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Information for Parents and Supporters

As a parent or guardian of someone who is considering applying to Cambridge, you may have a few questions. 

In our PDF icon Guide for Parents and Supporters and FAQ below, we try to answer these questions, dispel any concerns and help you to advise your student.

You can find more guidance for parents and supporters on the University’s Student Wellbeing website.

If you have any further questions, please get in touch with the Cambridge Admissions Office and we'll be happy to help. 

Frequently asked questions

We've included some common questions below with brief answers and links to where you can find out more. Some of these are also covered in our Q&A film above.

Why come to Cambridge?

Cambridge is one of the best universities in the world with excellent teaching, world class research and great prospects.

Visit our Why Cambridge page to find out more.

How can my student apply and how can I help them with the application process?

You can be helpful in understanding the stages and deadlines applying to Cambridge - these useful steps to guide you through the Cambridge application process.

It is also useful to minimise any pressure or expectations on the young people applying to us, and to remember that they are the priority in the process.

What is learning at Cambridge like?

Cambridge is globally respected for its innovative research and world class teaching. Our students are taught by inspiring academics who are experts in their field. Find out more about teaching and learning at Cambridge.

 

What is it like to live in Cambridge?

Our Student Life and In their own words pages describe what living in Cambridge is like from a student perspective.

What can they study?

We offer a range of courses across the arts, humanities and sciences.

Find out more about our course structure, and see the individual course pages for additional information.

Is there a course for those who have experienced educational disadvantage?

Our Foundation Year course is a free, fully-funded one year course designed to offer a stepping stone to Cambridge for those who have experienced educational disadvantage. To be considered, students must be ordinarily resident in the UK and have experienced educational disadvantage or disruption, or have been in care.

Watch our Foundation Year film and visit the course page to find out more.

 

 

My student’s school doesn’t have a very good success rate with getting people into Cambridge - will this affect their chances of getting a place?

We're looking for the strongest applications, regardless of a student’s school or background. If a student is applying from a school hasn't sent many students to Cambridge, this will be flagged on the application and taken into consideration.

We have a wealth of information about our admissions processes and policies, and the contextual data we use, available for students, parents and teachers.

We're keen to support our applicants throughout the admissions process, so if you, or the school, are unsure about anything, please do get in touch.

Are independent school/state school students disadvantaged in the selection process?

Admission is based solely on academic ability and potential. We don't discriminate for or against applicants based on the type of school they attend.

For more information on this, please read our Admissions Policy.

What is the difference between the Colleges and how do you choose which to apply to?

Colleges have more similarities than they do differences and, regardless of choice, most students end up thinking their College is the best! Each College admits students to a variety of different courses and so students have the opportunity to meet others studying different subjects. Students should firstly check whether a College offers their chosen course (not all courses are available at all Colleges).

The College will be a student’s home, so consider domestic factors when choosing - types of rooms, food, location, architecture etc. If a student can't choose, they can make an open application and we will allocate them to a College. Students shouldn't agonise over their choices, and in some cases, we may move students between Colleges during the application process due to application numbers for certain Colleges or certain subjects.

Find our more about our Colleges and how your student can choose the right College for them.

What is expected from students during the application process?

Students should make sure they read the entry requirements, engage with all elements of the application process, and meet the deadlines set. These may differ depending on the course, so students should make sure they're aware of all the details relating to their chosen course.

What is the most important part of the application process?

No single element of the application process is considered in isolation; for example, a student's performance at interview alone doesn't determine the outcome of their application. Each application is considered individually and holistically, we look at all the information available before making any decisions.

Is having work experience in a particular field essential?

Work experience is only required for Medicine or Veterinary Medicine. This is so students can understand what is expected in that field of work and decide if it is really something they want to pursue.

For all other courses, if a student can find work experience that's great, but not a requirement. Above all, we encourage students to read widely around their subject and find out more about it through super-curricular activities.

How should students prepare for admissions tests?

Visit our Admission Assessments page for further information about which courses require admissions tests and information about how your student can prepare for these assessments.

What is the criteria for interview success?

We assess everyone individually, which means we look at – and for – different things in different people for different courses. Consequently, there's no magic formula that will guarantee you're offered a place.

Almost all of our applicants are predicted top grades so it's difficult to select fairly based on the UCAS application alone. Therefore, interviewing helps to:

  • assess applicants’ academic potential and suitability for the course chosen – whether they have the potential to study it to a very high level, engage with new ideas and think conceptually, and how they'll respond to the teaching methods used at Cambridge
  • give applicants the opportunity to expand on their application and show us how they think about their subject; to demonstrate their interest in and commitment to their subject, and their ability to think critically and independently.

We've compiled some information about interviews and how students can best prepare for them.

The student I'm supporting is academically capable but shy, and a little hesitant to speak out - will the interview process cater for that?

We're certainly not looking for confidence and a polished performance in our interviews. We are assessing candidates solely on their academic ability and potential.

The format of the interview may benefit shy students and will usually involve responding to academic material or problem solving. In some cases, this will involve writing something down rather than answering questions out loud.

What financial support is available?

Whichever university your student decides to apply to, they'll have various costs to consider. You can find lots of information about the costs involved with university study on our Fees and Finance page, and Financial Support pages detail the support available at College and University level, including our Cambridge Bursary Scheme

How does College accommodation work? Are we guaranteed a room?

The majority of students are guaranteed accommodation, either in the College itself or in College-owned houses, for at least three years. Because of the short terms at Cambridge, students usually only need to pay for about 30 weeks a year of accommodation (annual contracts for College accommodation are normally in the range of 26 to 39 weeks), which keeps accommodation costs low in comparison to some other universities where students may have to pay for the full year.

Is the student workload manageable?

Student workload at Cambridge is certainly high, but also manageable, and there's lots of support available to help students adjust to the workload. Academic work needs to be a student’s priority, and so those who really enjoy their subject and have a genuine interest in it, are more likely to thrive. It's also important for students to have time out from their studies to get involved in all the opportunities the University and city have to offer.

What support is available to help students settle in and adjust?

There’s a lot of support available for incoming students, starting with bridging programmes in the weeks before the start of term.

On arrival in Cambridge, there is a peer support system called College families. Older students with similar interests look out for you and introduce you to College life from a student perspective.

Students are also assigned a Director of Studies to look after any academic matters, and a Personal Tutor who offers pastoral support.

Can students have part time jobs?

The University takes the view that our students shouldn't undertake paid employment during term-time – it’s important that students have an appropriate work-life balance, and we offer a range of financial support to help them manage the costs of university study.

However, there may be a few opportunities available within the University and Colleges that are exceptions to this, such as working in the College bar, College library or as a student helper during open days.

What support is available for students with disabilities?

Our Disability Resource Centre (DRC) offers guidance, information and support for disabled applicants, including those with a specific learning difficulty, mental health conditions, or long-term health conditions. We'd encourage disabled applicants to get in touch with the DRC and a College admissions office as soon as possible to discuss any specific requirements and their application. We strongly recommend that students indicate their disability and provide any relevant information in their UCAS application.

Read more about University support for disabled students.

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