NCS is a summer programme run to help young people in the UK develop new skills, meet new people, and give back to their community. Normally, you complete it in the summer after Year 11 or Year 12, and go on a 5 day residential with a set theme, such as life skills or social action. You might have heard about this from school, or older siblings, and wondered whether you should sign up. What skills will it actually give you? Does it boost your CV? Is it worth spending a week of your summer on?
As someone who has completed NCS myself, keep reading for my guide to some of the key pros and cons of the programme, to help you decide whether or not it might be for you!
What are the advantages of doing NCS?
If you are deciding whether or not to do the NCS programme, there are lots of reasons to sign up! You’ll develop core skills, build up your CV, get involved with the social aspect of the activities…
Keep reading for more detail about some of the benefits doing NCS might have for you. If you aren’t entirely sure what NCS is, have a look at this Think Student article first.
1. Develop key life skills
For a lot of people, NCS will be unlike anything they’ve done before with school. It’s a great way to get out of your comfort zone, and develop some new skills that you can’t learn in the classroom.
In fact, as mentioned, there are specific NCS programmes meant to develop key life skills. But even if you choose a different theme, there are plenty of opportunities to do this along the way.
If you take part in any of the in-person residential experiences, it is often the longest you will have spent away from home. You’ll grow your independence, as well as key teamworking skills when you take part in group activities.
Besides specific team building activities, co-operation is also a key part of any business or social action projects you do. You’ll have to organise your ideas, delegate jobs, and more.
There are also more specific skills involved in the projects you might do as part of NCS. For instance, as part of my social action project, we were calling up relevant companies to see if they could support us. We were also raising awareness of our project by interacting with members of the public, building communication skills.
Fundraising is likely to be another part of your NCS project. While many people have been involved in fundraising events like bake sales at school, I can say from experience that it’s more complicated when you have to organise it all yourselves!
You’ll then also get some experience with finance and budgeting skills. After all, you will need to work out how much money you have available to spend on different sections of your project.
2. Meet new people
Another great part of NCS is the opportunity to meet new people. You’ll often make really good friends with people in your group. This is because you will spend a lot of time having fun and working together over the course of NCS.
Whether you’re normally introverted, or really sociable, NCS is good for meeting new people because of how much of the programme relies on working together as a team.
Because of the residential aspect, there will be lots of team building challenges and evening activities everyone takes part in, as you are all in the same area. If you are doing a specific project, you will definitely have to work together to complete tasks in smaller groups to contribute to the project as a whole.
While it’s great to make new friends that you really enjoy doing NCS with, you might even find people you really connect with and stay in contact with long after the programme is finished.
For example, you can read this testimony from the NCS website. This is from someone who met one of their current best friends on NCS despite being from different areas of the country and different backgrounds.
3. Help your community
Some NCS programmes are focussed on gaining the skills and opportunities to make a positive difference in society.
Often, if you are looking to do something like this, it can be hard to know where to start. It’s also difficult to get a project started on your own.
NCS is a great way to facilitate your ideas for change in your community, all while meeting knew people with similar passions to you!
Even if this isn’t something you have previously thought much about, I found the social project really rewarding. It was also an opportunity completely different to anything I’d been able to do at school.
4. Gain experience to put on your CV
Whatever type of NCS programme you do, it’s a good project to put on your CV or university/UCAS applications. It shows motivation to gain skills and qualifications beyond what you have to do at school – you get a certificate after completing NCS.
There is also more you can get involved with after your original NCS programme, if you really enjoyed it, such as developing a social action project further. This can show initiative to potential universities or employers.
Even if you don’t mention NCS specifically in your applications, you might end up talking about it in interviews for universities or jobs, for example, to demonstrate your teamworking skills.
What are the disadvantages of doing NCS?
Of course, there are pros and cons to everything. While NCS offers some great opportunities, there are also reasons why it might not be right for you. Keep reading for some potential disadvantages of NCS that might help if you are currently deciding whether or not you want to enrol on the programme.
1. Involves a time commitment of 5 full days
One thing to consider is the time commitment for the whole NCS programme. While 5 days may not feel like much in a summer that is 6 weeks, or likely longer after GCSEs, you will be away from home for the whole time.
You may have weekly extracurriculars or other commitments you don’t want to miss, or a summer job you can only take so much time away from.
If you want to take part in NCS but aren’t sure if you can completely block out 5 days for it, it’s worth taking a look at their online sessions. These will be more flexible, while still giving you many of the same benefits as an in-person programme.
For more information about these, check out this page of the NCS website.
2. Universities don’t look at NCS as much
We’ve mentioned that NCS is a great thing to put on your CV or UCAS personal statement, or talk about in interviews. This is definitely true, however, more competitive universities and courses will be looking firstly for activities directly related to your subject.
They will then look secondly for other good experiences like NCS. If you need help writing a personal statement, check out this article from Think Student for some tips.
Most people do NCS in the summer of Year 11, when many students don’t know what they want to do at university, or whether they want to go at all. In this case, NCS is still a great experience for your future CV, and there are multiple other benefits as we’ve discussed.
However, if you are doing NCS in the summer of Year 12, you will likely have started thinking more about university applications and been talked to about them from teachers in school. If you still want to go on NCS to meet new people and develop really applicable skills, go for it!
On the other hand, if you are looking for a summer activity just to boost a specific course application, you might want to prioritise finding work experience to do with that subject. Have a look at this Think Student article for advice on finding work experience.
Of course, the summer holiday is several weeks long. You can always do both NCS and work experience!
Should you do NCS?
We’ve gone through several advantages and disadvantages of NCS in this article, which is hopefully helpful if you are wondering whether or not to enrol on a programme.
Overall, NCS is a great experience to have, that can push you out of your comfort zone as you stay away from home, developing new skills with new people. I would definitely recommend it if you have spare time over the summer.
However, there are reasons it might not be for you – if you are particularly busy, or are looking for more subject-specific activities. You also shouldn’t feel pressured into signing up just because you feel like everyone else is, if you genuinely don’t think you will enjoy it!
One thing to note is that the cost of NCS shouldn’t be a reason you choose not to do it. The residentials cost £95 to include everything, from travel to accommodation to meals. This is heavily subsidised, as the actual cost of running it can be up to £1500 per person!
If the cost of £95 is too high, you can apply for funding to cover it. For more about the finance aspect of NCS, as well as other FAQs, check out their website here.