Frequently asked questions for teachers and advisors can be found in our information for schools section and we have a separate page with advice for parents, carers and supporters.
Cambridge is a 'collegiate' university and all students must belong to one of the Colleges, in addition to being members of the University. The University and its Departments/Faculties set and examine the courses, organise lectures, practicals, seminars and projects, and award degrees. The Colleges are responsible for organising admissions, arranging supervisions and for providing accommodation and recreation as well as academic and pastoral support.
There is no quota for the number of students admitted to the College each year, and only Medicine has a fixed quota for the number of students we can take (7). We generally admit around 75-80 students per year, with places distributed across subjects according to the strength of applicants. We aim to maintain a roughly 50:50 Arts:Sciences split.
The best way to see Peterhouse is on one of our Open Days. Here you will have the chance to see the College (including inside student accommodation) and to meet with current students and Fellows and speak to members of our Admissions Team. If you can't make it to one of our Open Days, we'd be happy to show you around at another time - please contact the Admissions Office to arrange a visit.
We welcome applications from students studying a range of qualifications, including the International Baccalaureate, the Pre-U or international equivalents. Information on subject requirements can be found on our course pages and the University website has information on international qualifications.
The application process for Cambridge differs in a number of ways. Firstly, there is a deadline of the 15th October to apply through UCAS, and you can only apply to one course at either Oxford or Cambridge. Secondly, there is an additional application form required for Cambridge. The additional form is completed online and asks for more information from you and includes space for an additional personal statement specifically for the Cambridge course you are applying to. The deadline for this form is the 22nd October. The other significant difference is that most applicants in most subjects are invited for an interview. These usually take place in December.
Absolutely! We are looking for applicants with the potential to flourish at Peterhouse. We don't have any quotas for school type or for UK/EU/international students aside from Medicine where we are limited to 7 places, of whom a maximum of 1 can be an overseas fee status student. If you think you would like to study at Peterhouse, then please apply!
This is really a matter of personal preference. The University has strict moderation processes which ensure that all applicants have an equal chance of admission to the University, regardless of which College they apply to. You are no more, and no less, likely to be admitted if you apply as an open applicant. Open applications are allocated to one College by a computer algorithm and thereafter are treated exactly as direct applicants. Interviewers cannot tell which route brought you to Peterhouse, and College choice (or lack thereof!) will not be discussed in interview. It is not the case that submitting an Open application results in your application being considered by all Colleges in the first instance.
The Colleges are all much more similar than they are different - all provide accommodation, food, recreation and social spaces as well as academic and pastoral support. You should simply choose which College you think you would feel most at home in; have a look at the College websites to get an idea of what they regard as their special features and, if possible, visit them on an Open Day. If you really can't decide, you can submit an open application. The University website provides more information, including how not to choose a College.
The University publishes admissions statistics online, which are updated annually. On average, the University receives about 5 applicants per place and this is similar at Peterhouse. As mentioned on the University page about College choice, you should not choose a College based on application statistics: the University has strict moderation processes which ensure that all applicants have an equal chance of admission to the University, regardless of which College they apply to. These ensure that the academic standard required is uniformly high across all Colleges and that interviewers at each College can compare applicants to the wider pool of applicants in each subject across all Colleges.
Please note that the University will only consider applications from students currently enrolled at other UK universities in very rare and exceptional circumstances. Any such application should have the full support of your current course director, who will be required to write a reference or letter of recommendation in support of your application, detailing the ways their academic needs cannot be met as part of their current course. All such applications are subject to the same deadlines and means of assessment as other applications to the University.
I'm about to complete an undergraduate degree elsewhere - do I have to apply as an affiliated student?
No, if you would prefer to apply for the entire undergraduate course then you can. However, please note that your Fee Status would remain as an affiliated student, so you would have to pay the College Fee in addition to Tuition Fees, you may not be eligible for a Tuition Fee loan from UK student finance and you would not be able to apply to study Medicine at Peterhouse. More information about applying as an affiliated/mature student can be found on our Affiliated Student page and information about assessment can be found on our Applying pages.
