Studying at Cambridge: A guide for parents and supporters - Undergraduate Study
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Welcome Welcome If you’re supporting someone who’s thinking about applying to university for 2020 entry, it’s likely that you have your own questions about higher education and the University of Cambridge in particular. In the pages that follow you’ll find information about the University, student support, student finance, our application process and more. We hope that you’ll find this booklet useful, and that it will answer your questions and help you to advise and encourage your prospective applicant. If you have any further queries we’ll be happy to help – just get in touch. Cambridge Admissions Office 01223 333308 email@example.com www.undergraduate.study.cam.ac.uk
www.cam.ac.uk/whycambridge 1 Contents 2 6 8 10 Why Supporting Student What we’re Cambridge? our students finance looking for 12 20 21 Back cover Applying to How you Glossary Further information Cambridge can help of terms and advice Please note This guide covers application and admission procedures for Home applicants. Further details are available on the Undergraduate Study website (www.undergraduate.study.cam.ac.uk), including information for overseas/international students (from outside the EU, including from the Channel Islands and Isle of Man). At the time of going to print, the fee status of EU nationals commencing their studies in 2021 onwards has yet to be set by the UK government.
2 Why Cambridge? Why Cambridge? Cambridge is one of the best universities in the world, offering undergraduate degree courses in the arts and humanities, social sciences, sciences and engineering. We’re a ‘collegiate’ university, made up of faculties/departments in different academic subjects, and Colleges (see p14-5), meaning our students have access to a wide range of support, facilities and resources. No. 1 Top 10 90% No. 1 in the Complete and Guardian Top 10 for academic experience, 90% of our 2017 graduates were in University Guides 2020, and in the accommodation and industry employment or further study six Times University Guide 2019. connections (THE Student Experience months after graduating. Survey 2018). Top 10 3 years 98% Top 10 Top 10 Top 10 Cambridge guarantees most students 98% of UK undergraduates continue Top 10 in the world for graduate College-owned accommodation for at or complete their degree at the employability (QS Graduate least three years (see p4). University, compared to 90 per cent Employability Rankings 2019). nationally.¹ ¹ 98.2 per cent at Cambridge compared with 90.1 per cent nationally, Higher Education Statistics Agency; all UK domiciled full-time first degree entrants (March 2019).
www.cam.ac.uk/whycambridge 3 Academic excellence We provide challenging, flexible and individual tuition, and are consistently rated at the top of national and international league tables. Our teaching staff includes many national and world subject leaders, so students have the exciting opportunity to be taught by leading experts in their field. The collegiate structure As well as being a member of a large university, students are also part of a smaller College community. While all courses are set and examined by faculties/departments, the collegiate system offers a huge amount of pastoral and academic support for each student, providing a place for them to live, study and socialise. College life is nice; it gives you a good environment to meet a whole cross- section of people from around the world with their own unique interests and passions. I’ve made a lot of very good friends here and found it to be a friendly, inclusive place. Kiran, Corby Contined overleaf
4 Why Cambridge? Flexible learning Accommodation guarantee Many of our degree courses (also referred to at Cambridge The Cambridge Colleges¹ guarantee accommodation to as Triposes) encompass several subjects – more than 65 single undergraduates without children for three years subjects are offered within our undergraduate courses – (many also provide for fourth-year students), and students and some options (usually called papers) are available in a are only charged rent when they’re in residence – most number of courses where subjects overlap. Generally, our accommodation contracts are for 26-39 weeks, rather than a courses are broad in the first year and become increasingly full year (www.cam.ac.uk/accommodation). focused in later years. These aspects can offer students a high level of flexibility, allowing them to explore subjects widely, developing their interests and discovering their strengths. See online for more about our courses (www.cam.ac.uk/courses). More personal tuition In addition to lectures, practicals and seminars, students receive regular small-group tuition (most often for between one and three students). These more personal sessions, known as ‘supervisions’, allow students to explore course material in much greater depth, investigate new approaches and get individual feedback and support. Supervisions usually take place once or twice a week (depending on the course) and will generally last for about an hour. Outstanding support To help our students to succeed we provide expert teachers The teaching was something that and lecturers, excellent library and computing facilities, attracted me – the one-to-one superb labs and lots of support. Our extensive welfare supervisions are a perfect way to networks ensure that students’ individual needs can be ask all those questions you’re dying recognised and met (see also p6-7). This commitment to the overall wellbeing of our students is reflected in our to have answered. The Faculty and undergraduate student retention (see p2). library staff are supportive and resourceful in helping students in any way possible, and the Faculty library is such a wonderful and open environment. Laura, Cumbria ¹ With the exception of St Edmund’s College. ² Non-UK EU nationals should regularly check online for updates regarding fee status and financial arrangements for 2021 entry onwards (www.cam. ac.uk/eu). ³ Elements of the Cambridge Bursary Scheme (such as eligibility criteria and bursary value) are currently being reviewed – please check online for updates, including arrangements for, including arrangements for non-UK EU nationals (www.cam.ac.uk/cambridgebursary). ⁴ Less than four per cent of our 2017 graduates (the national figure is five per cent) are still seeking employment or further study six months after graduation (Destination of Leavers from Higher Education survey 2016/17).
