Cambridge is a collegiate university, which means that all students are members of both a College and the University in addition to a Department or Faculty. Applications to Cambridge are handled by individual Colleges.
The University and the Departments set course content, lectures, classes, practicals and exams. It is the responsibility of the College, through your Director of Studies (typically a Fellow of the College), to arrange ‘supervisions’ and to provide more general guidance and support on academic matters. Beyond this, the College is your home within the university, where you will do the majority of your eating, sleeping and socialising.
Because we are a small college, we are able to take great care over every application and we aim to find out as much as possible about you. We fully support the University’s Widening Participation initiatives and encourage you to apply even if your school has little or no experience of the Cambridge system. Our Admissions Team are happy to help potential applicants, their parents, supporters and their teachers who would like advice on individual applications. Although we try to achieve an even balance between Arts and Sciences, we have no fixed quotas in any subject except Medicine (where the quota agreed with the University is seven places per year).
Applications come to the College through UCAS. Applicants to Cambridge must apply through UCAS and complete a Cambridge-specific additional form. An overview of this process can be found on the University website. Please take note of the deadlines as late applications will not be considered. Decisions on inviting candidates to interview are made primarily using information supplied on the UCAS form, additional Cambridge-specific form and Extenuating Circumstances Form (if submitted) along with performance in Admissions Assessments. Please note that submitted written work is not used as part of the process of deciding which applicants to invite to interview, but rather to guide discussion at interview. After these discussions at interview, submitted work may be used in decisions relating to the making of offers.
We assess every candidate on the basis of their application form, referees’ reports, written work, any tests or assessments that we ask you to sit, and interviews (you can find details of what to expect for each course in our pages for current applicants). At every stage in the admissions process, our Admissions Tutors take a holistic view of a candidate’s achievements, ability and potential using all available information. We aim to give all applicants the best possible opportunity to demonstrate their ability and potential. The principal aim of the admissions process is to identify applicants who will thrive intellectually at Cambridge. Applicants who have been disadvantaged by circumstances outside of their control are encouraged to submit an Extenuating Circumstances Form so that their achievements can be assessed fairly, in the appropriate context. You will be advised about exactly what is required after you have applied through UCAS. More details of course-specific requirements can be found on the individual course pages.
We interview the majority of applicants (typically around 75%) each year. Interviews should not be thought of as any more, or any less, important than the other information we collect through the application process, but aim to gather additional information to help us assess your potential and abilities.
Cambridge interviews take place during the first three weeks of December and you should aim to keep those dates free. If you are called for interview, we will give you as much notice as possible, but this may only be around two weeks. Interviews allow us to meet you virtually and assess your ability to think, learn and reflect in a manner similar to the supervision teaching provided at Cambridge. We are looking for candidates with a strong commitment to and ability for their subject, and who have the potential to thrive at the University.
The number and length of interviews will vary between courses, but you are likely to have two interviews, each lasting about 30 minutes, with the Admissions Tutor, the Director/s of Studies, and other specialists in your subject.
It is possible that the content of a Cambridge College registered written assessment may be used as the springboard for further discussion during the interview (in which case we would provide you with a copy of your answers shortly before the interview, to refresh your memory of what you wrote).
Additionally you may be given ‘preparatory study’ before your interview consisting of a piece of text, data or some questions to analyse and prepare answers to and which may be discussed in your interview. In addition, you may be required to send pieces of written school or college work, marked by your teachers, to the Admissions Office before the interview (in November). This will not be used for selection of candidates for interview, but may be used by your interviewers in their preparation of questions that they will ask you. For further details please check the relevant course pages and the University undergraduate admissions website or seek guidance from your school or college and/or the Admissions Team. We strongly recommend the University’s guide to the interview process which includes videos of several mock interviews.
Financial support for interview costs
To enable applicants to fully participate in their interview, we are pleased to provide support for the cost of purchasing additional equipment to students who are in local authority care and/or are currently in receipt of free school meals and who attend a UK maintained sector school/college. This could be a graphics tablet or an additional webcam, up to the cost of £80. We will contact all eligible students when they are invited for interview. If you do not fall into the eligible group but are struggling to access necessary technology, please contact the Admissions Office at the earliest opportunity.
Once we have interviewed all candidates and when the initial process of assessment is completed, there are three possible outcomes for any one application:
- A conditional offer is made;
- Further consideration through the Winter Pool;
- The application is unsuccessful.
All decisions are announced at the same time in late January. Decisions will not be reviewed unless it appears, after investigation, that a serious procedural error has occurred. If you wish to pursue a complaint about the admissions process, guidance as to the proper procedure can be found on the University website.
The College will complete its selection of successful applicants by early/mid January. Offers are then made by letter, and are normally conditional upon candidates’ performance at A level or equivalent. Places are also conditional on fulffilling immigration criteria (if applicable) and we may also set English language conditions (see below). For some courses such as Mathematics, Engineering or Computer Science with Mathematics, we may ask for certain grades in STEP examinations as part of any conditional offer made. This would be part of any conditional offer and there is no expectation that candidates should sit STEP before applying. More information can be found on the relevant course pages.
