I remember when I was at school and having to complete my university application I kept coming up against the same challenge; what can I include in the ‘extra experience’ box? I hadn’t done a Duke of Edinburgh award; I hadn’t stuck at any musical instrument long enough to claim proficiency; my acting career had only run to one school play. I was worried. I was also less than thrilled at the idea of joining the army cadets (it’s just not really me!), but how else was I going to make my application stand out?
Some of you may be considering the same thing as you think about your FF application. Using examples which are interesting, unusual and compelling is a tall order but you also know that anything that’s mediocre or run of the mill probably isn’t going to get a second look. So how can you make sure you have the sort of experiences you need to get your audience to sit up and take notice?
A key part of this is simply to get out of the house and get involved. Not everything has to take a lot of money; it’s amazing what opportunities present themselves if you are a bit creative in your thinking. It’s also really important to do things that you like, and this will mean you stick at it and get the most out of it. It’s all very well thinking that you should really do some volunteer work but if working in a shelter or mentoring teenagers just doesn’t appeal, there is no point. It’s probably a good indication that your talents don’t lie in those areas and there is something else you should be doing to make the most of your time and making your unique contribution.
Extra activities shouldn’t just be about looking good in an application. It’s about doing things which grow your confidence and broaden your horizons; that get you interacting with people outside of your normal social group and allow you to experience the immense satisfaction of excelling or contributing in some way.
You may be surprised about the richness of experience that new or even your existing activities can provide to both your life and your application. While I was busy thinking I needed to join a marching band or plant trees in Africa, I overlooked the things I HAD done. These didn’t fall into the usual categories, but had a lot to offer after all. It’s worth taking a fresh look at your own experiences; have you done something which you really enjoyed? Have you done something that you are proud of? Have you made a difference, even to just one person? And if the answer at the moment is no, then now is the perfect time to make a start.