University of Cambridge

Undergraduate

Study

Frequently asked questions

Choosing a course and a College

What courses are available at Cambridge?

At Cambridge we have full-time undergraduate courses ranging from Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic to Veterinary Medicine, and lots in between.

Many of our courses encompass several subjects, with some options available in a number of courses where the subjects overlap. This offers much greater flexibility than more narrowly focused courses elsewhere. Those with a clear sense of the subject they wish to pursue at university can specialise. However, students who are less certain are able to explore the wider subject area before deciding what to focus on.

A list of all the courses available can be found at Subject A-Z.

What is a College?

As well as being members of the University, our students are also a member of College. A College is where you'll be based for the time you're studying at the University of Cambridge, and while the Colleges provide student accommodation they're is much more than halls of residence. Colleges are responsible for admitting students, and they also organise ‘supervisions’ (small-group teaching sessions that support the lectures and practicals that you attend).

For more information about the College system at Cambridge, and profiles on each of the 29 undergraduate Colleges, have a look at Colleges.

How do I choose a College?

It might seem a bit daunting trying to choose a College, but don't worry, Colleges are more alike than they are different! Students on the same course, regardless of their College, are taught together by the academic faculties/departments, and our cross-College moderation procedures mean that your choice of College does not affect your chances of being made an offer. The key functions that the University and Colleges are responsible for are outlined in Cambridge Explained.

When choosing a College, we surggest you consider the following:

  • course – most Colleges take students in all subjects, but there are a handful that don't so check availability (details can be found in the relevant course entries and College profiles)
  • your age – four Colleges are exclusively for mature students (aged 21 or older), and their facilities are geared accordingly
  • your gender – three Colleges consider applications from female students only.
  • College size – number of students
  • appearance and type of accommodation (eg on-site or College-owned houses)
  • particular facilities
  • personal instinct – many students cant explain why they were drawn to their College other than it just 'felt right' for them

Each College has a profile at College contacts (including links to their own websites). It can be helpful to make a shortlist of perhaps half a dozen Colleges based on their profiles and then either contact the Colleges for further information or arrange a visit.

Do I have to choose a College?

No, you don't have to choose a College. If, having looked at the different Colleges, you don’t mind which you attend then you don’t have to choose – you could make an ‘open’ application instead. Open applications are allocated to individual Colleges after the closing date. Once allocated to a College your application is treated exactly the same as any other application to that College.

For more advice about making an open application please see choosing a College.

Which Colleges are 'best' for which subjects?

There are no Colleges that are ‘better’ for certain subjects – students on the same course, regardless of College, are taught together by the academic faculties/departments, attending the same lectures, seminars and practicals.

While your College organises your supervisions, contrary to what some people believe, the research specialisms of a College’s Fellows won’t dictate what you can study or guarantee you’ll be supervised by them. If a Fellow of your College is an expert in the aspects of the course you’ve chosen, you may be supervised by them. However, you’ll attend supervisions at another College is that’s where the relevant subject expert is based.

Teaching is a level playing field across the University and is not determined by the College you attend – the differences between the Colleges lie in the ambience, not the educational opportunities.

The key functions that the University and Colleges are responsible for are outlined in Cambridge Explained.

Guidance on how (and how not) to choose a College can be found in Choosing a College.

Will choosing a preference College or an open application affect my chances of being made an offer?

For equally well-qualified students, making an open application or applying to a specific College makes no difference to your chances of being made an offer.

Don’t agonise over choosing a College, students quickly settle in and really enjoy their College, wherever they end up! Each year, around 850 applicants are made an offer through the pool system by a different College to the one they originally applied/were allocated to – that’s about 25 per cent of all offers made.

Can I choose more than one College?

No – you can only make one application to the University, either selecting a preference College or an open application. Applications to more than one College, or to one College and an open application are not allowed. In addition, once you’ve submitted your application, you cannot change this choice



Applying to Cambridge

How do I apply?

The application process is really quite straightforward. To apply to the University of Cambridge you need to submit a UCAS application online by 15 October the year before you wish to start at the University.

