According to Worcester College at Oxford, a supercurricular activity is pursued outside of normal schoolwork which is still related to academic interests. For instance, if you want to study Biology, you might listen to the New Scientist podcast every week or the Crime Junkie podcast for Criminology (the latter has to be my guilty pleasure). They are distinctive from extracurricular activities in that they are academically focused, fostering your knowledge and interest in specific subjects. They are also challenging in their own right - stretching your horizons before university not only better equips you for the degree, but also demonstrates your dedication to institutions.
Scrolling on LinkedIn as a *very* new user in February 2020, I saw a post from Young Leaders for Active Citizenship (YLAC), an organisation which focuses on deepening civic engagement and building the youth's capacity for policy making in India. I signed up for the Young Researchers for Social Impact program in early March of 2021, completely unaware that I would come out in July 2021 with a majorly honed skill set with regards to research. On the course, 40 students across India were meticulously selected, trained, and mentored over a month to build our capacity as critical thinkers and problem solvers who can leverage the tools of research and advocacy to produce thought-provoking solutions to pressing issues that affect our societies today. My team collaborated with the NGO Civic Studios, consulted stake holders and conducted primary research for Community Policing in India. Since I have grown up in Dubai, my main objective from this supercurricular was to increase my familiarity with Indian policy making and understand how my country's legalities differ from that of the UAE. Faced with contemporary social issues and producing an 11 page academic paper to present our findings, this project sharpened my research, academic writing and team work skills in a completely different way to my A Level curriculum. Top universities look for candidates who show commitment in their spare time, and by selecting some key examples to include in your application, you can prove to your chosen universities that you tick all of those boxes!
Sticking with this urge to feel closer to my home country India, I applied for a position at Passport for Education. As a French charity that strives to promote the access and quality of education in India through the provision of material and financial support, working with this organisation demonstrates long term commitment to change and professionalism. As a member and soon the Head of the Talents Team, I carefully recruit and organise team members to represent PFE's missions. Dedicated to staying informed of the developmental challenges of the local context we operate in and understanding how to improve our projects, this super-curricular has benefited me in many ways. I am able to first handedly contact and communicate with those on the ground in India, strategise suitable team related aims and tangibly help those in need. Promoting education in a substantial manner is refreshing for me - away from the perils of the criminal system of India that I've spent hours researching, for instance, being part of a team with a positive impact is massively rewarding and fulfilling.
Although seemingly less 'exciting', essay competitions are also a great way to demonstrate interest beyond achieving A*'s, for instance. After you have made a tentative list of your top universities, quickly researching if they host essay competitions is an excellent way to begin. The John Locke Institute's Global Essay Competition or the Robert Walker Prize for Essays in Law by the Trinity College at Cambridge are some examples. I entered and was short listed for the John Locke Essay Competition, answering a political question on whether the Institute should change or retain its name. This allowed me to research the philosophy behind our relationship with history and examine the societal and economic impact of tearing down statues, changing state names and re writing history. Competitions as such encourage the youth to cultivate the characteristics that turn good students into great writers: independent thought, depth of knowledge, clear reasoning, critical analysis and persuasive style. They aim to nurture intellectual humility and the courage to think differently - something universities are really after!
‘Super-curricular activities help students to learn about themselves and develop and use their skills and knowledge in different contexts,’ says Chris Davison, deputy director of, and careers adviser at Durham University.
UK universities usually focus on academic activities because they illustrate your subject interest and your aptitude for university study. Simultaneously, they act as a way to check whether you are suitable for the demands of a particular course and are eager to learn! This is why SUPERcurriculars are SUPER important.