Will summer school help with your university application?

Will summer school help with your university application?

Whether you want to learn more about a particular subject, experience what life is like as a university student or learn a new language whilst living in a different country, summer school could be for you. Even if you just want to have fun and make new friends, enrolling on a summer school programme can be a worthwhile way to spend July and August.

From learning in the lecture halls of a prestigious university to taking an online course at home, there are many different types of summer school to choose between. And with thousands of courses available, you can learn about pretty much anything.

Whatever programme you decide to enrol on, you might be wondering whether it’s worth including it in the personal statement section of your university application. Continue reading to find out the answer.

Will summer school help with your university application?

To give yourself the best chance of landing a place on your dream university course, you need to set yourself apart from the competition by highlighting anything you’ve done alongside your college or sixth form studies – and that includes summer school.

Enrolling on an academic summer school course shows university admissions officers that you’re motivated, proactive and dedicated to your studies, but even a recreational summer school can enhance your university application, as it demonstrates what you’re like as a person outside of your academic ability and highlights your personal qualities.

Read on to find out more about the different types of summer school and what other benefits you could gain from enrolling on a course.

Who is summer school for?

You may be in two minds about whether summer school is right for you. To help you decide, here are some examples of the types of people who enrol on summer courses:

Students who want to gain more knowledge

Some students choose to attend summer school to learn more about their chosen university subject. Usually, this is to give them a head start over their peers or fill in any gaps in their knowledge. Of course, it may just be because they take a keen interest in the subject and want to know more about it for pleasure.

Those who want to experience life as a university student

Many universities offer summer schools to give people an idea of what it’s like to study at their institution. At a residential summer school, students will get the chance to sleep in halls, as well as learn in auditoriums and eat in campus restaurants and cafes.

People who want to learn a new language

A summer school abroad can be a great way to learn a new language whilst immersing yourself in a different culture.

Many summer school programmes – both in the UK and abroad – attract a diverse range of students from a variety of nationalities and backgrounds. This means that even if you’re studying in your home country, you can still learn about other cultures by mixing with your peers.

Anyone who wants to have fun

Not all summer school programmes are educational. Some have been designed for you to just take part in extracurricular activities and make new friends.

There are hybrid summer schools too, though. Programmes that incorporate practical courses like film, drama, art and sports teach you to hone your talents as well as have fun.

What are the different types of summer school?


Often referred to as “summer camps” or “sleepaway camps”, recreational summer schools are designed to encourage campers to develop their social skills and problem-solving abilities through group activities.

PGL, for example, offers adventure holidays all over the UK, where children and teenagers can take part in sports like abseiling, canoeing and surfing, as well as other activities including orienteering, raft-building and survival.


Many summer school courses have an academic focus and are designed as catch-up programmes or for students to learn more about a particular subject. 

Oxford Royale Academy, for example, offers summer schools in prestigious educational institutions, like the University of Oxford and Cambridge University, with course subjects including business, engineering, law, medicine, robotics and architecture.

Online academic courses

Alternatively, students looking to learn a new subject or brush up on their existing knowledge can do so online.

There’s a wealth of academic online courses available, covering every subject, from maths, science and English to sustainability and artificial intelligence.


International summer schools provide the opportunity to experience life in an exotic location.

World Campus Japan, for example, offers a unique insight into Japanese culture. Attendees spend a week with a Japanese family, as well as mixing with other students, who come from all over the world. Course activities vary from year to year, but in the past students have visited a sake factory, gone behind the scenes of an arigato (‘thank you’) event and learnt the secrets of Zen meditation in Uda.

Sometimes, these programmes include language classes so attendees can fully immerse themselves in a new culture and learn a new skill, whilst having fun away from home.

What can you gain from summer school?

There are many benefits to attending summer school. Some of these include the following:

You’ll find out whether you really want to study your chosen subject

A summer course is a great way to get a taste for what you might be studying at university. This means you’ll be able to make an informed decision about whether you really want to study that subject.

