Forget extra-curricular activities, focus on academic rigour, says Oxford head of admissions

Below are excerpts from the Telegraph 27, Aug 2010 …

Universities uninterested in pupils’ extra-curricular activities
Students applying to university should not waste their time on extra curricular activities because dons do not want “second-rate historians who happen to play the flute”, the head of admissions at Oxford has said.
Sixth formers have long been advised that playing the harp or captaining the school chess team could persuade admissions tutors to award them that elusive university spot.
Mike Nicholson director of undergraduate admissions at Oxford.But the suggestion that non-academic pursuits could make any difference to pupils’ applications is a myth, according to Mike Nicholson, director of undergraduate admissions at Oxford.Mr Nicholson said students would be better off devoting more time to their studies than trying to bolster their personal statements through charity work or Duke of Edinburgh awards
Mr Nicholson told the Times Educational Supplement: “It really doesn’t matter if you haven’t got any friends or hobbies or if you don’t do any charitable work …[Acceptance] is a purely academic judgement.”He said universities were only interested in “enthused, engaged and excellent” candidates, rather than “second-rate historians who happen to play the flute”.
A spokeswoman for Cambridge said: “All admissions decisions are based on academic criteria, and excellence in an extra-curricular activity will never ‘compensate’ for lower academic potential.”The remarks may also surprise teachers who routinely advise pupils to emphasise their non-academic interests in the personal statement on their application form.Geraldine Naughten, director of sixth form studies at George Green’s School in Tower Hamlets, east London, said: “I don’t disagree that academic rigour is important, but we also believe in balance.”But she added that “if the guy who is dishing out places at Oxford” says academic rigour is the most important pursuit for applicants, then “we can’t really ignore that”.

Read the rest of the article here.

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