Explore your Subject – Supra-Curricular Activities

What are supra-curricular activities?

You’ve probably heard of extracurricular activities, which are the things that you do over and above the curriculum, such as sport and music. However, do you know what supra-curricular activities are and why they are important?

Supra-curricular activities are things that you do to extend and deepen your knowledge of the curriculum. They include things like reading books or magazines that extend your knowledge of the curriculum, following media stories that concern developments in a subject that you’re studying, watching a film based on a novel, play or historical event that you’re studying, or visiting a place that is connected with your subjects.

Why are supra-curricular activities important?

To get into a top university, it’s not enough just to do well at school. Universities want students who are passionate about their subject, who think for themselves and who are independent learners. That means that if you’re thinking about applying to Cambridge, finding out what you’re really interested in and developing that interest is a top priority.

They also enable you to develop your thinking about your subject so that you are able to write about the subject with more depth and authority in your personal statement, or talk about them with confidence in your interview.

How to develop supra-curricular activities?

1. Identify the subjects you want to know more about

You can’t go deep with every subject you study at GCSE, or even at A Level. So, first you need to identify which ones you’re sufficiently interested in to learn more about them.

2. What resources are available to you?

  • This document by Lucy Cavendish College contains a comprehensive list of academic enrichment resources, grouped according to undergraduate degrees at Cambridge. They have also provided a detailed explanation of what constitutes academic enrichment, and why and how you should do it. Each undergraduate course is introduced in order to show the subject-specific skills and knowledge that your academic exploration should be developing. You can also click on the link here to find the wider University of Cambridge’s ‘supra-curricular’ suggestions. Finally, there is a good collection of resources at InsideUni too.
  • The HE+ website is our open-access website aimed at secondary school students and provides access to supercurricular resources written by Cambridge students/academics. Each of our undergraduate courses is represented with a subject page; within the subject pages, you’ll find links to over 30 curated and updated supercurricular resources which go deeper into a particular topic.
  • Think about what resources are available to you for free, or at little cost, to help you learn more. There might be books on your shelves at home or in the school library. You can also apply to our essay competitions which are a great way of showing your passion and interest in your subject area. Students can also access public lectures, teaching material and interviews with leading academics on iTunesU or SpotifyBBC Radio iPlayer also broadcasts an excellent programme of discussions across a vast array of subject areas.
  • MOOCs – online courses. MOOCs is short for Massive Open Online Courses that are mostly free. The range of online courses available is huge, from those that may be related to the subject being studied at university level to those that help develop soft skills. By selecting courses carefully, students can show a passion for their subject at university level:
  1. Alison (https://alison.com/courses) offers a range of courses, from art to humanities.
  2. Coursera (https://www.coursera.org/) has a range of courses, and works in partnership with top universities and organisations to offer courses online. Courses range from an Introduction to Engineering Mechanics to Introduction to Mathematical Thinking, and more.
  3. EdX (https://www.edx.org) has a wide selection of courses, ranging from science to languages and law. EdX was founded by Harvard University and MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology).
  4. Futurelearn (https://www.futurelearn.com) has partnered with leading universities to provide a wide range of MOOCs. See their website and go to individual university pages to explore the range of MOOCs available
  5. Udacity (https://eu.udacity.com/) is focused on courses related to computing.
  6. Udemy (https://www.udemy.com/) has a wide range of online courses, from design and photography to IT and software.

3. Ask your subject teacher what you should be doing

Your subject teacher should be up to date of developments in your subject, what books are worth reading and what websites or magazines it’s worth reading. They might even lend you some stuff.

4. Think about what else you could do

Is there somewhere you could visit, a personal project you could do or a volunteering opportunity that would help? Try to go beyond reading and really engage with the subject in the world around you.

Top Tip

When you do a supra-curricular activity, it is a good idea to keep a record and think about the impact of the activity on your existing knowledge about the subject, how it has developed your thinking or knowledge, any skills developed and so on. Above all, super-curricular activity has to be thought of as building a case to support your university application.