Do Oxbridge Care About Extracurriculars?

In General, University by Think Student EditorLeave a Comment

Oxbridge – the name generally used for the universities of Oxford and Cambridge – are arguably the two most prestigious universities in the UK, and there are a number of ways they differ from the normal university experience. This goes all the way from the application stage to university life itself. It’s hard to know if information about university in general applies to Oxbridge: are extracurricular activities going to help your application? Which extracurriculars are best? Once you start university itself, what sort of extracurriculars can you get involved with at Oxbridge, or are you expected to focus on your studies?

When applying for Oxbridge, your extracurricular activities actually don’t play a big role. Instead, admissions tutors are looking for activities directly related to your subject, which they call super-curriculars. However, extracurriculars do still matter, even if not that much. Once you start university at Oxbridge, there are a huge number of extracurriculars on offer. It’s a great idea to take part in these alongside your studies.

Keep reading for plenty more detail about extracurriculars and Oxbridge, from their role in the application stage to university life itself.

Do extracurriculars help your Oxbridge application?

Extracurricular activities are a really common thing to talk about in your UCAS application. You are often encouraged by school to write about them in your personal statement.

They can be a great way to demonstrate to universities that you have a broad range of experiences beyond just school, and have developed skills like teamwork and leadership. For more about some of the benefits of extracurriculars, check out this article from Absolutely Education.

However, for Oxbridge in particular, they are not the most important part of your application. While extracurriculars won’t harm your application, it’s likely the admissions tutors won’t take them into account when giving out offers.

This is because Oxbridge are looking more for super-curricular activities – anything you have done beyond school that relates directly to your subject. If your extracurriculars relate to your subject, or you can show that the skills are transferable to your degree, that’s great.

For instance, if you volunteered at a care home as part of your DofE, this would definitely be relevant and helpful if you are applying for Medicine. However, being able to play an instrument isn’t really directly related to a Medicine course.

You can read more about this on the Oxford website here, which states that: ‘[extracurriculars] will only be considered in so far as they help demonstrate how you meet the selection criteria for your chosen course’.

Similarly, this page from the Cambridge website talks about ways to improve your application, and mentions super-curricular activities, noting that these are a different thing to extracurriculars.

Should you mention extracurriculars in your UCAS application?

With this in mind, you may be thinking that it’s not worth mentioning your extracurriculars in your UCAS application if Oxbridge aren’t going to consider them. However, I would say they are still worth including.

This is because the same UCAS application goes to all your chosen universities. Even if Oxbridge doesn’t place a high value on extracurriculars, other universities you have applied to might.

Additionally, Oxbridge admissions tutors looking at your application know about this, so they won’t judge or penalise you for writing about extracurriculars.

The most common place to talk about additional activities is in your personal statement. As a general rule, for academic focussed universities like Oxbridge, your personal statement should be 75-80% focussed on academics, and 20-25% on extracurricular activities.

For more personal statement advice, check out this article from The Complete University Guide.

As well as this, if you don’t want to take up space in your personal statement, you can sometimes put extracurricular qualifications elsewhere in your application.

For example, you can add music grades or DofE certificates in the qualifications section, alongside things like GCSE grades.

Is it worth doing extracurriculars for Oxbridge?

Given what we’ve said so far, you might be wondering if there’s any point to doing extracurriculars. In general, if the only reason you are doing an extracurricular is to help your Oxbridge application, it’s not worth it – instead, you could put this time towards super-curricular activities.

As mentioned, these are directly related to your subject, and can involve attending webinars, reading relevant books, or entering essay competitions. For lots more information about super-curricular activities and how to get started, check out this page from Cambridge’s website.

However, if you’re doing extracurriculars for any other reason, they are really great things to do. Not only are they useful for other universities, and potentially job interviews in the future, but you also build skills, meet new people, and discover new passions and talents.

You should do extracurriculars you enjoy – you are choosing to do them in your free time, after all – and they are certainly not a waste!

Are there extracurriculars at Oxbridge?

Extracurriculars don’t stop just because you’ve left school! Many new Oxbridge students wonder what sort of extracurricular activities are on offer at these universities, given their reputation for being very academic.

However, there are hundreds of clubs and societies you can join at each university, from sports, to music, to debating and more. You can look at these in more detail here for Oxford and here for Cambridge.

These extracurriculars are offered at a whole range of different levels – beginner to advanced, smaller college-based clubs to university-wide ones. There will almost certainly be something you are interested in doing, whether you are keeping an old hobby going, or keen to try something new.

In fact, extracurriculars while you are at university are a great idea, and encouraged even by Oxbridge tutors. They can help you find a work-life balance, which is especially important at notoriously academic universities, so you don’t get burned out by your studies.

Additionally, they are still great activities for all the reasons they were at school level – developing skills, meeting new people and so on.

Of course, you will still need to find time to complete university work, so don’t overload your schedule with dozens of activities. However, I would definitely recommend trying to keep at least one or two extracurricular activities going in university!

Can you get a part-time job at Oxbridge?

While getting a part-time job might not exactly be an extracurricular, there are actually lots of similarities. It’s still a great way to develop your skills and meet new people – this time, while earning some money.

It’s common for students in general to get a part-time job at university, but Oxford and Cambridge both have policies on this.

These two universities strongly recommend against getting a part-time job during term-time, because your degree will be very academically demanding and take up the time of a full-time job. For information directly from the universities, you can check out this page from Oxford, and this video from Pembroke College Cambridge.

There’s a lot of debate as to whether this is a good policy, as students in the UK in general often feel they need a part-time job to help with the financial side of university.

Instead, Oxford and Cambridge offer a range of bursaries and funds to support students if they are struggling financially, so they shouldn’t have to rely on working.

Additionally, there aren’t restrictions on having a part-time job outside of term-time. Oxford and Cambridge have shorter terms than most universities, so longer holidays, where many students are able to get a part-time job at home.

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