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Supercurriculars

Supercurricular activities? Are those extracurricular activities on steroids? Is it just extra reading for my medicine/dentistry application? Is this the one thing I need to become the crème de la crème of applicants? Is this going to fill the dark, empty void in my soul???

Ok let’s slow down and take each question at a time shall we 😅

What are supercurricular activities? 🦸

Supercurriculars, in a nutshell, are extra activities you do outside of school, which are academically focussed, and surpass the boundaries of your A Level syllabus.

This means you are doing extra reading, extra research, or extra learning outside of school in an area of study which isn’t covered in your A-levels. For example, this could be reading a book on cancer genetics, doing a research project on stroke, or doing a scientific poster competition on kidney failure. The possibilities are endless and you can really do whatever interests you.

The aim should be to get involved in supercurricular activities not purely for your medical or dental application, but also because you genuinely enjoy it (just like if you play football for fun). Because if you don’t, you’re in for a rough time…

What is the point of supercurricular activities? 🪝

Ok fine, enjoying a research project is fun and all, but let’s be honest, most of you are reading this because you want to strengthen your application. So what really is the point in terms of the application?

Commitment

If you’ve stuck to a research project or prepared for a science competition or even finished a book on liver disease – that shows commitment. Especially if it’s a project you’ve been working on for an extended period of time.

Interest

If you’re spending hours and hours doing extra reading, learning more about a topic (which you technically don’t need to do) – you’re clearly interested in science and medicine/dentistry. If you’re not, your brain is just wired differently 🤣

Insight

“Here comes the big, bad interviewer”

We see those people on the other side of the interview table as scary, all-knowing, all-powerful. When the time comes, they are the barrier between you and your dreams.

But what if…

They weren’t all-knowing. They weren’t the ones with the power. They weren’t the ones looking down at you like you’re a naive student.

Imagine you’ve gained so much insight and knowledge from your experiences; experiences such as supercurriculars, extracurriculars, work experience, volunteering – that it’s you teaching the interviewer!

Don’t limit yourself – what I’ve just said should not be outside the realms of inconceivability.

A list of supercurricular ideas… 💡

I’ve mentioned a few ideas – books, research projects, science competitions. But let’s turn theory into practical advice. Let’s list out some of the most accessible opportunities, and some exclusive tips to take them to the next level! 🔥

Reading books

Wait what??? Simply reading a book counts as a supercurricular?

Yes and no.

Reading books relevant to what you’re interested in (which relates to medicine, dentistry, science, etc) is a great way to show off your passion and open your mind to new ideas and insights. However simply reading a book, enjoying it, and tossing it on the bookshelf is not going to cut it. You definitely don’t want to be in a position where an interviewer asks you a question about something you’ve read and you can hardly remember (I fell victim to this 😵).

To avoid this embarrassing situation use the Medology Chapter Reinforcement Method (CRM). We gave it a cool name but it’s really simple: once you’ve finished a chapter, DO NOT move on until you have written down a couple of reflection points. Only then can you move on. What do I mean by reflection points? Does that just mean make a chapter summary?

No.

We’ll dive into reflection in much more detail in other guides, but simply put – how does this chapter relate to medicine/dentistry? Does this teach me about the profession I’m going into? Has this chapter furthered my understanding of what life as a doctor/dentist is like? How does this chapter relate to patients? Relate it back to something you can talk about in the interview and your personal statement. If you’ve not learned anything then there’s no point doing extra reading. Netflix is as useful for your application 🤣

But if you have used the good old CRM… imagine how many different insights you’ll have by the end of one book – I’m literally dancing on the spot as I’m writing this! 🕺🏻

Extended project qualification (EPQ)

Ahhh the classic one. If your school offers this, you’ll most likely be given the opportunity to an EPQ near the end of Y12 or the start of Y13.

An Extended Project Qualification (EPQ) is a qualification offered at many schools. It generally entails a 5000-word-essay on any chosen topic. But don’t be fooled, an EPQ isn’t something you can bang out in one night – detailed logging, documentation, and planning of your research are all crucial to securing a top grade. Therefore the biggest thing that an EPQ takes up is your precious time during the already hectic Y12 and Y13.

This is where I’m going to mention something very important… a Medology policy if you will…

DON’T DO THINGS FOR THE SAKE OF TICKING A BOX!

Yes, an EPQ gives you research skills. Yes, an EPQ gives your really good insights into a particular field. Yes, an EPQ highlights your dedication and commitment.

But it also takes up many, many hours. 50 hours is the recommended amount to be specific. So what I’m trying to say is – don’t force yourself to do an EPQ if you don’t truly enjoy it. It’ll sap your energy, time and will cause emotional damage. And really that time could probably be spent improving your A-level grades, working on other aspects of your applications, and things you enjoy more.

Do it if you want, don’t do it if you don’t want to. Don’t be a robot people! 🤖

Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs)

Maybe a 5000-word essay ain’t your thing. Maybe extra time reading books isn’t your thing. Maybe you just want to regularly learn about a particular field of medicine/dentistry. Well, that’s exactly what a MOOC is!

MOOCs are free or paid, easily accessible, completely online courses that you can enroll in to dive deeper into a specific field of medicine/dentistry that you’re interested in.

Don’t know where to start looking for MOOC opportunities? Here are a few places to look into:

  • EdX
  • FutureLearn
  • Coursera
  • Khan Academy

Ok, you’ve just visited one of these websites and you’re thinking “there are 1000’s of topics! I don’t even know what I’m interested in”.

A very understandable thought and one which we have a nice solution to…

Look back at your work experience/volunteering! Was there a cool case that caught your eye, or something the doctor/dentist talked about that spiked your curiosity? If so that’s a great place to start – having a link between your supercurriculars and work experience is a great sign of proactivity and admissions staff will take notice!

Important words of wisdom… 👵🏼

Your brain at this very moment – “OMG this supercurricular thing is going to change the game! Time to sign up for an EPQ, 2 MOOCs, and I’m driving to Waterstones right now for them books!”

Ok, it’s probably not that extreme 😂

But while your head is flowing with all these ideas you need to listen to this very important message…

Don’t treat supercurriculars as a tick-box exercise.

Didn’t hear me?

DON’T TREAT SUPERCURRICULARS AS A TICK-BOX EXERCISE.

MOOC’s, EPQ’s, books. They take time, they really do, so if you’re spending all this time and not even retaining/reflecting/learning anything, that’s a really sad situation.

Secret: Admissions staff don’t care about WHAT you did, but rather what you gained from an experience. This applies to everything, from supercurricular activities, to work experience. So in the interview, if you’re asked about how you’ve explored medicine/dentistry outside of the classroom, don’t focus on the details of your project or book and exactly what you researched. Rather, you should delve into what you learned about yourself, or what new perspective you gained about medicine/dentistry. Anyone can recite their research project, but it takes a true reflector to understand how they developed through an experience. If you’ve gained all these insights from one project or one book, do you need to do that extra MOOC or that extra activity? Of course not!

Really what I’m trying to say is: Keep it simple, take it easy, and just have fun with it! You’ll thank yourself for it 😉