How to get extra UCAS points through volunteering

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Volunteer reading to children

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Volunteering is a brilliant way to gain work experience as a student, develop new skills and help people in your local area, but did you know you can also get extra UCAS points as well?

Some people ask us about the community volunteering qualification (CVQ), and although this isn't going anymore, there are other ways to get qualifications and extra UCAS points through volunteering.

Why should I think about volunteering as a student?

Volunteering can improve your confidence, build your work skills, help you gain knowledge in a new subject, and give you the chance to travel. It can even be fun! You can also make a big difference to the lives of the people you volunteer to help. Even a small commitment can have a lasting effect on an organization and the people it represents.

When applying for summer jobs or higher education, your applications need to stand out. It’s important to be able to draw on your own experiences in interviews and volunteering will definitely give you lots to talk about!

'Volunteering can build confidence and work skills – and also get you qualifications'

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I've heard I can get extra UCAS points through something called the CVQ. What is it?

There used to be something called the community volunteering qualification (CVQ), which allowed you to gain UCAS points by carrying out volunteering work. If you’ve got a CVQ, it will give you 50 UCAS points if you’re going to university in 2016 (compared with 60 points from an A-grade AS level), and 16 under UCAS’s new points system in 2017 (an A-grade AS will be worth 20 under the new system).

CVQs aren’t available any more, but the organisation that offered them, ASDAN, does offer other qualifications which will give you UCAS points – and part of the work you’ll need to do can be taken from volunteering.

So what else is out there?

The most advanced of these is called the certificate of personal effectiveness, or CoPE. It was mainly created for students to take alongside A-levels, Scottish highers and other further education qualifications between the ages of 16 and 18. It will give you 70 UCAS points if you’re planning to go to university in 2016, and 16 from 2017 onwards. Remember, that’s compared with 20 points for an A-grade AS level, or 58 points for an A-level at A* grade.

CoPE helps you develop skills in six areas over 150 guided learning hours (compared with 360 for an A-level). The six areas are active citizenship, work-related activities, career planning, global awareness, enrichment activities and an extended project. Part of this can be made up by volunteering.

What should I consider?

If you’re planning on doing CoPE to get UCAS points to support your university application, there are a few things to bear in mind. Firstly, it’s a big commitment, so you might have to drop another qualification, so weigh up which gives you the greatest benefit (and the UCAS points you need) before making your decision.

Crucially, not every university accepts CoPE, although more and more are doing so. Here’s a list of universities that say they accept CoPE at the moment:

  • University of the West of England
  • University College Birmingham
  • University of Lincoln
  • Edge Hill University
  • Southampton Solent University
  • Liverpool Hope University

Other universities will probably accept them as well – in fact, there’s a long list in the CoPE leaflet, which you can download from the ASDAN site, but we strongly recommend that you check first.

Not every school and college offers CoPE, so you’ll need to check it’s on offer at the place you’re applying to, or talk to them about the possibility of introducing it.

What are the other benefits?

CoPE will give you key skills you might not otherwise have the chance to develop while you’re in education, which could give you a big advantage if you decide to go straight into work or an apprenticeship after leaving school or college. It will also help you demonstrate workplace skills when you apply for a job after university.

Is CoPE the only option?

No, there are more! There is a less advanced qualification called the award of personal effectiveness, which school students can take on at any age. It will get you 8 UCAS points in 2017, but we’ve been unable to find out which universities will accept points from this qualification.

ASDAN offers three wider key skills qualifications. They're in:

  • Improving your own learning and performance
  • Working with others
  • Problem solving

Each of these will give you 6 UCAS points from 2017, and you can get work towards these skills by doing volunteering work or other activities.

These are for anyone, not just young people (ASDAN says even chief executives can do them) so while the UCAS bounty might be quite small, you’ll be developing important skills which could make your CV more competitive.

You might want to consider doing one or more of them in an addition to your other qualifications. You can also get volunteering experience through the Duke of Edinburgh Award – you won't get UCAS points, but you will get a certificate proving you've done it.

Of course, volunteering work will benefit you even if you don't get a qualification out of it because you'll start to develop the workplace skills employers look for in job applicants. 

What kind of volunteering work can I do as a student?

Young people preparing food (Photo: Discover Volunteering)

There are many different types of work available, from helping in charity shops to exciting adventures at home and abroad.

Many volunteers support local charities and volunteer in school, whilst others work across the UK or even travel abroad.

We have helped students get involved in projects on cookery, sports coaching, first aid, theatre, conservation and even volunteering at music festivals.

Do I need experience to apply for volunteering work as a student?

No. Most people volunteer to gain experience and organisations welcome volunteers from all backgrounds. All you will need is plenty of enthusiasm and willingness to get involved.

How much time do I need to give?

Volunteering opportunities come in all shapes and sizes, from long-term, regular commitments to one-off projects, which might only take a day or two.

If you're doing one of the ASDAN qualifications, you'll need to put in a minimum to meet the requirements of the course. And since these qualifications aren't just about volunteering, you'll need to put in all the other work required to complete your course.

What skills will I develop by volunteering?

First aid training with British Red Cross. (Photo: Discover Volunteering)

Where do we start! You can pick up so many new skills - including teamwork, responsibility, initiative, communication, relationship-building, computing skills and, depending on what you do, professional work skills – like radio production with a community radio station or construction skills on a community building project.

How do I find volunteering opportunities? 

If you’re doing one of the ASDAN courses, you'll get help finding the volunteering and other placements you need to earn your qualifications.

If you're doing it off your own bat, you should talk to these helpful people:

Want to know more about volunteering? Check out our guide to finding volunteering opportunities that will help you in your career. 

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