Cambridge 21+ programme 2023

An outreach programme from the mature Colleges

The University of Cambridge has three Colleges specifically for mature students aged 21 and over: Hughes Hall, St Edmund’s and Wolfson. In July 2023, the Colleges welcomed 14 prospective students to the in-person component of the Cambridge 21+ programme, a hybrid outreach programme designed specifically for mature applicants.

The 21+ programme is specifically designed to familiarise participants with the application process, to improve their study skills, and to give them a sense of what life is like for a mature student at Cambridge. The participants attended online sessions in April 2023 that covered topics such as demystifying Cambridge, how to strengthen your application, and funding your degree. After a 1:1 meeting with an admissions tutor, a selection of the participants were invited to attend the in-person residential in July to give them first-hand experience of life in Cambridge.

These Cambridge hopefuls will all be aged 21 or over when their course starts, and were each considering applying for their first undergraduate degree. Many have experienced disruption to their education, and were taking non-traditional routes to university, such as Access to Higher Education Courses or A Level retakes.

Some were interested in applying to the University’s new Foundation Year programme, which is a fully funded course that intends to provide a stepping stone to Cambridge for students who have been prevented from realising their full potential due to educational disadvantage or disruption.

"What a unique and well organised experience. You feel like a real Cambridge student. You ask questions, visit the three mature Colleges and meet other potential mature students. You have fun as well throughout all the activities they’ve carefully organised. Now, I feel more than ready to start my application!"

On Wednesday evening, the participants arrived at Hughes Hall, and after dinner were given a tour of the College, followed by a social evening in the student bar where they were joined by current mature students from the three Colleges.

Thursday started bright and early with a practical workshop on writing personal statements at Hughes Hall, before participants headed to Wolfson College, where they attended a workshop with the Librarians on improving critical thinking and analytical skills. This was followed by a tour of Wolfson and its accommodation, and lunch with staff and current students.

In the afternoon, the group visited St. Edmund’s College, where after a tour, they sat down for a Q&A panel session with current students from the three Colleges, who offered diverse student perspectives on applying, the interview process, and what it is like being a mature student at Cambridge.

After a busy first day, the participants then got a chance to relax and get a taste of life in Cambridge with a punting tour and a formal buffet dinner, before heading out to see some sights around the town.

On Friday, the group spent the day exploring their subject departments at the University’s central Open Day, where they attended lectures and talks on their chosen subjects.

The participants found the programme both helpful and insightful; one said:

"From the beginning of the virtual webinars, to the end of the residential, the programme was incredibly structured and well delivered, with an abundance of information. It gave me a true insight into life as a Cambridge student, covered all questions I had before attending, and put my mind at ease in knowing the university would be the right fit for me. "

Another student added:

“The residential programme really gave me a feel for the amount of care, attentiveness and support Cambridge offers mature students. I already had a positive perception of Cambridge, but the programme really opened my eyes to how inclusive the university is.”

One of the main aims of the programme was to change perceptions and stereotypes about Cambridge, as one participant noted:

“I always used to believe that Cambridge wasn't even an option for me growing up, however actually researching the university, and now participating on this course, it really does feel like the right place for me.”

If you’re thinking about going to university for the first time and will be 21 or over at the start of your course, then consider taking part in Cambridge 21+ in 2024. Details about the event will be available on the website early next year. If you’d like more information, contact one of the mature Colleges and sign up for our newsletter to hear about when registration of Cambridge 21+ 2024 opens.

· Hughes Hall –

· St. Edmund’s College –

· Wolfson College –