Make what you love count - says Next Steps SW

What you choose to do in your own time reflects who you are and can show that you have the key skills required for the industry or institution you’re applying to.  

“Being able to prove that you’re academically successful is one thing; having developed skills and being able to showcase yourself in a positive light as an individual is another. A balance between both is absolutely vital.”

Jack Henderson, HNC Creative Media Production, City College Plymouth.

“My Duke of Edinburgh Award experience make me realise I can be whoever I want to be.”

Jay, Gold Duke of Edinburgh Award holder

Why it is important to seek experiences and develop skills?

  • It sets you apart from others. 
  • The activities you choose to do can give valuable insight into who you areand what you want to achieve, so consider something you believe in. 
  • You will gain experience and develop new skills.
  • It helps to develop your understandingof an occupation or industry. 
  • You will expand your network of contactsand meet people who could offer further opportunities. 
  • Participating in extra-curricular activities can build confidence by exceeding your own expectations.
  • Celebrate your achievements

No matter how big or small you think they are, celebrate your achievements as they show higher education providers that you are capable and motivated. They also highlight the skills you’ve developed which is a good thing!

It’s not homework!

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It's not homework!

Although the term “extra-curricular activities” sounds like a chore, try not to think of it as box ticking and only about the end result - it’s better than that. Your time is valuable, and a lot of it is already taken up with study, but by choosing to do something you enjoy and have a passion for, the benefits can be instant as well as long term.

Volunteering to help with people or animals, for example, can give you a huge sense of well-beingin knowing that you’re making a valuable difference. 

Taking on a physical challenge, setting a target, and achieving it, can give you a huge boost in confidence. 

Many people say that by taking part in activities outside school or college, they have made friends they would not have otherwise met. 

What activities could you do?

There are all sorts of activities that you could get involved in, but what’s right for one person, might not be for you. Think about where your strengths and interests lie, what you wish to gain from it, and what you could give back to the community. 

Identify how much time you are able to give. Some organisations might ask for a set number of hours a week; others may run one-off projects, such as beach cleans or tree planting. Committing to something you enjoy is time well spent – just don’t take on too much!

You could volunteer with a national or local organisation or charity. This kind of work is easy to find and can be far more varied than you might imagine. 

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You could volunteer with a national or local organisation or charity

Some schools or colleges offer enrichment activities, such as sports events, the Ten Tors Challenge, or the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award scheme. If you’re lucky, you might get the opportunity to participate in international events or exchange programmes. 

Is there an activity that you already take part in? Perhaps you could take on some more responsibility, for example offering to coach a younger teamin sports clubs, or mentoring younger groupsin music or drama projects. If you already enjoy it and spend time doing it, it won’t feel like such a demand on your time. 

Part-time work often helps you to develop a range of skills depending on the type of work it is. Skills such as time management, working to deadlines, working as part of a team are just a few to mention, as are communication skills and problem solving. 

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Part-time work often helps you to develop a range of skills

If you have a specific course, or career in mind, a little bit of research will highlight the key skills that you’ll need. If you know what these are, consider what activities might most suitable in helping you develop them. 

Other Ideas

•Get involved in a community art project

•Find a local community garden

•Work with rescued animals at a sanctuary

•Volunteer at a wildlife park, e.g. Dartmoor Zoo, Paignton Zoo, Newquay Zoo & Living Coasts

•Dog walk for organisations helping to care for pets when their owners can’t.

•The Three Peaks Challenge (or other outdoor adventures)

•Support performance and acting groups

•Produce or present community, hospital or school/college radio 

•Volunteer in a team at a charity shop or library

•School/college journalism: online news blogs, live stream event reporting 

•Mentoring/role model programmes can be available in lots of organisations

•Fundraising/event organising for charities

Take the next step

For more ideas and links to sites and organisations that can help you, visit nextstepssw.ac.uk