When thinking about building a competitive application to universities such as Oxbridge, or others in the Russell Group, you have to ask yourself some very important questions: What do I find interesting about my subject? What does it mean to study it at university? Have I done enough outside of the classroom to prove that my interest is genuine? Any good personal statement will aptly answer these three questions, and one way you can be sure to have the answers to these questions, is to start engaging in some super-curricular learning.
This leads us to more questions: what does super-curricular mean? How is it different from my extra-curricular activities? Why do universities want me to do super-curricular learning?
Super-curricular learning includes any activities you do outside of school that directly relate to your subject. The University of Cambridge stresses that, while extra-curriculars are either non-academic or related to a different field, super-curricular learning will directly complement your application, making it more competitive in the process. With university applications being so competitive, and the quality of students being so high, Russell Group universities look beyond grades to assess the level of applicants before they make an offer, so making sure that you do the right kind of extra-curricular learning can only improve your application.
Types of super-curricular learning
This list of possible super-curricular activities is taken from the University of Cambridge’s official website, and it shows that many possible avenues for super-curricular learning are right at your fingertips. If The Tragedy of Macbeth made you think more about Shakespeare’s use of language, that’s super-curricular; if you watched a lecture online about the discovery of the Higgs Boson, that too could be super-curricular. These activities may well be fun, but they also provide solid academic support for your application, while also demonstrating an interest in your subject beyond just the classwork that you are obligated to do in order to receive a passing grade.
However, identifying suitable materials for super-curricular learning, and ensuring that you take something away that you would be able to talk about in your personal statement or during an interview can be a difficult task. If you are primarily used to learning new things in a classroom teaching, then you might want to seek out super-curricular tuition.
Why get super-curricular tuition?
Super-curricular tuition mimics the structure of a classroom, in which there is a teacher and a student, discussing articles, books, podcasts, or any of the other super-curricular resources recommended by Cambridge. The teacher will provide you with direction, while still following your interests, meaning that you will be able to improve your university application while still focusing on the things that you enjoy.
The biggest benefit to having a tutor help you with your super-curricular learning is that you can work in dialogue with each other to pin down your specific interests, and get top level advice from someone who is in the know, who will be able to advise you even further based on the activities you have already done. Perhaps you went to a particularly interesting exhibition on Tudor history at a museum, a teacher will be able to recommend some books on Tudor history to take your learning further, making your application that bit more competitive.
Universities really do care about your super-curricular learning. It is on fine margins that Oxbridge and other Russell Group universities decide on which students to make offers to. You can have excellent grades, but demonstrating that you have learnt and understood something outside of the school curriculum based solely on your own interests will make your application stand out from the crowd, demonstrating why you would be an excellent student to all the universities you apply to.
Insight from Oxford
University College, Oxford specify that they expect all students that they admit to have done some super-curricular learning, and even offer the following steps for how to structure any super-curricular learning that you do as part of putting together a competitive university application.
- Be open minded
- Find connections
- Think actively and ask questions
- Pause and reflect
- Share and discuss
- Follow your interests
Grouping together the first three, this means that you should never miss an opportunity to do some super-curricular learning. You might think you are going on a family holiday to the seaside, but you may find yourself with an opportunity to learn more about local marine life; you should be hungry for knowledge, and make sure that you do not treat super-curricular learning as something you will naturally absorb. You should always think about how any questions you have link to any previous knowledge, and if the answer isn’t immediately obvious, that’s a good thing! It will provide an opportunity to learn even more.
The second three show the importance of other people in your super-curricular learning. Putting together a competitive university application requires a lot of work from you, but it is by no means a completely solo endeavour. If you undergo super-curricular tuition, a tutor will be able to highlight important concepts and encourage you to pause, think, and create links between the ideas that you will study together. They will provide the ideal partner with whom to discuss the more difficult elements of what you are learning. Most of all, they can see what you are interested in and, with the greater knowledge they already hold of the subject, suggest other areas of interest with you.
Oxbridge admissions tutors are able to tell when you are lying in your personal statement or at interview: if you say that something fascinates you but your heart isn’t really in it, that will shine through. It is so important to focus your super-curricular learning into areas that interest you, so that your interest shines through when you speak about it. Directing your super-curricular learning to your interests means that you will be able to learn more effectively, and explain what you took from the experience with greater clarity.
CamVision Education believes in a student-focused approach to super-curricular learning, so our super-curricular tutors aim to introduce you to a variety of new topics, allowing you to really get a feel for what you want to get out of a subject. It’s a part of academic support that schools are less able to provide, as they are focused on making sure that your initial grades are as good as they can be.
Super-curricular learning will help your personal statement stand out, and make your university application that bit more competitive.