically. As others have said, Oxbridge are not really so concerned with what traditional extra curriculars. I read some where that they're more concerned with "super curricular" as in things you've done that go beyond the studying demanded by the school curriculum for your chosen subject. In many cases this is being widely read, going to lectures by relevant people in your field, or relevant summer schools. You also need to be able to articulate why these experiences furthered your passion for the subject and why they were significant for you, rather than just listing them.
In my personal statement I had one sentence regarding my traditional extracurriculars, the rest was devoted to what I've described above.
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