Beyond the classroom

When thinking about applying to university it can be really difficult to think what might set you apart and really show off your passion for your subject. I remember at school, my teachers told me that I needed something about me to make me pop, I couldn't just present interviewees and admissions people with the same old run of the mill "I've loved history (in my case) since I was in the womb. Because firstly, I didn't that would be weird, and secondly, because everyone always says that.

Instead of going with the same old tropes, use the summer to expand yourself beyond the classroom. Find out why you really love your subject outside your school syllabus. I remember at an Oxbridge event, I spoke to an admissions officer from Jesus college and asked his advice for applications because "I really really love history" and he replied that that attitude was an excellent start. But you'll need something else.

My top tips to expand your knowledge and enjoyment outside of the classroom are:

  • Read, read, read! 
    • Read widely and for enjoyment- I'm not suggesting trying to slog through old dusty volumes. Read suggested books on your subject of choice on Waterstones, track down prize winning books and journals if you can
    • Read around subjects at school and offshoot ones as well, something that's piqued your interest
  • Work experience
    • This is not always practical for everyone for a variety of reasons but if it's possible, have a go because it will give you some valuable experience  
  • Watch documentaries about things you enjoy, current events, anything that's made you think, keep up with the news and developments in your field of interest
  • Travel
    • Again, not always possible but my paper for Michaelmas (first term) is on the Anglo Saxons so, despite corona, my family and I are going on a road trip around Britain to look up some Anglo Saxon sites like in York 
  • Gap year
    • This really depends on how you feel. I took a gap year for medical reasons and got a job and went travelling on top but I found it provided some really important thinking space for me to decide what i really loved and wanted to do and gave me the opportunity to read and explore at a slower pace so if it's something you fancy, go for it!
  • Extra curriculars
    • For Oxbridge these aren't a focus point for admissions. In fact lots of admissions people say that extra curricular activities are all well and good but if they detract from your ability to study then they're not worth it. They're much more interested in you as individuals and your ability to think and work so carry on playing hockey and keeping bees BUT it's not the be all and end all of an Oxbridge application
Even though this might sound like a lot of work the most important thing is to enjoy the summer because you deserve the break, and take things slowly- there's plenty of time. Most importantly, you should always be following a subject that is also you passion.


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