You can experience university life 

If you attend summer school at a university, you’ll have an insight into what life is like for a university student. As well as mixing with students who are already enrolled at the university, you’ll have the chance to explore the city you’ll be living in.

You’ll make new friends 

Summer school is a great way to meet people from all walks of life, with many programmes attracting international participants too.

You can get help with your university application 

If you opt for an educational summer school, your tutor may be able to help you with your university application. They can advise on what to include on your personal statement (in addition to your attendance at summer school), help you prepare for interviews and answer any questions you may have about the university admissions process.

Are there any alternatives to summer school?

If you decide that summer school isn’t for you, an alternative is to enrol on a university taster course. Not only can this enhance your university application by demonstrating your dedication to your chosen subject, but you’ll get an insight into whether you want to study a course at a particular university.

Taster courses enable you to experience academic and social life on campus before you apply for a place, with courses lasting from a single day to more than a week. Often, you’ll be given the opportunity to stay on campus overnight and meet staff and undergraduate students, whilst discovering what’s involved in studying your chosen subject.

Most courses include lectures, tutorials and class discussions and you’ll also have the opportunity to discover more about the other side of student life, including sports, drama, music and cultural activities.

Open days can also give you an insight into student life and what it might be like to attend a particular university.

What do admissions departments like to see on a university application?

In addition to your academic abilities, university admissions teams will want to see things that tell them what you’re like as a person. This could include attending a summer school abroad, which will demonstrate that you’re an adventurous person who takes an interest in other cultures.

When deciding what to include on your university application, it might be helpful to know that in addition to academic qualifications and grades, admissions officers look for the following attributes:

  • Inclination to complete degree
  • Evidence of passion for chosen subject
  • Evidence of positive attitude towards study
  • Good written English
  • Confidence with basic maths
  • Evidence of ability to think and work independently
  • Ability to work well in groups
  • Ability to persevere and complete tasks
  • Good presentation skills
  • Intercultural awareness

With that in mind, here are some of the other things you might want to include on your application:

Awards and similar achievements

Awards like the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award (DofE), show university admissions officers that you have a certain level of expertise and you’ve worked hard to achieve something outside of your academic studies.

They will prove that you’re dedicated to seeing things through – especially if you’ve given up your free time to achieve them.

Course-related work experience

While academic studies are the main criteria for acceptance onto a course, spending time in a workplace environment can provide a wealth of additional skills, which admissions officers will recognise.

Candidates who have undertaken work experience will be looked upon favourably as it indicates a level of maturity and willingness to step outside their comfort zone.

Instruments you play

Including any instruments you play could get you extra brownie points with admissions teams.

If you’re a competent musician but haven’t yet been examined, consider getting graded, as any grade above six will earn you extra UCAS points.

Languages you speak

Learning another language not only shows perseverance and advanced memory skills, but that you have a unique level of cultural empathy.

Volunteer work

In addition to looking good on your university application (as it shows you are compassionate and you care about your community), volunteer work can earn you up to 50 extra UCAS points.


Attending any type of summer school is likely to help with your university application. You’ll have the edge over the competition by demonstrating that you’ve taken the initiative to commit to something in addition to your college or sixth form studies.

An academic summer school course shows university admissions officers that you’re motivated, proactive and dedicated to your studies, while a recreational summer school demonstrates what you’re like as a person outside of your academic ability and highlights your personal qualities.

Various people attend summer school, such as students who want to gain more knowledge, those who want to experience life as a university student, people who want to learn a new language and those who just want to have fun and make new friends.

Summer schools come in various forms: Educational – where you can participate either online or in person – recreational and international.

Some of the benefits of summer school are that you’ll find out whether you really want to study your chosen subject, you can experience life as a university student, you’ll make new friends and you can get expert help with your university application.

If you want to improve your university application or you’re unsure about studying your chosen subject but summer school isn’t right for you, you can enrol on a university taster course or attend a university open day instead.

In addition to summer school, some other things you might want to include on your university application are awards, course-related work experience, any instruments you play or languages you speak and volunteer work.


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