UCAS and the DofE: My advice
With the UCAS application process now open for 2020 entry to universities and colleges, Kira Jarvis, one of our Gold Award holders, shares her personal experience and advice on using your DofE experience to enhance your submission.
Which parts of the UCAS application can you use your DofE experience in?
In your personal statement, saying that you have completed your DofE demonstrates commitment and motivation to succeed, which universities will look at, especially as at times it can be challenging and completing your DofE demonstrates you can cope and thrive.
You can also use the DofE if you get invited for an interview. If you explain how it helped or changed you, such as boosting confidence and skills while showing commitment to a task, it could increase your chances of getting a place.
What skills and experience from the DofE would you recommend mentioning?
Definitely the expeditions! They are one of the most challenging aspects as you are isolated from the outside world without mobiles or other devices. I would mention that you can succeed without outside help even in potentially harsh conditions, have the mental and physical power to overcome challenges and can work well as a team.
If you have done your Silver or Gold DofE, mention the skills, physical and volunteering sections too, as they indicate that you will follow commitments through even if it takes up your time which you may need for other activities.
As a Gold Award holder, I also recommend including details of your residential and explaining that you did not know anyone but still managed to complete the activities while challenging yourself, learning new skills and making new friends. This will indicate to universities that you can adapt to new surroundings and thus fit in well.
What skills and experience did you mention?
At the time of applying for university, I had achieved a Scouting equivalent to the DofE Silver Award and was working towards my Gold DofE and Queens Scout Award, so I covered everything I had done so far in these.
I mentioned that I had been part of Scouting since the age of 6 and had completed many challenges including trips to Germany, Estonia and Poland and hiking in the Peak District. I also explained how doing this allowed me to become a Cub Scout Young leader and then a Leader and how I used this for the Volunteering section of my Silver DofE programme.
In my personal statement, I wrote about how my experience during the Skill and Physical sections had increased my confidence and improved my fitness and swimming speed; for my physical activity, I swam at a local swimming club and gained Personal Bests.
Whatever you mention, just make sure you explain how it helped you develop and how you would adapt this to study to succeed.
How did doing your DofE help prepare you for University life?
It helped me to be confident and go for things I would have only dreamed of before doing the DofE. I therefore had the confidence to apply for and become a Course Representative and a Student Ambassador at university; this means I am often the person students or prospective students come to with questions about student life and our course.
The DofE also helped me when applying for summer placements; I was successful getting placements at a local wildlife trust, two veterinary clinics and an internship in South Africa, all of which would not have been possible without the DofE giving me the confidence to give things a go.
Doing my DofE also gave me the skills to adapt to the less structural way of life at university, allowed me to feel confident that I had made the right choice, and made me realise that, no matter what, there is no harm in applying for new opportunities, as you never know where or what they may lead to.
Did any of your DofE activities inspire you to pursue a particular field of study?
For the Skills section, I worked at my local stables, assisting with the day to day tasks and lessons; this included manual labour of mucking out and grooming the horses. Helping there strengthened my passion for working with animals and, due to this, I decided to study Animal Management at university. This is one of the best decisions I have ever made; the skills I gained at the stables are adaptable to other animals and my studies, and the course has given me so many opportunities I would not have had if I had not applied to university or taken up my offer.
Are you still using the skills you gained during your DofE programme?
Yes, the skills are invaluable!
I have become more of a team player and will make sure everyone’s voice is heard as Course Representative. I have also gained more understanding of others, as during my Residential I worked at a respite holiday care home for people with disabilities which helped me to become more aware of others in need.
The DofE has most definitely built my self-esteem to be able to apply for things I would otherwise not have done. I also have more confidence to help me succeed.
How do you think achieving your Award and the skills gained will help you in your future?
Achieving my DofE Award has helped me to have more courage to apply for jobs and be more confident in interviews, which I would not have done so easily before doing my DofE.
It has already helped me in applying for work experience and taking part in reception duties, talking to clients and assisting in consultations at veterinary surgeries. I would not have even applied to do this if I had not done my DofE as it has reduced my nerves while talking to people I do not know and with assisting professionals or qualified staff members.
Anything else you’d like to add?
If you have done your DofE, I would definitely mention it. You never know, it could make a difference in getting into your first-choice university and you never know where that could take you!