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Undergraduate Study


Here you will find some frequently asked questions about applying to study at the University of Cambridge.

Questions about our courses

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 on the course index page.

Questions about the Colleges

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 are 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 suggest 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 – three Colleges are exclusively for mature students (aged 21 or older), and their facilities are geared accordingly
  • your gender – two 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 can't explain why they were drawn to their College other than it just 'felt right' for them

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 find out more at a College event. You can find a profile for each College (including links to each College website).

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.

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, many applicants are made an offer through our pool system. Typically, one in four applicants is placed in our winter pool and, of these, around one in five is made an offer of a place by a different College to the one to the one they originally applied/were allocated to.

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.


Questions about the application process

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.

Once you have submitted your UCAS application, you may be asked to complete an additional questionnaire.

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. There may also be an earlier application deadline for a small number of applicants applying from specific countries. Please check the international application pages for more details.

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'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. 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 should a personal statement include?

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).

Will I be interviewed?

Everyone with a realistic chance of being offered a place is invited to take part in an interview – in previous years that been around 75 per cent of Home applicants, although this varies by course. 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 any unbreakable commitments for this period. You can find more details about interviews here.

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 a written assessment?

You will usually be required to sit a subject-specific written assessment either pre-interview or at-interview. If your course has a pre-interview assessment you will need to be registered in advance by your school or college. If your course has an at-interview assessment your College will make the arrangements, usually for the same day as your interview(s).

Can I apply to both Oxford and Cambridge?

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

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.

Questions about entrance requirements, qualifications, and experience

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.

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.

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.

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

If you’re resitting entire qualifications, your application will normally only be considered when there were significant extenuating circumstances during your initial teaching or examination period, though we do recognise the current challenges faced by many students, so extenuating circumstances in relation to resits should be provided via the Extenuating Circumstances Form.

If you’re in a modular examination system, your application is unlikely to be adversely affected by resitting one or two modules; any intention to resit such modules should be indicated during the application process. Arrangements for mature applicants may differ – check our mature students section for more information.

Written exams are the main form of assessment used for Cambridge courses and most students will be examined at the end of each year. The University does not offer resits as part of its normal examining process.

What's the University's position on qualifications taken early?

Although the University's in favour of stretching and challenging learners, this shouldn't be at the expense of levels of achievement and we'd discourage students from being entered for public examinations early unless top grades will be obtained.

There are also potential disadvantages to taking qualifications early in subjects where the knowledge and understanding will be required at university. Students who haven't studied a key subject in a structured way in the year before they arrive at university can find their knowledge has atrophied.

Where students are successfully taking qualifications early, we'd still want to see evidence that they can cope with a workload equivalent to three A Levels taken simultaneously; and offers are normally made on the qualifications being taken in Year 13 (or equivalent). However, individual circumstances are taken into account when assessing each application – seek advice from a College admissions office if you have particular queries.

If a student has taken A Level Mathematics early and is applying for a course that requires it, please refer to the A Level guidance in the Entrance requirements section.

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 start their course. 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?

Around seven per cent of students accepted to Cambridge take a gap year before starting their studies. This year out can be a 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.

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.

For students applying for Medicine or Veterinary Medicine for 2022 entry, we’re mindful that the COVID-19 pandemic may have prevented you from completing work experience. Consequently, applying without this experience will not disadvantage your application to Cambridge. For further advice about what to do in lieu of work experience, check the course pages: Medicine, Veterinary Medicine.

How important are extra-curricular activities?

Our admissions decisions are based on academic criteria (ability and potential) and we expect to see evidence of students’ wider engagement with areas of academic interest, such as reading and other explorations relevant to the course for which they’ve applied. Extra-curricular activities which are of no relevance to the course will not increase a student’s chances of receiving an offer.

If, however, particular extra-curricular activities have enabled a student to develop transferable skills, such as organisation or time management, then these can be included in their personal statement. Such activities might include significant caring responsibilities or paid employment, which can help us fully contextualise an application, as well as sport, physical activity, music, drama and volunteering.

Questions about money

What fees will I have to pay?

There are different levels of tuition fees depending on if you are a UK, EU or ‘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 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 or 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 Home fee status 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.

Questions about mature students and affiliated applicants

What is a mature student?

If you'll be aged 21 or over by 1 October in the year in which you hope to come to Cambridge and haven't already completed a higher education course then you'll be applying as a mature student.

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.

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 three mature Colleges consider mature and affiliated applications in some subjects as part of a second applications round.

Can I apply to any College as a mature student?

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 you may prefer to consider one of the three ‘mature’ Colleges (Hughes Hall, St Edmund’s College and Wolfson College) where all students are over 21 years old. Mature students who make an open application are allocated to one of the mature Colleges.

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 so please check with the College before submitting your application.

Is the application process the same for affiliated applicants?

Affiliated applicants need to submit a UCAS application just like any other applicant. 

Affiliated applicants need to apply to a specific College. You can't make an open application as an affiliated applicant.

Questions about applying as an International Student

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. 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

Does Cambridge run an English language course?

Yes. The University’s Language Centre runs Academic Development and Training for International Students.

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 UK?

International applicants need to submit a UCAS application and an additional questionnaire.

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. 

General questions

Can I visit Cambridge before I apply?

We organise a range of virtual and on campus events each year, including the Cambridge Open Days, College events and Department events. Please sign up to our mailing list to be notified about upcoming events and opportunities at the University that may be of interest.

You can also explore the University via our Virtual Tour.

I have a question that isn't answered here! Who can I contact for further help?

If you need further advice on undergraduate study at Cambridge, please contact Cambridge Admissions Office ( / 01223 333308) and we'll be happy to help.


Questions relating to the COVID-19 pandemic

If you have any admissions queries relating to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, please see our latest advice for prospective students and offer holders.