I've loved the fact that Peterhouse is smaller than other colleges - it's really easy to make friends with people on such different courses, and learn so much outside of your own subject.
Blossom in the Deerpark


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.

  • Applying

    What is a College?

    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.

    How many places are available?

    There is no quota for the number of students admitted to the College each year, and only Medicine hats a fixed quota for he 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.

    How can I visit Peterhouse?

    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.

    What A levels do I need?

    Our typical condiitonal offers vary but are either A*AA or A*A*A, potentially including a STEP condition. Details of subject requirements can be found on our course pages. If you have a particular query, please contact a member of the admissions team.

    What if I'm not studying A levels?

    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.

    How is applying to Cambridge different from other Universities?

    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 Supplemental Application Questionnaire (SAQ). The SAQ 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 the SAQ is the 22nd October. For international applicants, different deadlines and requirements may apply including a form called the Cambridge Online Preliminary Application (COPA). The other significant difference is that most applicants in most subjects are invited for an interview. These usually take place in December.

    Can two people apply from the same school?

    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!

    Should I apply directly to a College, or submit an open application?

    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.

    How should I choose a College?

    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. The differences between Colleges are minor and you should simply choose which College you think you would feel most at home in. 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.

    Can I find out more information about application statistics?

    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.

    I'm already studying at another university - can I transfer to Cambridge?

    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.

    I'll be under 18 at the time of entry - can I still apply?

    Yes! However, applicants should be aware that most other students will be 18 or older, and being younger than this might 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.

    What is your view on gap years?

    We welcome applications from candidates who wish to take a gap year. You can either apply in Year 13 for deferred entry (e.g. apply in October 2021 to start a course in October 2023) 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.

    What is your policy on reapplying?

    If your application is unsuccessful, you may wish to consider reapplying. In accordance with the Data Protection Act, all information on unsuccesful 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.

    Can I apply through Clearing/Adjustment? What if I was unsuccessful in January?

    The University of Cambridge does not take part in Clearing/Adjustment 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.

  • Assessment

    What do you look for in a personal statement? How can I make my application stand out?

    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, 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 at least two thirds 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.

    Do I need to have done work experience?

    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.

    Do I need to take STEP?

    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, including a Correspondence Course for Year 12 students thinking of applying for courses and universities which use the STEP, with support continuing through Year 13.

    What weighting is given to parts of my application?

    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 SAQ personal statements (the SAQ 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.

    How is contextual data used?

    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.

    How is school type taken into account?

    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.

    Do GCSE results matter?

    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.

    How are resits considered?

    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.

    How are post-A level/Mature/Affiliated students assessed?

    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.

    Do you interview all applicants?

    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.

    What should I expect at interview?

    Please see our 'Current applicant' pages for more information.

    What should I bring to interview?

    Please see our 'Current applicant' pages for more information.

    What does set reading at interview/interview prep/preparatory study involve?

    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.

    How should I prepare for interview?

    Please see our 'Current applicant' 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 supercurricular 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.

    What if I am pooled? Do I need to do anything?

    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 - this may be to offer you a place, or it may be 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. Unless it is mentioned in your application feedback, it is likely that you will not know that you were put in the Pool.

    Can I study a short course at Peterhouse?

    Applying as a visiting student is the only means by which you can study a part of one of our undergraduate courses. These are for one academic year..

    I'm unhappy with the way I was treated - what can I do about it?

    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.

  • Offer-holders

    What is STEP? What support is available?

    STEP is an additional mathematics qualification, taken at the same time as A levels. There are three levels I, II and III. STEP conditions will be added to offers in Mathematics, and may be added to offers in Computer Sciences or Engineering. Details can be found on the relevant Course pages. More information and advice can be found on the University and Faculty of Mathematics websites.

    What funding opportunities are there?

    All applicants and offer-holders should familiarise themselves with the Finance pages on the University and Peterhouse websites, and UK/EU students should also check the Student Finance pages provided by the Government.

    Offer-holders with household incomes below £42,620 (for 2018 entry) or the European equivalent may be eligible for a Cambridge Bursary. UK offer-holders may also qualify for grants from the UK student finance organisations.

    Information about funding for international students can be found on the relevant page of this website.

    Can I drop one of my subjects if it isn't included in my offer?

    You are required to inform us if there are any changes to the information you have submitted as part of your application, including any of the exams you are planning to sit. If you would like advice about discontinuing a subject, please contact us.

    You've made me an offer that I can't achieve. Should I register to take more exams than I already am?

    Not without checking with us first! It might be that this was an administrative error, or it might be that there is something specific we want you to do. If in doubt, get in touch.

    What happens if I miss my offer?

    Your place is only guaranteed if you meet all the conditions of your offer by 31st August. If you meet your conditions by this date (either on results day or as the result of a re-mark) then your place is guaranteed and we will be in touch with details of how to begin your studies with us. If, however, you narrowly miss your offer then we may still decide to admit you by 'relaxing' the conditions of your offer. Such cases are handled on a case-by-case basis and there are no hard and fast rules but it is extremely important you send us evidence of your marks (detailing how closely you missed the required grades) as quickly as possible. If Peterhouse is not willing to relax the conditions of your offer, you may be placed in the Summer Pool for consideration by other Colleges with spaces.

    A further footnote to this is that if you are aware of any circumstances outside your control which may have affected your exams, it is very important that you communicate this to us as soon as possible after the fact - please do not wait until results day, as by then it may be too late to take these circumstances into account.

    When do I find out about accommodation?

    Offer-holders will be contacted over the summer to request details of their room preferences. You will hear which room you have been allocated in September.

    When should I arrive?

    Students must be in residence for the start of term, with UK students typically arriving the weekend beforehand, and International students having the option to arrive the weekend before that (but please contact us to confirm before booking any travel). Students are able to arrive earlier, but must liaise with the Accommodation Officer to arrange a date. All successful offer-holders will be contacted in August and September with more details of what to bring and where to go on the day.

    The course I applied for has significantly changed in either cost or content. What can I do about it?

    Your consumer rights are legally protected. Find out more here.