6 (fun!) Extra-Curricular Activities to Enhance your CV for University and Job Applications

extra-curricular

With so much competition for university places and jobs, it pays to make the most of your free time by using it productively and developing additional skills that will help your university application and CV stand out from the crowd.

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The good news is that you can develop many valuable skills and gain lots of experience by taking part in enjoyable extra-curricular activities – and it’s never too early to start! It’s a great way to enhance your applications while having fun. What’s more, involvement in extra-curriculars can give a sense of your personality to an otherwise dry CV. Read on for some inspiration and start using your leisure time to give yourself the best possible start in life.

1. Blogging

Image shows someone typing on a laptop keyboard.
Blogging can be a great way to practise your writing skills.

In the digital age, it’s easier than ever before to get your opinions in front of a wider audience. Whatever your interests, setting up and maintaining a successful blog dedicated to them takes commitment, and admissions tutors and employers recognise that. Running a blog devoted to a subject you’re passionate about is also an excellent way of demonstrating your enthusiasm and actively partaking in discourse on that subject.
If you are applying for university, why not set up a blog on a topic related to the subject you want to study? For instance, if you’re a prospective medical student, you could set up a blog giving your thoughts on the latest medical advances, which would show admissions tutors that you take an active interest in the latest developments, keeping abreast of them and forming and offering your own opinions on them. Similarly, if you want to study geography, you could blog about climate change. Your blog doesn’t have to be about news, though; if you’re keen to study English Literature, for instance, you could start a blog in which you review books you’ve read.
Once you get to beyond university to career level, blogging brings additional benefits to you because it shows that you have an active web presence and teaches you valuable IT skills that you can list on your CV. Many jobs require some degree of IT knowledge, and being able to demonstrate a working knowledge of platforms such as WordPress could set your CV apart from the scores of others applying for the same job.
Setting up a blog is quick, easy and free, and you only need basic computer skills to get started with it.
How to get involved

  • Decide what you want to blog about – it should be something that really interests you, as you’ll write more engagingly if it’s something you enjoy writing about, and you’ll therefore attract more of a following!
  • Register with a free blogging platform such as WordPress or Blogger to set up your blog.
  • You can blog as often as you like, but generally, aiming for a minimum of two posts a week will help you build up traffic.
  • Link your blog up with your social media accounts on Facebook and Twitter, so that people know each time you’ve added a new post.

2. Learning a language

Image shows a neon sign saying 'Foreign Language Bookshop'.
Knowing a foreign language is a valuable life skill.

The benefits of learning another language are widely acknowledged and appreciated, but the advantages it can bring to university applications and CVs alike are particularly strong.
For a university application, taking on an additional language as a hobby indicates your interest in and aptitude for learning, showing admissions tutors that you are a person who is enthusiastic enough about improving your knowledge and skills that you are willing to commit to extra work in your spare time in order to achieve it. What’s more, as admissions tutors will know, additional languages are practical skills that may come in useful when you get to university, allowing you to read, understand and cite academic papers, journals and textbooks in other languages, which may be out of the reach of others in your year group. This puts you at an obvious advantage, because it gives you added knowledge and access to a greater breadth of academic opinion with which to impress tutors and examiners.
The advantages of studying an extra language in your free time don’t end with looking impressive on your university application, or allowing you to excel once you get to university; there are distinct career benefits, too. As well as being another skill to add to your CV, you’ll also have more career opportunities open to you and a better chance of landing a good job. Multinational companies, for instance, often advertise for candidates with an additional language, as employees who can speak two or more languages can be extremely useful for translating materials produced by an office in a different country, as well as facilitating better communications between offices. Another obvious sector in which an extra language is of benefit is the tourism industry, but there are many more.
How to get involved

  • See if your school runs any after-school classes; you may even be able to get an additional qualification, such as a GCSE, by doing it through your school.
  • Look out in your local paper for details of evening classes at local colleges.
  • Alternatively, find out whether there are any private tutors who run classes or one-to-one tuition in your town or city.
  • Invest in an audio language course for your MP3 player.
  • Buy a good language course book and work your way through it.
  • If you can, book a trip to a country that speaks the language you’re learning – it’ll help spur you on to learn more, and consolidate what you’ve learned by forcing you into conversations in your new language.

3. Volunteering and fundraising

Image shows a blue piggy bank with some coins in front of it.
Fundraising and volunteering are great ways to improve your job prospects while doing something for other people.

