Summer activities most likely to grab admissions tutors’ attention | Varsity Education

Summer activities most likely to grab admissions tutors’ attention

Why volunteering opportunities can not only be personally rewarding but also boost your Oxbridge university application…

Now that the sun is shining and there’s more time to spare, many young people take advantage of the opportunity to do volunteer work.

After all, the benefits of volunteering are numerous and proven. Taking time out of your week to volunteer will boost your confidence and happiness levels, teach you vital social and networking skills and present you with a range of new challenges. Volunteers get an insight into how others experience the world and, of course, they get to directly help those who most need it (the most important part!)

However, on a less altruistic level, volunteering can make a significant impact on your university application, especially if the work you choose aligns with your academic ambitions. In the ultra-competitive world of Oxbridge admissions, a well-chosen volunteer placement could make the difference between receiving an offer or a rejection for a place on your chosen degree course.

With this in mind, we’ve looked at just a sample of our summer programme subjects and the kind of volunteering opportunities you might want to consider…

Biological Sciences

Look for local research laboratories, pharma company offices, clinical environments or wherever else you think you might see yourself working in the future and write a formal letter of application requesting a volunteer placement with them.

There are some organisations that offer volunteer roles in scientific fields especially for 16 to 18-year-old students. Examples include Wellcome Trust, GlaxoSmithKline and The Nuffield Foundation.

Alternatively, you could also try contacting smaller local organisations– such as a natural history or science museum, a wildlife conservation project or an environmental agency.

Varsity Education Science students at Oxford School of Pathology


As well as shadowing or assisting clinical psychologists in a hospital setting, there are many other ways of widening your life experience to show a genuine interest in human psychology.

This might include volunteering as a youth support worker, working with people with disabilities/learning difficulties (perhaps through schools and community groups), or simply helping at any charity that works with individuals with mental health needs.

In addition, The Life Foundation offers volunteer placements in countries such as Bulgaria and Romania working with abandoned children, children with learning disabilities or children with autism. Outside of the UK, other charities operate similar schemes.


At its heart, the legal profession is really about social justice. So, taking any opportunities to be part of it will ultimately be impressive to an admissions tutor.

As well as the obvious route of volunteering to help in a law practice, there might be lesser known ways of doing this – such as helping disenfranchised people, being part of a specific campaigning or political group, or any kind of social justice project.

Any of these activities will help prove that you have a passion for the law and how it affects ordinary people. For a Law Oxbridge application, students would need to show an awareness of how their volunteer work interplays with questions of Jurisprudence / Social Justice in particular.

Varsity Education medicine students at Oxford School of Pathology


There are lots of ways in which you can volunteer in a medical environment. The most popular is obviously in a local hospital or clinic during a volunteer placement over the summer holidays.

A number of organisations (including Gap Medics and Projects Abroad) can arrange placements where you can work in hospitals or for healthcare projects in the developing world.

Other potential routes range from administering first aid at public events through an organisation such as St John Ambulance or the British Red Cross, to simply befriending an older person in a care home.

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