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Ballet Lessons Might Increase Your Chances of Being Accepted into University

Ballet Lessons Might Increase Your Chances of Being Accepted into University main image

Know the difference between a plié and a relevé? If so, all those ballet lessons you’ve had might be about to help you get into your first-choice uni.

Writing anonymously in , a UK academic has said admissions staff will use extra-curricular activities such as dance or music when deciding which students should be offered places at their university.

They said: “The problem lies in the metrics, notably entry tariff scores, which reflect more than students’ A-level results. This score is the decisive factor in who gets in and who gets turned down.

“While A-level results make a considerable contribution to tariff scores, so do all sorts of other things. Does the applicant have a good qualification in dance or a grade six in music? 12 points. Another qualification in speech and drama? A further 12 points. An A for an extended project? 24 points. Level 3 certificate in British sign language? 16 points. To provide some context, a B at A-level is worth 40 points.”

Given the inclusion of personal hobbies, interests and achievements in your personal statement, it’s arguably not too surprising that universities are paying attention to these things. What is surprising though is just how much weight they’re being given. As the academic goes on to explain, a tie between two students who both achieved BBB at A-Level would be decided by whichever of the two students could play the piano – even if it had nothing to do with the course they had applied to.

While it’s great that students with extra talents and skills are being rewarded for pursuing those extra-curricular interests, the fact universities consider them so important raises concerns about social mobility. After all, does this mean you’re less likely to get into university if your parents couldn’t afford to send you to ballet lessons for the last 10 years? Unfortunately, yes. The benefits for more well-off students are clear, as it’s hardly an unfair stereotype to say that anyone who learned to play violin or an additional foreign language outside of school hours is more likely to be from a richer family.

What about the people who would have loved to learn an instrument or develop a new skill but were never given the opportunity? Maybe you’re sat there reading this right now feeling even more resentful that your school doesn’t have a decent drama program or that your parents couldn’t afford to buy you a cello. Imagine if that ends up being the reason you don’t get into a top UK university.

One commenter on the article said they were aware of a Russell Group university which took this practice even further, preferring students with some extra-curricular interests (rugby, orchestra) but not others (football, rock band), throwing up another barrier for anyone who doesn’t like the correct/posh sport or music genre. While this can’t be verified, it suggests this problem isn’t limited to just one rogue uni. But what can you do about it?

While pressure will continue to be placed on universities to widen participation and make their programs accessible to a diverse range of students, change isn’t going to happen immediately. So, if you’re applying to university in the next few years, now is a good time to start adding some extra activities and skills to your arsenal.

Find out what clubs, societies or extra tutoring your school might be able to offer.

Sit down with your parents and ask what (if anything) they could afford towards you pursuing a particular interest. You could even get a part-time job and offer to help cover costs.

If you have to make do with whatever comes free, volunteering opportunities will at least give you something extra to add to that application and increase your chances of getting offered a place over somebody else.

Whatever you do, don’t sit back and think your grades will be good enough to get you into university. With competition for places at UK unis fiercer than ever, pulling off a pirouette has never been so important.

Image credits: Dancers (Jim, the Photographer; Flickr), Orchestra (Wikimedia Commons)

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Written by Craig OCallaghan
As editor of TopUniversities.com, Craig oversees the site's editorial content and network of student contributors. He also plays a key editorial role in the publication of several guides and reports, including the QS Top Grad School Guide.

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If you have to make do with whatever comes free, volunteering opportunities will at least give you something extra to add to that application and increase your chances of getting offered a place over somebody else.