www.cam.ac.uk/whycambridge 5 Low cost of living Cambridge is a relatively inexpensive place to study. Study costs are kept low because we’re fortunate to have excellent computing and library facilities (see p6), and transport costs in the city are minimal as it’s possible to get around on foot or by bicycle. Substantial financial support The University and Colleges are committed to the principle that no suitably qualified Home fee status student should be deterred from applying to Cambridge by their financial circumstances, and that no publicly funded Home student should have to leave because of financial difficulties.² Therefore, an extensive programme of financial support – including non-repayable Cambridge Bursaries³ – is Everyone is welcomed offered to help our undergraduates meet the costs of their We welcome students from every background and the Cambridge education, regardless of background. See p8-9 diversity of our student body is valued and celebrated by for more information. all. We encourage our students to get involved socially and they certainly do – the hundreds of student-run clubs and societies are testimony to that. Whatever a student’s interests are, there’ll be plenty of others here that share them (see also p7). Excellent career prospects Cambridge graduates from all disciplines go into a very wide range of occupations. They’re highly employable and greatly sought after due to the in-depth subject knowledge and key transferable skills they develop and hone here (www.careers.cam.ac.uk). This is evident in our having one of the highest rates of graduates entering graduate-level employment or further study in the UK.⁴ The Careers Service is excellent. The main way I’ve benefitted is through an internship scheme run by them. It was a brilliant experience: I developed lots of valuable skills, made useful contributions to a charity’s work and learned an awful lot. Bryony, Wolverhampton
6 Supporting our students Supporting our students Our welfare system helps students make the transition Facilities and resources from school/college to the University, and is one of the key The University has considerable resources and facilities reasons why almost all of our students stay and successfully available to support and enrich academic study, and help complete their course at Cambridge (see also p2). keep study costs down. College welfare • The collegiate University has more than 100 libraries The greatest strength of the College system is the personal providing free access to millions of books, journals teaching, support and guidance offered to students. and documents, as well as extensive electronic resources (significantly reducing the need to buy books). Within their College, undergraduates have a Director of • All students have access to up-to-date computing Studies (DoS) looking after their academic welfare and facilities in the departments and their College, and the monitoring their progress, and access to a pastoral tutor University Information Services (UIS) offers a programme who can advise on any personal or financial matters. of free IT courses. Colleges also employ a variety of other staff – such as a • The University has nine specialist museums and nurse, counsellors, and chaplains – and there are welfare collections open to students and the public. officers on the College students’ union committees. • The Language Centre assists students wanting to University support develop their existing language skills or learn a new Lecturers and departmental/faculty staff are on hand language from scratch, regardless of degree subject. to provide advice on course-related matters and the See the Undergraduate Study website for more details University’s Careers Service facilitates careers events, alumni (www.cam.ac.uk/facilitiesandresources). (former student) networks and wider training opportunities, helping both current students and alumni make informed Care leavers career choices. The University and Colleges are committed to supporting care-leaver students, and to encouraging and supporting The University’s Counselling Service offers free and prospective applicants who are (or who have previously confidential professional counselling to students wishing spent time) in care. On top of the support that’s available to to talk through any personal circumstances or emotional all undergraduates, care-leaver and estranged students are concerns. The University Students’ Union (CUSU) represents also entitled to year-round College-owned accommodation students at a University level and provides a range (if they wish to stay in Cambridge during the vacations). of student-run welfare services, as well as employing Some care leavers may be eligible for a higher rate of professional Student Advisers to give impartial support to Cambridge Bursary, and Colleges are keen to support care students. leavers should any financial or pastoral issues arise. Further information In order to ensure students receive the support available www.studentwellbeing.admin.cam.ac.uk to them as a care leaver, they should indicate in their UCAS application that they’ve spent time in care. Within our Realise programme, we offer a number of events and activities that aim to raise the aspirations of young people who are or have previously spent time in care. If you’re supporting a young person currently or previously in care and would like more information about Realise events or studying at the University, please visit our website or contact the Cambridge Admissions Office’s Widening Participation Team (telephone: 01223 766872; email: realise@ admin.cam.ac.uk).
