What Universities Want

Future Schools Trust has been celebrating the fact that a record number of students from its Cornwallis Academy have applied to university this year – some of them to Russell Group universities too.

We are particularly proud, as the school is still trying to shake off its historical reputation, despite coming under the umbrella of FST more than a decade ago.

Half this year’s Sixth Form – 62 students – have applied to universities, with offers coming in from the Royal Veterinary College, Kings College London, Southampton and Loughborough.

While helping students prepare their personal statements, we asked ourselves ‘just what are universities looking for?’

A recent study by the student travel and gap year group World Challenge proved interesting reading.

When asked which three things other than academic performance they thought added value to a personal statement, 18.5% replied sport, 12.3% music and 7.7% drama.

Instead, a resounding 92% said work experience and 68% regular volunteering. Trailing in third was the Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme, with 28%.

The Cornwallis Academy Sixth Form is built on two key principles: achieving academic success and preparing for the future through involvement in our enrichment programme.

Clearly, universities today want to see the breadth of character and added maturity that work experience and volunteering brings. It would seem that our wide-ranging enrichment programme has been a contributory factor in this year’s success.

Students engage in a range of mentoring schemes, work experience placements, conferences, charity work, holiday clubs, local primary school partnerships and a whole variety of social events. 

Students also have the opportunity to attend a range of domestic and international trips. Previous destinations include Ecuador, Belgium and Italy.

All Sixth Form students are expected to be aspirational, motivated and fully committed to their studies but, in return, we too work hard to ensure students meet their expected outcomes to become well-rounded, independent and successful young adults.

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