Applicants living in countries outside the EU are also asked to submit a Cambridge Online Preliminary Application Form (COPA).

If you want to know what happens to your application once it is submitted, the ‘Applying’ section of our website has all the details.

When is the application deadline?

The deadline for your UCAS application is 15 October.

Slightly earlier deadlines affect applicants for Organ Scholarships (1 September) and some applicants wishing to be interviewed overseas.

There is also a later deadline for some mature applicants applying to one of the mature Colleges – see the mature students section for more information.

A useful summary of important dates and deadlines can be found in the Applying section.

What should a personal statement contain?

Your personal statement is your opportunity to tell the universities you’re applying to about your subject interest(s) and why you’d be a good student of that subject. The process of writing your personal statement can also help you to better understand your academic interests and motivations.

UCAS provide advice about what to include in your personal statement and you should refer to their website in the first instance. Your school/college may also be able to offer advice about what to include.

At Cambridge, all admissions decisions are based solely on academic criteria – ability and potential. Therefore, in their personal statement, we’re looking for applicants to:

  • explain their reasons for wanting to study the subject at university
  • demonstrate enthusiasm for and commitment to their chosen course
  • express any particular interests(s) within the field
  • outline how they’ve pursued their interest in the subject in their own time

Such information is often used as a basis for discussion at interview (if interviewed).

If you wish to make any comments that are particularly relevant to your Cambridge application (eg to highlight particular features of the Cambridge course that attracted you), you have the opportunity to include an additional personal statement in your SAQ. This is optional and you won’t be disadvantaged if you have nothing to add in this section of the SAQ. As we’ll already have received a copy of it, you shouldn’t repeat information provided in your UCAS personal statement in the SAQ.

Is there an age requirement?

There’s no age requirement for admission to Cambridge, although the vast majority of undergraduates are 18 years or older when they come into residence. If you’ll be over 21 when you start your course you are classified as a mature student.

All students must demonstrate that they have the maturity and personal skills to cope with university level study, and will be able to gain full benefit from the course when admitted.

Applicants who’ll be under 18 on admission should seek advice from a College Admissions Tutor as early as possible to discuss their application. If they’re considering Medicine, they should also read the advice regarding age requirements for this course in the Medicine course entry.

Applicants who would be under the age of 16 on admission may also be subject to additional requirements and restrictions in order to comply with legislation.

Can I take a gap year and defer my entry?

About one in ten students coming to Cambridge takes a gap year before starting their studies. This year out is a very useful time in which to improve skills, earn money, travel and generally gain maturity and self-reliance.

You should state on your UCAS application if you wish to defer entry. You’ll probably be asked about your plans at interview, so be prepared to talk about your year out.

If you’re applying for Mathematics, most Colleges have a preference for immediate entry. However, if you’re applying for Engineering many Colleges generally prefer applicants to take a year out, to gain some industrial experience. Please note that it’s not possible to defer entry for the Graduate Course in Medicine.

Will I be interviewed?

Everyone with a realistic chance of being offered a place is invited to attend an interview – that's more than 80 per cent of applicants. So, if you apply, it is very likely that you will be invited to Cambridge for an admissions interview (although due to the level of competition for places, there are applicants each year who are not interviewed).

Interviews usually take place during the first three weeks of December, , so we strongly advise you not to make unbreakable commitments for this period. Advice about what to expect can be found in the applying section.

Please note that not all applicants who are interviewed will be successful (made an offer of a place), but all those who are made an offer will have been interviewed.

Will I have to sit an admissions test?

That depends on the course you have applied for and which College you have applied to.

Please note that all applicants for Medicine and for Veterinary Medicine must sit the BMAT in November. Most Colleges ask applicants for Law to take the Cambridge Law Test. You may be asked to sit the TSA or a short College test when you come to Cambridge for your interview or you may be asked to submit an essay that you have written at school/college.

For details of how Colleges assess applicants and whether or not you will be asked to sit an admissions test please see the Applying section.

What's the most important part of my application?