www.cam.ac.uk/support 7 Disabled students Meeting people The Disability Resource Centre (DRC) provides information One of the many benefits of a collegiate university is the and support to applicants and more than 1,600 current ease of meeting people. undergraduates with a disability or health condition, including those with: Because our student body is so diverse – coming from a wide range of different backgrounds, and from across the • specific learning difficulties (SpLDs, eg dyslexia, dyspraxia) country and world – all new undergraduates will find plenty • mobility impairments of others with shared experiences. However, our students also embrace opportunities to develop friendships with • sensory impairments others who have similar interests to their own (academically • mental health conditions (eg depression, anxiety and/or recreationally) but who may be from entirely disorder) different backgrounds. • long-term health conditions (eg cancer, chronic fatigue syndrome, HIV, diabetes, epilepsy) Students get to meet others from different Colleges on their course who share their academic interests; through clubs, • Asperger syndrome and autism societies and sports they get to know people with similar Prospective students and their supporters are welcome to recreational interests; and in their College they get to know contact the DRC (see the back cover) for advice on building students on different courses and in different years. accessibility and facilities/resources, to arrange visits and discuss their support needs. We encourage undergraduates to get involved socially – an appropriate work/life balance is essential for their wellbeing Students intending to apply are advised to get in touch with and it’s important that they take advantage of the social/ the DRC and a College admissions office as early as possible recreational opportunities available here, as well as the to discuss their application and specific requirements academic ones. (see p18 and p20). We also strongly recommend that they disclose their disability/disabilities and provide relevant During freshers’ week, College students’ unions offer information in their UCAS application so that appropriate activities for new undergraduates, while CUSU runs the adjustments to the interview process can be made, if Societies Fair so students can find out about the various needed. groups and clubs available (www.cusu.co.uk/get-involved/ societies). Settling in Adjusting academically Arriving in Cambridge All of our applicants are academically very able and we Once offer-holders meet the conditions of their offer, their have every confidence that those we admit will thrive in the College will start to contact them about arrangements learning environment Cambridge offers. for their arrival in Cambridge. New undergraduates may also find it helpful to have a look at CUSU’s freshers’ However, it’s important for the student you’re supporting website (www.freshers.cusu.co.uk). Colleges and faculties/ to understand that there’ll be an initial adjustment period departments usually offer an induction or orientation while they get to grips with the demands of their new programme in the first few days of students’ arrival as well timetable and workload, and that how long this takes to cover key information (eg finding their way around, naturally varies from student to student. At Cambridge facilities/resources etc). there are plenty of people to advise undergraduates and we encourage students to access this support if they have any queries or uncertainties. Safety In general, Cambridge is a safe city and the vast majority of students never experience any problems during their time here. However, students are expected to use the same common sense with regard to security and personal safety that they’d use anywhere else.
