Explore Beyond School

Why explore beyond school?

The best reason to explore beyond school is because you want to, because it’s interesting and you enjoy a challenge! Going beyond the school course in the subjects you love will also help you explore what you would like to study and bridge the gap between school and university.

You shouldn’t do these activities just so you can write about them in your UCAS personal statement, but they will come in handy when you’re writing it, as they’re things that help demonstrate that you’ve explored your subject and you are developing the skills and qualities universities are looking for.

Admissions tutors will be looking for students who are interested in and excited about their subjects. The best way to show that is by going beyond what you’re taught in school: by reading something you haven’t been told to read, watching a documentary that’s linked to your subject, or listening to a podcast that’s related to your course. Most importantly we’d like you to think critically about these experiences and how they link to your chosen course.

Need some inspiration?

We’ve got some ideas to get you started!

A Page of Python

Programming plays an important role in many STEM subjects. We’ve put together a series of five challenges, each of which has three target activities, based on STEM topics, that will take you beyond what you have studied at school. Each activity will only use software that is freely available online, but will require you to do some research of your own to create a solution. Hints and tips will be provided to help complete the challenges if you get stuck!

The challenges are aimed at students in years 12 and above (aged 16+), and are intended to be possible to complete in a full afternoon if students already have some familiarity with Python.

Your own Oral History Project

Oral history is an exciting way of doing historical research which recovers experiences and perspectives that are often overlooked. Everyone has a story to tell. We’ve compiled some resources to help you pursue your own project on experiences of migration in your local community. The project gives you the opportunity to conduct your own primary research and acquire skills and experiences that will help you to submit a strong application to Oxford or another University. The project is designed for students of humanities and social science subjects, but we hope that students of any subject will enjoy and benefit from it.

Other resources


We’d recommend that you read books that interest you. If you’re not sure what to read you can find ideas at www.ox.ac.uk/reading. As well as books, you could read magazines:  e.g. BBC History and New Scientist, and read news articles: e.g. BBC news and broadsheet newspapers, particularly if your subject is closely related to current affairs.


Depending on what’s relevant to your subject, this could be job shadowing, volunteering, visiting museums, finding out about your local area, taking part in a competition or project, joining a debating society, helping at science club, etc. You can also take part in university taster days, summer schools, or outreach programmes for free, e.g. UNIQ (www.uniq.ox.ac.uk), Christ Church Horizons, Aim for Oxford, Oxford Pathways (www.pathways.ox.ac.uk), which will give you a chance to try out what it would be like to study at university and Oxford.

MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses)

These are free university-level courses available online. The largest are www.futurelearn.com  and www.coursera.org both of which offer courses in a huge range of topics, which you can sign up to and follow through several weeks. You’ll usually have video-talks, some reading to do, and discussions and assignments. You can do as much or as little as you like – it’s free, and there’s no test unless you want one!

Thinking and talking

To make the most of these things, it’s good to develop your own opinions and to have someone to talk to about what you’ve learnt and what you think. This could be a member of your family, a friend, a teacher, a club (e.g. science club or a debating society). https://oxplore.org/ is a fantastic platform that encourages thinking and talking about ‘big questions’. Your teachers will also be able to help you if you want to find out more about their subject, and may suggest some things to read and do.


Remember that it’s not about how much you do, but about how you reflect on your experiences.


We wish you the very best of luck and do feel free to get in touch if you have any questions! You can keep in touch via email: access@chch.ox.ac.uk, and our social media!

Twitter: @ChCh_Access   Instagram: @christchurchoxford