By writing about the things we have done or achieved, we can highlight the very qualities that we want universities or future employers to know about us, and it can emphasise why we would be a good fit for their course or work environment.
Our team of education consultants have put together a list of activities and experiences which they look for when working with students who are preparing to switch schools, apply to an undergraduate or Master’s programme, or are planning their next career move.
Work experience of any kind is extremely valuable. If you are able to secure a placement in the field you wish to pursue, this will give you an introduction to the reality of working in this area and useful insights into how an organisation functions.This can be a key decider into whether this is the right career path for you and an opportunity to start building your network of contacts.
We would also advise that any paid work experience is a big plus on an application, whether it’s washing dishes in a café, working in a shop, or babysitting the neighbour’s children. All of these demonstrate that you are self- motivated and are not afraid of working hard. It shows you can take responsibility for yourself and for others.
This can sometimes be easier to access than a paid work opportunity and can build valuable and sought after skills. Volunteering opportunities are often available in the local community. Others choose to pay for volunteering experiences which enables them to go to different parts of the world and teach English to school children, work in wild life sanctuaries or gather data for charitable organisations, for example.
Whichever path you choose, you will be demonstrating levels of compassion and engagement, learning how to work in a team and acquiring new knowledge about yourself and how you are suited to different activities.
School Break Camps
These are a popular way of building up a personal profile. There are camps that cater to everyone, whether it is improving your level of English, developing leadership skills, learning a new skill or taking a taster programme for pre-university. There are academic programmes, cultural tours, wilderness camps, drama and film schools, tennis and football camps. There are summer, spring and winter programmes that combine all of these!
Camps provide a great opportunity to be independent and get used to being away from home, to make new friends and to enjoy new experiences that take you out of your comfort zone. All of these will set you up well for future education and job experiences, and it shows that you have taken opportunities beyond the normal curriculum to develop your interests.
Online courses are available to everyone and many of them are free. Taking a course that is relevant to the degree you want to study, or the job you are applying for, can make your profile more memorable and demonstrates that you are genuinely interested in this area. Websites such as Coursera offer educational courses delivered remotely from top universities, in areas which range from Business to Neuroscience, from Epidemiology to learning to code.
Many of these courses are certified and count as a legitimate qualification recognised by other Universities or employers.
Schools and Universities regularly offer guest lectures open to a wide audience. These are a chance for you to hear and engage with world class speakers that may inspire you, or challenge you to learn or think differently about that field. They can also be a great networking event and you may meet people who can help you in your academic journey. There are also hundreds of TED talks available online which are a great source of wisdom, thought provoking ideas and inspiration.
Putting on your profile that you have attended additional seminars and speeches, both at University and during school years, demonstrates your thirst for knowledge and love of what you do.
Extracurricular such as sport, drama, and debating can elevate your profile and demonstrate vital skills which universities or schools recognise as making a good student. For example, being a part of a sports team demonstrates that you have teamwork and leadership qualities which will stand out in your profile. Reflecting on what you have gained from these experiences is always more valuable than merely listing what you have done.
Reading around your subject and outside of your field, whether for pleasure or to aid development in your subjects, is very valuable for building your profile. By regularly reading a range of good quality journals you can keep up to date with news and opinions. Reading a range of different perspectives helps you to critically analyse material and form your own views, which you can then back up with evidence, all vital skills for university or employment.
Whether for school, university, or beyond, profiles demonstrating the different skills sets you have developed through going above and beyond your regular activities, and reflecting on what you have learnt from these opportunities will make your profile stand out.