Life as a mature undergraduate at Cambridge

The University of Cambridge has three Colleges specifically for mature students aged 21 and over: Hughes Hall, St Edmund’s and Wolfson

We spoke to three undergraduate students at these Colleges about their experience of being a mature student at Cambridge, how they found the admissions process, and what advice they have for other mature students.

Zac Hughes Hall

Studying Human, Social and Political Sciences (HSPS) (second year)

After completing his A Levels in 2010,  Zac took a ten-year break from education before deciding to take an International Studies course at the Open University. This led him to apply to study HSPS at Cambridge. Zac explained what led him to this decision:

"I experienced some success in my career, but faced some barriers. I suffered several injuries and was forced to make a career change. In my new environment, I felt distanced from the positive changes I wanted to make in the world. Education became the tool to develop my skills and ultimately to make an impact."

Reflecting on his Cambridge application experience, Zac said:

"The process as a whole was thorough and I know some may be put off by this, but I was particularly impressed by this. The level of detail they asked for demonstrated that they really wanted to get to know me and give me the best chance of demonstrating my capabilities."

Zac also had some practical advice for mature applicants:

"Some practical tips I can offer are to research the application process thoroughly, practise speaking aloud about your subject with a friend or family member, and remember that you are not rehearsing content but getting comfortable speaking and expressing your ideas."

Zac in his student ambassador role at Hughes Hall

Zac in his student ambassador role at Hughes Hall

Students playing pool at St Edmund's College

Students playing pool at St Edmund's College

Emily St Edmund's College

Studying Education, Psychology, and Learning (second year)

Emily also found herself as a mature applicant through self-studying an A level after leaving school and attending another university for a year.

“I’ve had a really positive experience as a mature student at one of the mature colleges. As someone on the younger end of the ‘mature student’ spectrum, I was a little concerned that mature colleges wouldn’t have so much going on socially as the standard-age admission colleges. However, I’ve been very pleasantly surprised and have loved meeting so many interesting people who have done all sorts of things before coming to Cambridge.”

Ella Wolfson College

Studying English (final year)

Ella, too, found a home in Cambridge, this time at Wolfson College. Ella spent five years travelling the world before applying to Cambridge through taking an Access to Humanities Course in lockdown.

"I specifically chose Wolfson because it was a mature college and it was this factor that made me want to come here over any other university. By the time I applied, I felt like the ship had sailed on studying at a higher level because I’d be so much older than the school leavers I’d be learning alongside, but the thought that everyone would be an actual adult too sounded brilliant."

Even though Ella was looking to live and study alongside students closer to her age, she didn't want things to feel too serious.

"Whilst everyone has had life experiences before arriving, mature doesn’t necessarily mean ‘mature'. There is just as much silliness and drama and fun as at any other college."

Ella (third from left) with fellow students at Wolfson College

Ella (third from left) with fellow students at Wolfson College

The mature colleges run regular applicant support webinars and programmes, and are very happy to hear from students via email, arrange guided College tours, or put prospective students in contact with a student ambassador. Keep an eye out on future newsletters for details of our 2024 fully funded virtual and residential support programme: 21 Plus.

· Hughes Hall –

· St Edmund’s College –

· Wolfson College –