Yes! However, applicants should be aware that most other students will be 18 or older, and being younger than this may mean they cannot participate in certain events. Please also be aware that Medicine students must be 18 by the start of their second term in order to be eligible to begin their professional training. Candidates who would be under 18 at the time of entry may be made an offer for deferred entry.
We welcome applications from candidates who wish to take a gap year. You can either apply in Year 13 for deferred entry (i.e two years after application) or you can apply whilst on your gap year. In all cases, interviewers may ask how you intend to spend your gap year and would want to see some plan of how you intend to build and maintain your interest and abilities in the subject you are applying for - this is particularly the case for Maths applicants.
If your application is unsuccessful, you may wish to consider reapplying. In accordance with the Data Protection Act, all information on unsuccessful candidates is destroyed at the end of each admissions round, so no written record of your previous applications is kept should you reapply. We are happy to provide feedback, on request, to unsuccessful candidates, and if you let us know that you are considering reapplication then we can give advice on this too. In all cases, feedback letters are written individually using the interview reports and, as a consequence, may take a month or two to reach you. Feedback is generally given to your UCAS referee other than in exceptional circumstances.
The University of Cambridge does not take part in Clearing so please do not contact the University in this instance. The outcomes of admissions decisions in January are final and it is not possible to revisit unsuccessful applications. You are, of course, most welcome to apply during the next admissions round.
First and foremost, we look for evidence of academic ability and a strong interest in your subject. This can be seen through predicted grades in line with our typical conditional offers (shown on our courses pages), but interviewers will also be interested to hear how you have explored your interest above and beyond the school curriculum, for example through wider reading. We are less interested in irrelevant extracurricular activities (sports, Duke of Edinburgh award, school leadership etc.). We recommend that around 80% of your personal statement should be academically oriented, giving specific examples about what interests you about your subject. There is no secret formula to a good personal statement - it needs to be personal to you and your reasons for wanting to study the course you are applying for.
Having work experience is not expected for any of our courses. We are mostly interested in your academic interests and abilities and you should not be deterred from applying if you do not have any work experience.
We do not expect candidates to have taken STEP before applying. We may ask for 1 in STEP I as part of conditional offers in Engineering/Chemical Engineering. All conditional offers for Mathematics, Maths with Physics and Computer Science with Mathematics will include achieving at least grades 1 in both STEP II and STEP III.
STEP papers are designed to be substantially more challenging than A levels. Offer-holders with STEP conditions are advised to obtain past papers for practice, and it is hoped they will be able to obtain assistance from their teachers. We do not expect candidates to receive extensive additional teaching for STEP. The Faculty of Mathematics offers a range of resources to help students prepare for STEP.
No particular weight is ever attached to any one piece of information, rather all candidates are assessed individually and holistically using all available information. This includes exam results (predicted and achieved), the UCAS and additional personal statements (the additional personal statement is optional), the Extenuating Circumstance Form (if applicable), your school or college reference/transcript, UMS data (where available), performance on aptitude or pre-interview tests (where applicable), submitted written work (where applicable) and your performance at interview.
Information about your background (school, neighbourhood, extenuating circumstances etc.) allows us to assess your exam results in their proper context. We look at these factors to give us the important background information about you and your achievements. We never look at any one factor in isolation and no particular weights are ever applied to any particular piece of information. Your entire application and all related information is looked at, in detail, by several people and on several occasions over the course of the admissions round. We treat all applicants individually and assess your achievements, abilities and potential on a case-by-case basis using all available information.
As explained above, we do look at your school as part of the contextual data available, but this is done on a school-by-school basis rather than simply state-independent as we know that this information is much more detailed and complicated than the broad brush of 'school type'. The expectations at interview will depend to some extent on your background: whether you are from a high-achieving or lower-achieving school (either state or independent), which A levels you have studied, whether you are a post-A level candidate, a mature applicant or have already completed a degree etc. We do this to ensure the process is fair and that nobody is disadvantaged. Similarly, we have information on GCSE performance at UK schools, and we are interested in how you compare against the rest of your school.
