Extra curricular activities for Cambridge

is there any admission advantage when applying to Oxbridge if I have done extracurricular activities such as D.O.E., music training etc or do they only assess in academics only

ATCL Diplomas (from Trinity College Guild Hall), Duke of Edinburgh etc actually give you UCAS points which are relevant to your application. Funnily enough, the few activities you named are some of the most useful for the UK and are well understood by the UK universities.

In general, extra-curriculars carry far less weight in the UK than the US. Many candidates gain admission with only very limited extra-curriculars or very focused extra-curriculars around the core subject they are applying for.

Academics is far, far more important and you can gain admission to the UK with literally no extra-curriculars if your academics are strong enough.

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I’d add to Jamie’s answer by firstly saying that the most useful ‘extracurriculars’ I did during high-school were the ones that prepared me for critical thinking or thinking on my feet during unfamiliar situations. These things gave me an advantage in my application, in that they helped me get through the Oxford interview process and answer challenging questions better than I would have done if I had no experience with things like ‘forming an opinion quickly’ or ‘having my thinking challenged’ in the past. Activities like debating or speech/drama diplomas might be useful in this regard.

In general, the UK does place less emphasis on extracurriculars, but certainly there are relevant activities you can do that might help to boost your application beyond just scoring well in your school subjects. Some general advice:

  • Extracurriculars related to what you might like to study are going to be more useful than things like a musical instrument (unless you’re applying for music, of course). For example, if you are thinking of applying for a law degree, debating, mooting, student council, etc are all relevant and you could write about them in your application essay.

  • Generally if you are applying for a STEM degree I think it’s a good idea to get involved with science-related extracurriculars in some way. In particular, science competitions (e.g. the maths, chem or biology olympiads, which are also internationally recognised and quite prestigious if you win them) or get involved with things that show you are interested in taking your learning beyond the classroom and applying it to your interests.

  • From the perspective of a humanities student, if you’re applying for a writing-based degree it might serve your purpose better to do more reading rather than doing a million extracurricular activities. My extracurricular activities (I was accepted to read English at Oxford) were relatively light - I taught English as a volunteer ESOL tutor, I was in book clubs and discussion groups, and I did a bit of debating - but I read A TON, and at the end of the day that was a use of my time that was most applicable to the degree I wanted to do.

  • Another idea for an extracurricular that’s more ‘academic’ (the UK tends to value academic stuff) is to get involved with a course at university/assist a professor with some research while you are still in high-school.

  • Lastly remember that you write one just application essay, called a ‘personal statement’, that you send off to all of your university choices. Admissions officers will use this (alongside your grades and teacher reference, and maybe some written work) to find out more about you and why you’re motivated to study x course. Having interesting and relevant things - whether reading or activities - to put in this application is important to ensure you’re not just talking about what you’ve studied in school, and to ensure you can demonstrate you really do want to study what you’re applying to study.

When you’re deciding what it is you want to do to strengthen your application, think about how you can use your time best. Do you need to focus on getting the best grades possible? Do you think reading a lot of books and articles that challenge your way of thinking will be relevant to what you’re applying for? Or do you think practically demonstrating your interests (building a robot? competing in a young entrepreneurs competition? debating? olympiads? drama?) will show admissions officers that you’re a good choice for their university?

However, remember that at the end of the day your grades should come first.

Hope that’s helpful!


Thank you for your very helpful and detailed responses. I really appreciate it. Based on all the advice I think I will stop my DOE at silver level,continue my Trinity Guild speech and drama ( grade 7) and concerntrate in my IB studies and read widely on my desired/ high level subjects ( economics , maths and Latin) based on what you guys have recommended, I have contacted the economics department of Syd U to volunteer as research asssitant and they are happy to have me for a week ( hopefully this will lengthen if I impressed them). So thanks again everyone for taking the time/ interest is responding to my question.

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Hi Jamie, that’s very interesting. Where can one sign up to do a diploma in communications or public speaking? And when do these classes run - and for how long?


Reach out to f.jiang@crimsoneducation.org and he will send you registration details and coaching options.