Making Successful Applications to University – Part 2: Enriching your application

Darllenwch yn y Gymraeg

In his last blog post, Rhys Phillips (originally from Blackwood), UK Student Recruitment & Outreach Officer at University of Southampton, looked at the process of choosing your course, and the research that should be employed to make an informed choice regarding your future degree.

In Part 2 of the post, he focuses on the second stage of making a successful application: enrichment.


Enriching your application

Obtaining a place at your preferred university can be a competitive ordeal, with the number of applications eclipsing spaces on many courses. For example, at the University of Southampton we received 42,405 applications in 2016, yet only made 5360 acceptances[1]. Therefore it is imperative to stand out from the crowd by creatively enhancing your application.

When making an application, you should look to positively engage with your chosen subject and find ways to demonstrate your interests to the admissions panel.

Read/ watch/ listen to the news – Remain ‘up-to-date’ with your chosen subject by demonstrating an awareness of how your subject is engaged with through the prism of the national media. For example, if you wish to study Medicine, Nursing or the health sciences, you could reflect upon how issues such as Brexit and NHS funding are impacting the role of healthcare professionals.

Work experience and volunteering – It is best to remember that any work experience is good work experience; even if you are consigned to making tea or photocopying, you still have the opportunity to observe professionals in your chosen field and gain a realistic impression of your future career.

Attending public lectures – Most universities will host some form of public lecture series throughout the academic year. These are often free and in some cases streamed live, making them a convenient opportunity to engage in the world of academia and to get a realistic feel for university teaching styles.

Online course material – Check the course page of your target institution for online course materials. Not all institutions will provide these, but some will post sample essays, reading lists and details of the syllabus. These are particularly useful for identifying the gaps in your own knowledge and providing the basis for some extra-curricular reading.

Reading around the subject – You may wish to engage with some academic subject material at this stage, and many academic textbooks and journals can be accessed through local libraries and online. However, you should also consider ‘lighter’ material to demonstrate your wider interests. Magazines such as National Geographic, New Scientist and BBC History Magazine have regular academic contributions, presented through a much more digestible medium.


Online courses and MOOC’s – A relatively new concept, Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC’s) provide an extremely convenient way to get a feel for learning at university level. Future Learn host hundreds of these courses, with many subject areas represented throughout the year. They are also free, and do vary in time and commitment, with the majority requiring 2-4hrs per week for a set number of weeks.

Extended Project (EPQ) – Ask your school or college if it offers the EPQ. If available, the EPQ gives you the opportunity to develop both your independent research and critical thinking skills, and should facilitate a much smoother transition between Further and Higher Education.

Once you have suitably enriched your application, you should now think about how this material would fit into your personal statement. It’s important to not simply list all the activities undertaken, as this will likely result in the admissions staff developing a ‘so what?’ attitude to your application. Instead, consider the transferable skills that you can demonstrate through your experience and how they have improved you as a potential candidate. Below is a list of transferable skills and some suggestions as to how they might be demonstrated through the enrichment activities:

Referencing: EPQ, MOOC

Research: EPQ, MOOC, online course materials, news, reading around the subject

Time management: Work experience and volunteering, EPQ

Critical thinking: EPQ, MOOC, public lectures, reading around the subject, news, current studies

Communication: Work experience and volunteering

Teamwork: Work experience and volunteering

Presenting: Work experience and volunteering, EPQ, public lectures

Independent thinking: EPQ, MOOC, reading around the subject, news, current studies

In the next and final post of the series, we will focus on drafting the personal statement.



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