On top of their academics you may be thinking about what your child can undertake to improve their CV and personal statement if they are intending to study at university.

Many extra-curricular activities give bonus UCAS points in conjunction with exams, such as music, dance, and speech and drama (75 points for grade 8 distinction music exam and then fewer points for grades 6 and 7). Please see the UCAS Tariff Tables for more information. In asking yourself how useful is an extra-curricular activity, university admissions tutors are looking for well-rounded individuals who are involved in activities outside the classroom. It may not be that universities are looking for a specific talent, nor will undertaking extra-curricular activities get your child to university in and of themselves, however they are an important factor. Furthermore, it may be that if there's two people exactly the same applying for a place then extra-curricular activities may give you the edge, while if you've just failed to meet the grades and your extra-curricular activities are relevant then it may help. 

Common Extra Curricular Programmes offered in schools, colleges and international study centres:

Young Enterprise

Students set up and run a real firm for a year under the guidance of a business volunteer. They get practical experience of the joys and pitfalls of creating a truly functioning enterprise. They do everything from raising the initial share capital through to designing and making their product or service to selling directly to customers at specially organised trade fairs and ultimately winding up the firm and paying their taxes. 

The programme has been running since 1963 and since then more than a million 15-19-year-olds have taken part. Furthermore, an A-level 3 OCR qualification is available to all students taking part in the Company Programme which is worth up to 40 UCAS points and counts towards entry into university. For more information, please see http://www.young-enterprise.org.uk/

Duke of Edinburgh Award

The Duke of Edinburgh's Award (DofE) programme is offered to students aged between 14-24 at three, increasingly demanding levels, Bronze, Silver and Gold. There is a personal programme of activities in four sections - volunteering, physical, skills and expedition - and the added extra of residential if you are going for gold. You choose the range of activities and projects that you get involved in. And if you obtain the Gold Award you’ll be invited to St James’s Palace and receive your award from the Duke of Edinburgh himself!

Also ability to combine it with something you enjoy - you might enjoy a particular sport and be part of e.g. a football team, or might enjoy something that's skillful, such as podcasting, photography, that you just generally enjoy. Can just qualify what you are currently doing. 

Combined Cadet Force

The Combined Cadet Force (CCF) is a structured programme of both military and adventurous training, with cadets developing leadership, responsibility, self-reliance, resourcefulness, endurance and perseverance skills. Students can join one of four sections, the Royal Navy, Royal Marines, Army or Royal Air Force, and are trained in military skills such as weapon handling and drill and navigation through adventures such as canoeing, hill walking, sailing and climbing. Skills developed in CCF count towards the Duke of Edinburgh programme.


CREST Awards offers 11-to-19-year-olds the opportunity to explore real-world science, technology, engineering and maths projects in an exciting way. It enables students to build their skills and demonstrate personal achievement in project work, to take ownership of their projects and choose to undertake them in areas they enjoy or see as relevant. 

There are four different levels of the CREST Award:

  • Discovery (a great first introduction to project work, these take about five hours and can be done in one day; typically undertaken by 11-to-14-year-olds)
  • Bronze (around 10 hours project work; typically undertaken by 11-to-14-year-olds)
  • Silver (around 30 hours project work; typically undertaken by 14-to-16-year-olds)
  • Gold (around 70 hours project work; typically undertaken by 16-to-19-year olds)

CREST Awards can be undertaken at school or college, within an after school club or youth group setting, or by participating in one of our accredited link schemes. In addition CREST Awards also build skills that are transferrable to other subjects, further education and future employment (time management, project management, teamwork, communication). 

UCAS endorses CREST Awards for inclusion in students’ personal statements – they’re well regarded, high-quality and a tangible recognition of success. Read our guide for making the most of CREST on your UCAS form.

The Duke of Edinburgh's Award: a CREST Award can count towards your Skills section at any DofE Award level.

Music, Dance, and Speech and Drama Exams

If your child is already enjoying one or more of these extra-curricular activities then their grades 6 and upwards count towards UCAS points. A grade 6 and above shows dedication and perserverance, and a well-rounded individual. Furthermore, if they are also undertaking DofE music, dance, speech and drama count towards the skills section. 

Arts Award

Arts Award inspires young people to grow their arts and leadership skills. They can be achieved at five levels, four accredited qualifications and an introductory award. The Arts Award aims to fit around your child's other commitments, with no time limit for each award, and they can be achieved wherever art is happening with young people such as youth clubs, arts centres, schools, theatres and museums. To find a centre near you, see the Arts Award find a centre page.  

Each award allows your child to focud on a single art form or a range of different ones, with children ending up with a portfolio or arts log that displays their creativity. 

To achieve an award your child has to:

  • take part in different arts activities
  • be inspired by artists and arts organisations
  • experience arts events
  • share their arts skills with others
  • put together a portfolio or arts log

For the top two qualifications of silver and gold, your child will also have to:

  • set themselves arts challenges
  • organise their own projects
  • research arts careers and the arts sector

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