Every application is assessed holistically – Admissions Tutors consider all of the information available together before making any decisions. While the most recent exam results carry the greatest weight, the relative importance of each element varies because each student is different.

No part of an application is considered in isolation; for example, a student’s performance at interview alone doesn’t determine the outcome of their application.

What work experience do I need to have?

Work experience isn't expected or required. However, for vocational courses, such as Medicine and Veterinary Medicine, having some relevant work experience in an appropriate setting is useful and recommended. It demonstrates commitment to your intended profession and gives you the opportunity to acquire greater understanding of the realities and pressures associated with that career.

What extra-curricular activities will help my chances of admission?

Our admissions decisions are based on academic criteria (ability and potential) and so we expect to see evidence you your ‘super-curricular’ activities – your wider engagements with the area(s) of academic interest, such as reading and other explorations relevant to the course you’ve applied for.

Your participation (or not) in specific extra-curricular activities that aren’t relevant to the course applied for are not taken into account and don’t affect your chances of being made an offer of a place at Cambridge.

However, when composing your personal statement, you should consider the importance that your other university choices may place on extra-curricular activites.

Can I apply to both Oxford and Cambridge?

It’s not possible to apply to both the Universities of Cambridge and Oxford in the same year.

Can I transfer to Cambridge from another university?

It’s not possible to transfer to Cambridge to pursue only part of a degree course – all students must start in the first year of our three or four-year undergraduate programmes – and the Colleges will only consider applications to move to Cambridge from students enrolled on a degree course at other universities in very exceptional circumstances. Please see the relevant information if you’re currently studying at a UK university, or studying at a university outside the UK.

We do have a system of admitting graduates from other universities to do a second undergraduate degree as an affiliated student at Cambridge, in which case the course takes a year less than usual. More information about applying as an affiliated student is available in the affiliated students section.

If my application is unsuccessful, can I reapply?

It is possible for students to reapply to the University, either the following year or in a future year. If your application is unsuccessful and you think you may wish to reapply, you're strongly advised to request feedback on your original application as soon after you're notified of our decision as possible.



Qualifications

What qualifications are acceptable?

The majority of applicants apply with A Levels, although other school/national examinations at an equivalent level (such as Scottish Highers and Advanced Highers, Irish Leaving Certificate, Welsh Baccalaureate, French Baccalaureate, German Abitur, Italian Maturita, and International Baccalaureate) are also acceptable. Information about typical requirements for a range of qualifications can be found in Entrance Requirements.

If in doubt, you can check that the qualifications you are taking provide an appropriate preparation for study at Cambridge by contacting the Cambridge Admissions Office.

What grades do I need?

Whatever school or college system you are being educated in, we require top grades in the highest level qualifications available for school/college students – most successful applicants to the University ultimately exceed the conditions of their offer.

Please see the entrance requirements for typical requirements for the most common qualifications, or contact the College you are thinking of applying to or Cambridge Admissions Office.

Are there any subject requirements?

This depends upon the course you are planning to study. For many courses at Cambridge qualifications in certain subjects required and all Colleges expect such subjects to be passed, normally with an A or A* grade at A Level/grade 6 or 7 at Higher Level of the IB (or equivalent). Our other courses don’t have particular subject requirements but Admissions Tutors will expect high grades in the subjects most relevant to the course applied for and expect you to have read enough about the course to know what studying it entails.

Subject requirements and preferences are given in the relevant course entry. Please also check College-specific requirements with the College(s) you’re considering applying to.

If you haven’t yet decided on a university course, advice about subjects and subject combinations that provide an effective preparation for study at Cambridge can be found in our Subject Matters leaflet.

What's the University's position on exam resits?

While it’s becoming less common to be able to resit exams, should the opportunity be available your application is unlikely to be adversely affected by your resitting one or two modules – we appreciate that even very capable students may have a ‘bad day’ when an exam doesn’t go quite to plan.

