Caitlin's latest blog - how to stand out from the crowd

Tuesday, October 07, 2014 12:00 AM

Caitlin, one of our student bloggers, has a great idea to help make you stand out from the crowd.

As the season of UCAS applications approaches, many students will be looking for ways to go above and beyond in order to stand out from the crowd.  If your school offers it as an option, one possibility is to get involved with an Extended Project Qualification (EPQ).

Successful completion of the EPQ will earn you the equivalent of an AS Level in UCAS points. A requirement is to write either a 5000 word report on your chosen topic, or create a product/artefact along with a 1000 word report. Afterwards, you will need to give a short presentation on your topic, explaining your ideas and conclusions. As it requires a lot of independent research and self-motivation, it is seen as useful preparation for the skills and learning style required by many universities.

The topic researched can be anything you want (within reason, of course - the effect of Choco-Pop consumption on the rise of the Tudor dynasty and the demise of the Plantagenets is unlikely to be permitted). Most projects are tightly focused on single themes, ideas or questions. Guidance will be given by a supervisor, but for the most part, you are given free rein to go about your research and structure it in any way that you want. Most students start work on their projects over the summer holidays, so as not to interfere with their other studies.

If the idea of that 5000 word report fills you with dread, you could create a product or artefact such as:

  • A piece of artwork
  • A dramatic performance
  • A short story
  • A piece of music
  • A short film

Many other ideas are also accepted - the project is about what you are truly interested in.

So why should you think about doing the EPQ?

If you’re genuinely interested in a subject, this is an amazing opportunity to study it in a way that’s not limited by your A-Level curriculum. For example, I chose to examine the impact of online fan fiction in the digital age for my EPQ, as an extension of my school studies of English Literature. If you have something you've always wanted to make, or a topic that interests you outside of school, then the EPQ can be perfect for showing your commitment to a subject.

Many students will spend over one hundred hours completing their EPQ. So, think carefully about whether this is something for which you would be able to find time. I certainly didn’t realise how much work it was going to be; it felt like I had been typing solidly for a whole year by the time I had finished the first draft! The EPQ by itself will not magically boost your university application. It isn’t a magic wand. However, if you have passion for a particular subject, it may be one way of demonstrating this to universities. 

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