8 Student finance Student finance Living costs An individual’s living costs as a student – food, accommodation, course costs/study materials, personal There are two higher education costs to consider – tuition expenses – will obviously vary depending on their lifestyle fees and living (or ‘maintenance’) costs. The University has and course, but the University is a relatively inexpensive an extensive programme of financial support – including place to study. We estimate that in 2019-20 undergraduates non-repayable Cambridge Bursaries¹ – to help our students should allow approximately £9,420⁴ for living costs in meet the costs of their Cambridge education, regardless of Cambridge for the year (students should allow for increases background. in future years). Living costs for international students may be higher. Further details are available from the The information that follows relates to Home fee status Undergraduate Study website. undergraduates starting a course in October 2019 (unless otherwise stated). Figures for 2020-21 will be published Living costs support: government on the Undergraduate Study website (www.cam.ac.uk/ As well as the Tuition Fee Loan, students from the UK studentfinance) as soon as they’re available. Further studying for their first undergraduate degree are currently information about financial arrangements is also available eligible for a means-tested government Maintenance from the GOV.UK website (www.gov.uk/studentfinance). Loan for living costs. Eligibility for other funding Parents of international students can find information depends on individual financial circumstances. However, about costs and financial support at www.cam.ac.uk/ higher education funding is being reviewed by the UK uginternationalfees. government; you should refer to the appropriate finance award agency website for the most up-to-date information Tuition fees and guidance. Tuition fee rates for students qualifying for Home fee status² are set by the UK government. The 2019-20 tuition fee for Students from Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales and the EU Home students at Cambridge is £9,250. At the time of going should also refer to the relevant student finance authority to print, the tuition fee for Home students starting their for information regarding support for living costs. first undergraduate degree³ in 2020 has not been set. It is subject to a major government review and may be different Certain groups of UK students (such as student parents from the tuition fee for 2019. The tuition fee for 2020-21 will and disabled students) may be eligible for additional be published on the Undergraduate Study website as soon government financial support. Please see the GOV.UK or as it’s available; see: www.cam.ac.uk/ugtuitionfees. relevant student finance award agency website for details. You should check the website for the most up-to-date Living costs support: University information on tuition fees before the prospective student We don’t want financial considerations to stop Home you are supporting makes an application and prior to students applying to Cambridge and are committed to them accepting an offer from the University should their providing the financial support needed while here. The application be successful. Cambridge Bursary Scheme is a long running initiative, which gives non-repayable bursaries for living costs to Tuition fee support eligible students. Elements of the scheme (such as eligibility Currently, Home fee status students studying for their first criteria and bursary value) are currently being reviewed – undergraduate degree can take out a government Tuition please check the website regularly for updates: www.cam. Fee Loan for their tuition fees and defer payment of the ac.uk/cambridgebursary. loan until after they’ve left university and are earning a minimum salary, at which point they’ll start to repay the Living costs support: College loan in instalments. Please refer to the appropriate student There may be College-level awards that students can finance award agency for details of tuition fee support (see apply for, such as book and equipment grants to help with opposite). specific study-related costs; scholarships and prizes for academic, musical and sporting achievement; and hardship funds to support students facing unexpected financial difficulties. Information on any such funds is available from each College (www.cam.ac.uk/collegeawards).
www.cam.ac.uk/studentfinance 9 Living Costs 2018-19 What am I paying for? How much does it cost? Accommodation £2,220-£6,180 per year⁵ (including any kitchen charges) £3,330-£6,180 en suite, per year⁵ College meals £4-£7 per meal Additional course costs Dependent on course (see faculty/department websites) Transport in Cambridge Cheap or free! Students should allow for increases in subsequent years. Student finance award agencies Please note Government financial support arrangements for Students are strongly advised to apply for financial undergraduates studying in the UK differ depending support as early as possible. Applications for on where they’re from. Applicants should contact government support will open early in 2020. the relevant organisation for information and Students don’t need a confirmed place at a guidance. Details about government financial university to apply for this. To ensure their funding is support are correct at the time of printing but are in place for the start of their course in October 2020, subject to change and/or government approval. students should usually apply by April/May (dates may vary). See the relevant student finance award Students from England and outside the UK agency website for guidance on when and how to Student Finance England apply. www.gov.uk/studentfinance Students from Northern Ireland Student Finance NI www.studentfinanceni.co.uk Students from Scotland Student Awards Agency Scotland (SAAS) www.saas.gov.uk Students from Wales Student Finance Wales www.studentfinancewales.co.uk ¹ Elements of the Cambridge Bursary Scheme (such as eligibility criteria and bursary value) are currently being reviewed – please check online for updates, including arrangements for non-UK EU nationals (www.cam.ac.uk/cambridge bursary). ² Islands students (from the Channel Islands and Isle of Man) are usually classified as international/overseas students and so charged tuition fees at the international/overseas rate. As international/overseas students, Islands students have to pay College fees in addition to tuition fees (www.cam.ac.uk/ uginternationalfees). ³ Students undertaking a year abroad, where part of the course, pay a different fee during their year abroad (www.cam.ac.uk/ugtuitionfees). Students wishing to study for a second undergraduate degree should refer to the website for information regarding fees. ⁴ Figures rounded up to the nearest £10. ⁵ Figures based on the most common College accommodation contract (30 weeks) in 2018-19 – see individual College websites for details and costs. Figures rounded up to the nearest £10.