However, there would be concern about your potential to be successful at Cambridge if you needed to resit numerous exams, particularly if only a marginal improvement could be achieved. This is because once at the University, students are regularly assessed by exam and there's no opportunity to resit any exams (with the exception of professional qualifying examinations in Medicine and Veterinary Medicine).

You should state your intention to resit any exams in your SAQ. Where there are particular reasons for underperformance in qualifications it’s useful if these can be outlined in the school/college reference. In some cases, it may be appropriate for your school/college referee to complete an Extenuating Circumstances Form.



International applicants

Are my qualifications acceptable?

If you wish to apply for an undergraduate place at Cambridge you need to be studying towards a qualification of an equivalent standard to A Levels and be hoping to achieve top marks in it. It's likely that you'll also be asked for a particular level of achievement in the subject area you're hoping to study at university.

Entrance requirements for a range of international qualifications can be found in the international students’ pages of this website. If you are in any doubt, to check the appropriateness of your qualifications you should contact the Cambridge Admissions Office in the first instance, enclosing brief details of the courses that you have taken/are taking, together with your achieved/expected grades and indicate clearly the subject that you are intending to study at the University.

Do I need an English language qualification?

It is essential that your English language skills are good enough for you to undertake an intensive and challenging academic course that is taught and examined in English.

If your first language isn't English, you may also be asked to achieve a specific English language requirement as part of the conditions of your offer. More information about acceptable English language qualifications can be found in the International students section.

What are the fees for international students?

The level of tuition fees for international students varies depending on the course you are studying. In addition to University tuition fees, all overseas fee status students normally have to pay College fees. Full details can be found at in the International students finance section.

Is there any additional financial help for international students?

The amount of financial support available for international students is very limited, but at Cambridge this includes Cambridge Commonwealth, European and International Trust awards; College awards; and a small number of country-specific scholarships. Few full scholarships are available at undergraduate level, and most support is a partial contribution to your overall costs and is means-tested. For more information see the International students section.

Is the application process the same for applicants from countries outside the EU?

International applicants need to submit a UCAS application and a Cambridge Online Preliminary Application (COPA).

Each year the University conducts interviews in certain overseas countries. If you would like to be considered for an interview in one of these countries an earlier application deadline may apply.

See international applications for information and deadlines.

Does Cambridge run an English language course?

Yes. The University’s Language Centre runs a five-week English for Academic Purposes pre-sessional course (attendance at which may be included as a condition of your offer). See Cambridge University Language Programmes for more information.



Mature applicants

Do I need to have undertaken some form of recent study?

Every mature applicant is considered on an individual basis allowing personal qualities and experience to be taken into account in the selection process. However, the nature and demands of Cambridge courses mean they do require academic preparation, and mature students must be of an equal academic standard to school leavers. Therefore, you’re expected to demonstrate evidence of recent academic achievement at a high level.

If you are considering applying to Cambridge it's advisable to contact one of the mature Colleges to discuss your circumstances and for advice about academic requirements for the course you wish to take.

Is the application process the same for mature applicants?

Mature applicants need to submit a UCAS application online just like standard age applicants.

If you're applying from a country outside the EU, you should also submit a Cambridge Online Preliminary Application (COPA). Those applying for the Graduate Course in Medicine need to complete an additional form as well.

The standard application deadline is 15 October. However, the four mature Colleges consider mature and affiliate applications in some subjects as part of a second applications round – see Mature Students for more information.

I'm a mature applicant, can I apply to any College?

Yes. You can apply to any of the 29 undergraduate Colleges. The majority of students are 18 or 19 years old when they start their course, so if you're a bit (or a lot) older you may prefer to consider one of the four ‘mature’ Colleges (Hughes Hall, Lucy Cavendish College, St Edmund’s College and Wolfson College) where all students are over 21 years old. The choice is up to you. (Mature students who make an open application are allocated to one of the mature Colleges.)



Applicants with a disability

I have a disability, can I still apply?

Yes, of course. There are a number of students with a disability studying at the University. The Disability Resource Centre (DRC)and the College system will ensure you receive the support that you require. More information about the support available and things that you should consider when applying can be found in the Support section.

Is the application process the same for disabled applicants?

