Blog 17 July 2020 By Peter Ashdown-Knights

How to: make the most of university life whilst doing your DofE

Peter, 22, is about to start his second year at university and is currently doing his Gold DofE via DofE Direct. Here he explains how he is making the most of all the opportunities that university offers, whilst also working towards his Award.

Two boxers practising in a field

The prospect of a first year at university may sound daunting, even without considering trying to complete your DofE at the same time.

Thankfully, I discovered that the first year of university was the perfect time to work towards my DofE. I was able to try new activities and commit to opportunities that were not only perfect for my DofE sections but also provided me with some great skills and experiences for my CV.

I’ve heard many graduates say that their biggest regret was not being involved in more societies. It’s an opportunity to try new things, meet new people and find out what you really love.

Sadly, this year’s Freshers’ Fayres will be diminished in size, but that doesn’t mean the clubs and societies will give up on their prospective members – there’ll still be plenty of activities to choose from and ways to get involved. As the President and founder of the Holistics Society at the University of Portsmouth I can safely say that our committee is enjoying rising to the challenge of working out how to accommodate the needs of our current members and encourage new members to join us.

Being a member of a club or society committee, even during lockdown, can count as your volunteering activity for your DofE. So you could participate in a club or society activity in order to fulfil your Physical or Skill sections, whilst also completing your Volunteering section as a member of the committee.

Having until your 25th birthday to complete your Gold means that there’s plenty of time for you to take it at your own pace and press pause if you need to. At 22 I’ve spread my Gold DofE across two years, with lots of opportunities presenting themselves in that time. My Physical and Skills sections have been signed off, and my Volunteering section is well underway.

Choir singing in church

For my Residential I’m completing a Level 3 course in body massage; I’m staying in a hostel and spending time with unfamiliar people during my six-day practical. Despite the practical element of the course being split into two three-day teaching blocks, it still meets the DofE programme requirements. I’m lucky that the course has been adjusted to adhere to all current Government guidelines so that I could continue with this during lockdown. There’s a wider range of opportunities for your residential than you may be aware of, including several that are completely free.

However, I will become a father this December, so the expedition will require some serious planning…

As a DofE Direct participant, the DofE Co-ordinators have been incredibly supportive of my need for flexibility. I would highly recommend considering this route, whether you’re new to the DofE or are looking for a way to continue with your programme once you leave school.

My Gold DofE programme has helped me recognise and turn everyday activities into something I can celebrate as extensions to my learning. The timeframes have also helped me to stay motivated and on track and the DofE has reminded me about the importance of maintaining some regular activity beyond the usual daily grind. It’s been important to both my mental and physical health as I have navigated the first year of university.

Boxing fight

Until you’re 25, there’s no reason to think you’ve missed your chance with the DofE. Whether you’re starting university for the first time in September or returning after the summer break, there are so many ways that you could incorporate the DofE into your schedule and turn your passions into a Gold Award.

More details about DofE Direct can be found here.

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