The short answer is: yes, but much less than A levels (or equivalent). For all subjects, there are absolutely no GCSE requirements and we are more interested in your performance at A level (or equivalent), since A levels give a clearer indication of your recent performance, and they cover more advanced material. We only ever look at GCSEs in the context of your school rather than nationally. One of the things interviewers use GCSE results for is to see if you are on an upward trajectory - whether you have handled the step up to sixth form by improving your academic abilities.
Our Admissions Tutors recognise that anyone can have an 'off' day and that some degree of resitting is understandable. However, concerns may be raised if multiple resits are required, particularly if only marginal improvement is gained, since resits are not available as part of the Cambridge courses. When it comes to resits, we don't have a firm policy as such; decisions are made on a case by case basis. In the past we have had applicants who were resitting their entire Year 13 and it wasn't a problem because they had a good reason for doing it.
The assessment of such candidates is much the same as it would be for everyone else. We would look at recent exam performance and your academic profile (GCSEs, A levels etc) for up to 10 years or so for Mature students, or at degree performance for Affiliated students. The expectations at interview would naturally be higher than for applicants who are still of school-age - the interviewers would want to see evidence of increased intellectual maturity and insight alongside a greater depth and breadth of knowledge.
We aim to interview all applicants with a realistic chance of an offer - generally those who are on track to meet the typical conditional offers in the required subjects, as specified on our course pages.
This is a short piece of work which may be discussed in one of your interviews. You will be given a piece of information about 15-30 minutes before the start of the interview and asked to make some preparatory notes. Depending on the subject, this could be a series of maths problems, a passage of text, a graph or table etc. In all cases, we are interested to see how you think, how you can apply the knowledge you already have and how well you can communicate your ideas and work with the interviewers to hone your argument or come to the answer.
Please see our Current Applicantt pages for more information. There's no need to go overboard on revising - your current schoolwork is very important and we're anxious to not distract you. Interviews are designed to be something that you can't prep for too much (aside from a wider and general interest in the subject) to allow all candidates from all backgrounds an equal chance. It is a good idea to briefly look over your year 12 and 13 work and re-read anything you have submitted (such as personal statement or school essays) but otherwise you should not try to learn lots of new material and should just continue exploring your subject and your interests. Interviews aren't a test of 'who knows the most.'
We don't expect you to know more than you've been taught in school. We expect some engagement beyond the syllabus but are not prescriptive about this and you won't be disadvantaged if you haven't covered a particular topic - different candidates will have different interests and will have done different bits of super-curricular exploration. Remember also that we have candidates from all over the world studying many exam systems and different specifications. There is a good chance you'll be given something you're unfamiliar with but the interviewers will be there to explain it to you and help you through the question to allow your abilities to show: they will give you the knowledge you need and the interesting thing for us is in seeing how you can fit this in with what you already know to answer the question.
The Winter Pool is the moderation process which ensures that all applicants have an equal chance of admission to the University of Cambridge, regardless of which College they apply to. It acts to even-out differences in the number and quality of applicants between the Colleges. You may be contacted in early January if another College has expressed interest in your application following the Pool and wishes to invite you for an additional interview. If you are invited for reinterview, the College will have committed to interviewing you, so you should not worry about missing any phone calls during this period - the Colleges will want to see you and are still interested!
Unfortunately, not all candidates who are put in the Winter Pool are successful and you will hear from the College you were initially interviewed it to tell you the result. Applicants will be told if they have been put in the Winter Pool if their application is unsuccessful.
Feedback is available on request to any applicant who has been interviewed and has not received an offer either from Peterhouse or from another College following the Winter Pool. Requests for feedback should be made by email to firstname.lastname@example.org once decisions have been communicated in January. Subject-specific feedback will be provided to the referee of any applicant who requests it. More detailed feedback will be available to the referee of any applicant from a school or college which has received fewer than five offers from Oxford or Cambridge over the past five years.
Unfortunately, it is not possible to study with us for a short course.
We make every effort to ensure that all applicants are treated with respect, and that the decisions we make are fair and defensible. If you feel that we have not managed to do this, you should follow the complaints procedure.