Having a disability does not change how you apply for a place at the University. Applicants with a severe mobility or sensory impairment, however, are encouraged to visit Cambridge to assess the suitability of their intended College and department before making an application.

If you decide to apply we strongly recommend that you indicate your disability in your UCAS application. This allows us, for example, to make appropriate adjustments to the interview process, if required.



Affiliated applicants

What is an affiliated applicant?

If you are a graduate with an approved degree from another university, you can apply to take a Cambridge BA course as an affiliated applicant. This means you could take the degree in a year less than usual.

Most Colleges consider affiliated applicants, but please note that there are some restrictions.Please see the information for affiliated students for details.

Is the application process the same for affiliated applicants?

Affiliated applicants need to submit a UCAS application just like any other applicant. If you're applying from a country outside the EU, you should also submit a Cambridge Online Preliminary Application (COPA). Please note that affiliated applicants need to apply to a specific College. You can't make an open application as an affiliated applicant.

More information about applying as an affiliated student is available in the Mature affiliated students section.



Finance

What fees will I have to pay?

There are different levels of tuition fees depending on if you are a UK or EU student or an ‘overseas’ student. Islands students (from the Channel Islands and Isle of Man) are classified as overseas students for fees purposes.

More information about tuition fees for UK/EU students is available in the Finance section.

Fees are set at a higher level for overseas students, and more information is available in the International section.

Is Cambridge an expensive city to live in?

The cost of studying at Cambridge is comparable with the costs at other universities in England, and in fact it can be more cost effective.

  • the Colleges provide accommodation to most undergraduates throughout their studies
  • the many resources and facilities (including libraries, computer suites and sports and social facilities) can keep study and recreation costs very low
  • travel costs in the city are minimal as it’s easy to get around on foot or by bike
  • there is extensive University and College financial support available to undergraduates who need it

See the Finance pages for more information.

Are there any bursaries/scholarships available?

Yes. Cambridge is fortunate to have a large amount of financial support available for its students. First of all there is the Cambridge Bursary Scheme for UK/EU students, offering bursaries of up to £3,500 a year (up to £5,6o0 per year for some mature students). Colleges also offer financial support to students, and there are additional awards available for outstanding sportspeople, musicians and students with a disability.

For more information please see Financial support



Visiting Cambridge

Can I visit Cambridge before I apply?

There are more than 100 different open days and events in Cambridge organised by the University and the Colleges throughout the year. These events include the Cambridge Open Day, College open days, Department open days and specialist open days. To find out what the differences are between these types of open day and the dates of forthcoming events, please see Open days.

But don’t worry if you can’t manage to visit Cambridge. You don’t have to attend an open day in order to apply.

Where is Cambridge and how do I get there?

Cambridge is located 50 miles north of London, just off the M11 motorway and the A14.

If you're travelling to the city to have a look at the University and Colleges you’ll find our maps and detailed travel directions useful.



Student life in Cambridge

Where will I live?

Cambridge guarantees most students College owned accommodation for at least three years, and many Colleges provide for fourth-year students too.* You can expect to have your own study bedroom either on the College’s main site, a nearby annex or in a College-owned house. Meals will be available in the College cafeteria and you will also have access to a small kitchen for the preparation of snacks and light meals. Each College has its own library and computer cluster, and the majority of study bedrooms are connected to the Internet. You can find more information about accommodation in the Student Life section.

* Accommodation guarantee applies to single undergraduates without children at all Colleges except St Edmund’s.

What clubs and societies are there?

Where do we start? There are currently more than 700 clubs and societies that you can get involved in. Everything ranging from table football to yoga, and archaeology to film. More details are available at the CUSU societies directory.

What's it like at Cambridge?

To find out what it's really like to be a student here, take a look at our 60 second impressions and read student blogs on our Be Cambridge website.

Is it possible to ask a current student a question?

Yes – CUSU (the University Students' Union) has a team of students from all Colleges and subjects ready to answer your questions. Visit the Ask a student page of the CUSU website for more information and to submit a question.