10 What we’re looking for What we’re looking for Admission to Cambridge is highly competitive and those assessing applications have to make very difficult decisions when deciding who to make offers to. Applicants are Will taking more A Levels improve an assessed on their academic ability, their suitability for the applicant’s chances of admission? chosen course and their potential to benefit from and Most applicants to Cambridge are studying three or flourish in the Cambridge learning environment. sometimes four subjects at A Level. This is sufficient to show the breadth of an applicant’s interests All undergraduate admissions decisions are the and their ability to manage a range of differing responsibility of the Cambridge Colleges. The Colleges are academic tasks. We’d prefer applicants to develop committed to offering admission to students of the highest a broader and deeper knowledge of the subjects academic ability and potential, irrespective of background, most relevant/closest to their chosen course than and each applicant is assessed individually, without to accumulate additional A Levels. Students who’ve partiality or bias (www.cam.ac.uk/admissionspolicy). taken A Level Mathematics early should refer to the A Level guidance on our website (www.cam.ac.uk/ There’s no blueprint for an ideal Cambridge student and we entrancerequirements). want to give applicants as many opportunities as possible to demonstrate their strengths and potential. Therefore, each application is considered individually and using all information available, such as: • academic record • school/college reference • personal statement • any written work submitted (where requested) • performance in any written assessment • contextual data, such as school performance data (where available) • performance at interview (if interviewed) 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. Rigorous moderation procedures are in place, which enable Colleges to compare the quality of their own applicants with those across the University before finalising decisions about offers. This helps to ensure that an applicant’s chances of admission don’t depend on College choice (or College allocation, in the case of open applications; see p15).
www.cam.ac.uk/apply 11 Extenuating circumstances If an applicant has experienced health or personal problems, disability or difficulties with schooling, their How many A*s at GCSE do applicants need? school/college referee (or GP or social worker) should There are no GCSE (or equivalent) requirements complete our Extenuating Circumstances Form. for entry to Cambridge and we don’t require a minimum number of A/A*s (7/9s) at GCSE. The information given on the form provides context within which Admissions Tutors can consider the applicant’s GCSE results are looked at as a performance academic record, and which can be useful when assessing indicator, but within the context of the performance their performance at interview (if interviewed). of the school/college where they were achieved. See the Undergraduate Study website for further Circumstances that this form should be used to advise us of guidance about entry requirements include: (www.cam.ac.uk/entrancerequirements). • a serious, acute or chronic medical condition (especially since the age of 14) • significant caring responsibilities, or recent bereavement or serious illness within close family • serious disruption to educational provision at school/ college • other circumstances where disruption has occurred If an applicant is unsure whether an Extenuating Circumstances Form should be completed they, or their referee, should contact a College admissions office as early as possible to discuss their case and get further advice. We encourage applicants to let us know about any circumstances we may need to take into consideration when assessing their application. The student should apply in the usual way (see p12-3) and the Extenuating Circumstances Form should normally be completed and submitted by the school/college referee for receipt by the 22 October 2019 application deadline. If a student attends a state/private school will In those rare cases where the applicant’s school/college this disadvantage their application? is unaware of the circumstances, a doctor or social worker No. Admission is based solely on intellectual ability may complete and validate the form on the student’s and potential – we don’t discriminate for or against behalf. applicants because of the type of school they attend (www.cam.ac.uk/admissionspolicy). More information is available on the Undergraduate Study website at: www.cam.ac.uk/apply.