As well as giving something back to the community, volunteering and fundraising are good ways of developing a range of skills necessary for success in life – and they strengthen university and job applications, too. Charity work tells university admissions tutors that you’re someone who contributes to society and who is therefore likely to get involved in the university community. For employers, it demonstrates valuable business skills, such as communication and ‘people skills’, teamwork and so on. In the process, you’ll have the opportunity to make new friends and feel a warm glow knowing that you’re helping a good cause.
Many charities offer fundraising opportunities that involve you raising sponsorship to take on an incredible challenge; the London Marathon is one of the most famous examples, but this opportunity to walk the Inca Trail for charity, run by Breast Cancer Care, is just one of many others that enable you to travel. Such schemes are an excellent way of benefiting from a once-in-a-lifetime experience at the same time as helping a worthy cause. You’ll have to use your ingenuity to raise the necessary funds, and that’s another benefit to your CV – raising money for charity requires very similar skills to making money in business. You might even be inspired to go into fundraising as a career!
How to get involved

  • Pick a charity that’s meaningful to you and contact them offering your services.
  • If you’re not sure what you want to do, visit Volunteering England for some inspiration.
  • Google “travel for charity” to find out more about the travel opportunities that may be open to you.

4. Coding and other web skills

Image shows someone coding Python in a candlelit restaurant.
One day, you may find yourself coding Python over a candlelit dinner.

There’s a shortage of IT skills at the moment, and as such, developing knowledge of anything web-related is sure to stand you in good stead for your future career. You could pursue coding, web design, online marketing or anything else that takes your fancy – but whatever you do, any web skills you can develop in your spare time are excellent additions to your CV and will enhance your future career prospects. You can choose to undertake formal training in a particular IT skill, or just develop your skills by yourself simply by getting stuck in and building a website from scratch and referring to other websites for advice. You never know when this knowledge will become useful, and it goes without saying that if you’re a prospective computer sciences student, such activities are a must.
How to get involved

  • Sign up for an after-school IT class, if your school runs one.
  • Build your own website and learn as you go along (WordPress.org and Moonfruit offer easy-to-use, free platforms).
  • Codecademy is a good resource for learning to code in your spare time.

5. Sports

Image shows someone in a red hoodie firing an arrow at an archery target.
The sports you did at school may not have interested you, but you might find your passion by looking further afield.

While the direct benefits to your university application and CV are perhaps less obvious than the other extra curricular activities we’ve looked at so far, there are still advantages to be gained from taking part in a sport.
Here are some of the transferrable skills you’ll pick up and be able to demonstrate from involvement in a sport:

  • Teamwork – an obvious one perhaps, but being part of a sports team clearly demonstrates your ability to work effectively with other people, something that will come in useful both for group academic work at university and for the office beyond.
  • Self-discipline – excelling at any sport requires discipline and commitment, skills that are also required to succeed within both the academic and office environments.
  • Reliability – you need to turn up on time for your sports sessions, demonstrating that you can also be trusted to turn up on time for lectures and tutorials, and beyond that, work.
  • Motivation – you’ll have to be motivated to maintain involvement in sports at any level, and needless to say, if you rise through the ranks to become a sports captain, the leadership skills you’ll develop through having to organise and motivate your team will prove invaluable for your future career.

The bonus is that on top of all that, you’ll also keep fit and healthy, which will help boost your productivity levels!
How to get involved

  • School is probably your best bet for getting involved in a sport, so ask your P.E. teacher for advice if you’re still at school.
  • There will also be sports teams in your local area that you could try out for, so check your local paper or community website for details of who to contact.
  • Your local leisure centre may also be a good place to look for groups to get involved with, so check their noticeboard as well.

6. Play in an orchestra or music group

Black and white image shows a piano next to a window.
Music can be a sociable or a solitary pursuit, showing you have the skills to work in a team or the ability to motivate yourself without needing external encouragement.

Just like sports, playing in an orchestra is a great way of demonstrating transferrable skills such as teamwork and self-discipline. But mastering a musical instrument reflects more than just that. Musicians are creative people and need a great deal of intelligence (emotional and analytical) to bring to life the notes on a page and interpret what the composer wanted. A creative mind is a valuable asset in an academic context because it helps you to approach problems from a fresh perspective, while creativity is much sought-after in many careers because it’s what helps drive a business forward. To develop your creativity, another exciting musical possibility is joining a jazz group, as these often feature large amounts of improvisation.
How to get involved

  • You’ll obviously need to be able to play a musical instrument to play in an orchestra, but there are orchestras that cater for pretty much every level of competence – and they don’t all require you to do an audition.
  • Your school should be able to point you in the direction of someone who can help you begin music lessons for your chosen instrument, if you don’t already play one.
  • If your school doesn’t have an orchestra or other music group, there will almost certainly be some in your local area, so try Googling and see what you find.
  • If playing a musical instrument isn’t your thing, you could try a choir instead. Again, there are choirs that cater for all levels of experience and you won’t always have to audition. They’re not all focused on classical music either, so don’t worry if the thought of that doesn’t appeal to you; increasing numbers of choirs now focus on modern repertoire, performing choral versions of popular songs. Let’s call it ‘the Glee effect’!

Can you think of any other extra-curricular activities that could help enhance your university and job applications? We’d love to hear them, so let us know in the comments below if you think we’ve missed any great ideas!