Our typical conditional offer is A*AA in the Arts and Humanities (excluding Economics which is A*A*A) and A*A*A in the Sciences at A Level. In most cases the subject in which the A*(s) are to be achieved is unlikely to be specified, however our Admissions Tutors assess each candidate individually and conditions are set accordingly. Our typical offer is based on three A levels; we do not require more than three A levels to be taken in Year 13. However, a number of our applicants do decide to take a fourth A level, which can be helpful, particularly in the Sciences. This is partly to help prepare for the interview process, but mainly because, if a candidate is successful, having that extra bit of background knowledge and being accustomed to a higher workload can give them a bit of a head start in their first year. Please note that Mathematics A levels sat in Year 12 may be excluded from conditional offers but are still very much considered in admissions decisions. If you have any questions, please do get in touch with the Admissions Office.
IB offers are usually for a minimum of 40-42 points, to include 776 or 777 at Higher level in relevant subjects. In certain subjects, we also make use of STEP Mathematics (always in Mathematics, sometimes in Engineering and Computer Science).
Offers are designed to be realistic, taking into account individual circumstances, and to reflect potential and likely levels of achievement. Most of those who receive offers attain the grades required. Qualifications in General Studies and Critical Thinking are not taken into account in making admissions offers.
In agreement with UCAS regulations, conditional offers are on the basis of examination results known by 31st August for both entry in October of the same year and, in the case of deferred applicants, for entry in October of the following year. Please note that if you do not meet your offer on results day, but are re-marked to a higher grade before 31st August, your conditional offer stands and your place is confirmed. In the case where a conditional offer is not confirmed, but a subsequent re-marking or re-grading of one or more examination scripts after 31st August results in a re-grading sufficient to fulfil the conditions of the offer, confirmation will be at the discretion of the Admissions Tutors.
The Winter Pool is the process by which the University ensures that all candidates have an equal chance of admission to the University of Cambridge, regardless of which College they apply to. It allows Admissions Tutors to compare applicants to their College with applicants from across the University. All Colleges take part in the Winter Pool which is run in early January. Candidates who have been put in the pool may receive an outright offer from a College (first preference or otherwise), they may be invited to further interview/s at other Colleges, or they may not be ‘fished’ from the pool at all. If invited for interview, candidates will hear directly from the College which wishes to interview them, otherwise their first communication will be from their preference College, typically by letter or email.
If English is not your first language, 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. Therefore, a reasonable standard of spoken English will be required at interview (generally 6.0 in IELTS for science, 6.5 for arts or equivalent, including GCSE or other school qualifications in English). We do not, however, expect that applicants will have formal English language qualifications at the time they apply.
If your application is successful, you may be asked to achieve a formal qualification in English Language. If you are taking subjects as part of your school leaving qualifications that require extensive reading and writing in English and are generally being taught in English by native speakers, this condition may be met by your school exams. It is, however, likely that you will be asked to achieve an IELTS or TOEFL qualification as part of the conditions for your offer. In the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences the level required may be 8 or 8.5 overall, with 7.5 in each element, and in the Sciences it is typically 7.5 with scores of 7.0 in every element. More information on English language conditions can be found on the University’s website, although please note the higher condition expected for Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences students at Peterhouse.
Although most applications will be made before applicants have completed their sixth-form studies, it may sometimes be appropriate for candidates to apply after they have left school (but before they become mature students). Much the same range of evidence will be used in assessing such applications as in the case of pre-A level candidates, although extra breadth of knowledge and intellectual maturity will naturally be expected. Successful applicants of this sort normally receive offers without academic conditions in January. We also welcome applications in most subjects from candidates who have already completed a first degree and wish to study with Affiliated status, completing a degree in one year less than normal. More information on affiliated students can be found on the University website; please note it is not possible to apply as an Affiliated student in Architecture, Medicine or Modern and Medieval Languages.
Please note that the University will only consider applications from students currently enrolled in the same (or a similar) course at another UK university in 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 your academic needs cannot be met as part of your current course. All such applications are subject to the same deadlines and means of assessment as other applications to the University. Note that Peterhouse will consider applicants who are already studying the same course at a university outside the UK, except in Medicine.
We are happy to consider applications for deferred entry from candidates who wish to take a year out between school and university, provided that clear evidence is available of an intention to undertake some structured activity which will contribute to the candidate’s intellectual development. Candidates may be asked about their willingness to accept offers for years other than their stated preference (i.e. their willingness to defer if they did not apply for deferred entry, or the reverse). In particular, candidates who will be under 18 years of age on entry to Peterhouse may be asked to defer entry. Our ability to make deferred offers in any year depends, to some extent, on the proportion of successful candidates seeking to defer entry. Please feel free to discuss your particular circumstances with the Admissions Team.
Facilities are available for students with disabilities, including some designed for those with mobility problems. We would encourage potential candidates to discuss their requirements with us before making an application. Candidates should also consult the University’s Disability Resource Centre before finalising their application. Any disabilities you disclose as part of your UCAS application will be taken into account at interview but will not affect your chances of admissions; please advise us of any allowances you receive during examinations at school so that we can replicate them at interview if appropriate (we will send you a form requesting this information at the point of application).