12 Applying to Cambridge Applying to Cambridge Applications to universities in the UK are made online In addition, students are required to provide some through the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service information not covered by the UCAS application. The six (UCAS). Your student’s school/college should be able to steps below outline the application process (with further provide advice on making a UCAS application and there’s detail given on the following pages). some information for parents and supporters on the UCAS website (www.ucas.com/parents). We also encourage prospective applicants to visit the University at some point so they can see for themselves To apply to Cambridge, the process is much the same what it might be like to study here. There are around as that for other universities. However, at Cambridge the 150 open days and events in Cambridge each year to process starts earlier to allow time for all the application choose from – details can be found at: www.cam.ac.uk/ information to be gathered and considered. Most outreachevents. undergraduate courses can be applied to up until 15 January, but at Cambridge, our deadline for all courses is 15 If you come across any unfamiliar terms on the following October.¹ Students who are interested in applying should pages, take a look at our application glossary on p21. start their research as early as possible so they have plenty of time to prepare their application. 2. College Consider where they’d like to live when they’re here – 1. Course applicants indicate in their UCAS application if they have a preference College or are making an ‘open’ application. See p15 and www.cam.ac.uk/choosingacollege. Students should start researching our courses so they can decide what might be right for them. See p14 and www. cam.ac.uk/courses. 3. Apply UCAS application² submitted online by 15 October. Supplementary Application Questionnaire (SAQ) submitted by students shortly afterwards. See p16 and www.cam. ac.uk/apply. ¹ Other application deadlines apply for those wishing to be considered for interview in particular overseas countries (www.cam.ac.uk/uginternational), and for some applicants aged 21 or over (mature applicants, www.cam.ac.uk/mature). ² As well as a UCAS application, an additional application must be submitted by students living or attending school/college outside the EU at the time of application, applying for the Graduate Course in Medicine, and/or applying for an Organ Scholarship.
www.cam.ac.uk/apply 13 4. Written assessment 5. Interview Most applicants are required to take a written assessment, Usually conducted in December. See p18 and either before they are interviewed or at interview should www.cam.ac.uk/interviews. they be invited to attend. See p17 and www.cam.ac.uk/ assessment. 6. Decision Applicants will be advised of our decision before Will extra-curricular activities help an applicant’s the end of January 2020. See p19. chances of admission? All admissions decisions are based on academic criteria – ability and potential. Excellence in extra-curricular activities that aren’t relevant to the course won’t be considered. A student’s participation (or not) in specific extra-curricular activities won’t affect their chances of being made an offer of a place at Cambridge. However, other universities may differ. Students should check what all of their university options look for in candidates and take this into account when composing their personal statement. Contined overleaf
14 Applying to Cambridge 1. Choosing a course Post-16 subject choices • Have they considered less obvious choices? The subject choices for sixth-form studies made in Year 11 Encourage the student you are supporting to be open- (or equivalent) can have a significant impact on a student’s minded and avoid limiting themselves to the more higher education options. obvious or familiar sounding courses. For example, students interested in history, literature and language Many Cambridge courses require qualifications in certain may enjoy courses that incorporate all these areas, such subjects and the Colleges expect such subjects to be as Anglo-Saxon, Norse, and Celtic; Archaeology; Asian passed, normally with an A* or A grade at A Level/grade 7 and Middle Eastern Studies; Classics; Linguistics; and or 6 at Higher Level of the IB (or equivalent). Students who Modern and Medieval Languages, as well as English and History. have decided on a university course should look at the course requirements before finalising their A Level/IB Higher • What would they like to do when they graduate? Level subject choices to check their suitability for entry While a small number of professions do require certain (www.cam.ac.uk/entrancerequirements). qualifications, most employers don’t specify degree subjects, so students shouldn’t make assumptions about Students who are unsure about the course they’d like their career prospects. If the student you’re supporting to study should note that there are certain subjects that has a particular occupation in mind, encourage them are essential for several courses at Cambridge. Therefore, to research if there are any requirements they’d need to choosing one or more of these can help keep their fulfil (eg accreditation and/or professional qualifications), options open. Further advice about subjects and subject and what people currently in that profession studied at combinations that provide a more effective preparation university and their subsequent career path – they may for study at Cambridge can be found in our Subject be surprised at the range they discover. Matters leaflet, available on our website (www.cam.ac.uk/ • Have they done their research? To understand fully ugpublications). what a course entails, it is vital that students research course outlines at all of their chosen universities. Courses Degree course choices with the same title at different universities can vary Choosing the right degree course is the most important greatly, with different entrance requirements, content, decision students will make in the application process and structures, options, and teaching and assessment they should think very carefully about their options. methods. Our Admissions Tutors are looking for the students who Please note that students can’t apply to both the University they believe have the greatest academic ability and of Cambridge and the University of Oxford in the same year. potential, are best suited to the course applied for, and If the applicant you are supporting is struggling to decide who’ll most benefit from the teaching and learning which university will be best for them, have a look at our environment offered at Cambridge. Therefore, when online guide to the similarities and differences between the considering their degree course choice(s), there are some two which may help them firm up their choice questions you can encourage your student to think about (www.cam.ac.uk/parents-and-supporters). to make sure they are choosing the right course for them. Further information • What are their interests and motivations? Students www.cam.ac.uk/courses should consider what they most enjoy learning about – this may be particular topics within subjects currently being studied and/or something from their wider interests. It’s crucial that they have a genuine personal interest in their subject to be motivated and successful at university.
www.cam.ac.uk/apply 15 2. Choosing a College Cambridge students are members of a College as well as Open applications the University. If the student you’re supporting applies to If a student doesn’t mind to which College they belong, the University, they must indicate in their UCAS application they don’t have to choose – they can make an open if they have a preference College or are making an ‘open’ application instead. application (see right). After the closing date, a computer program allocates each A student’s College is their base for the time they’re at open application to a College which happens to have Cambridge – where they live, eat, do a lot of socialising, received fewer applications per place for that course than receive academic support, and where they often (though the average number across all Colleges. not always) have their supervisions. Once allocated, open applications are treated exactly the Does College choice matter? same as any other – interviewers aren’t told whether an The Colleges are more alike than different and students applicant made an open application or stated a preference settle in quickly whichever they attend, so applicants College, and candidates won’t be asked about their choice shouldn’t agonise over which College to choose (see also at interview. information about the ‘pool’ system, p19). Before submitting an open application, students should be It’s the University (not the Colleges) that sets course content sure that they’ll be content whatever the outcome of the and students from all Colleges studying the same course allocation as once an application has been allocated it can’t attend the same lectures/practicals and sit the same exams be changed. together. For equally well-qualified students, making an open application or indicating a preference College makes A few extra notes no difference to their chances of being made an offer. • Students can also find advice about how not to choose a College (eg based on application statistics, specialisms How do students choose a College? of College Fellows) on our website. Some Colleges don’t take students for some courses so • It’s advisable for applicants with unusual qualifications/ applicants should check availability for their course first particular considerations to apply to a specific College, (listed in the course and College information). Otherwise, having sought advice at an early stage. we suggest students think of choosing a College in terms • Students can only submit one application to Cambridge of choosing where they’d like to live. They may find it useful in a year, either choosing a preference College or an to consider: open application; and once the UCAS application has been submitted this choice can’t be changed. • their age – four Colleges are exclusively for students aged 21 or over (mature students) Further information www.cam.ac.uk/choosingacollege • their gender – three Colleges consider applications from female students only • size – number of students • appearance and type of accommodation • personal instinct/preference – many students can’t Which Colleges are ‘best’ for which subjects? explain why they were drawn to their College other than Regardless of their College, students on the same it just ‘felt right’ course are taught together by and in the University’s Information about the different Colleges is available online. academic faculties/departments, attending the Students may also find it helpful to visit a few, either by same lectures, seminars and practicals and sitting attending an open day or arranging a separate visit (there’s the same exams. no obligation to apply to one they visit).
16 Applying to Cambridge 3. The application UCAS application Supplementary Application Questionnaire (SAQ) To apply to the University, students must submit a UCAS In order to ensure that we have complete and consistent application online, listing Cambridge as one of their options information about applicants, all students will be asked in the ‘Choices’ section, as well as a College (UCAS campus) via email to complete a Supplementary Application code or ‘9’ for an open application. Questionnaire (SAQ) online following receipt of their UCAS application.² To ensure that there’s sufficient time for all applicants to be assessed equally and fairly, the deadline for applying to The SAQ enables us to collect information that’s not part Cambridge for most students is 15 October.¹ of the UCAS application but is useful when assessing applications: for example topics covered as part of AS/A As well as a UCAS application, students must submit Level (or equivalent) courses (which helps interviewers another application if they’re: decide which questions to ask). Applicants will have the option to complete a Cambridge-specific personal • living or attending school/college outside the EU at the statement as part of the SAQ, giving them the opportunity time of application to detail their interest in their chosen Cambridge course. • applying for the Graduate Course in Medicine • applying for an Organ Scholarship To make a valid application to the University of Cambridge, (www.cam.ac.uk/musicawards) students must submit their SAQ by the deadline set. In the majority of cases this will be 22 October.³ More information If there are extenuating circumstances which have caused about the SAQ is available on our website disruption or disadvantage, the applicant’s school/college (www.cam.ac.uk/saq). referee (or doctor or social worker) should complete and submit the Extenuating Circumstances Form (see p11) by 22 October. Students should note the separate registration deadlines for courses requiring a pre-interview written assessment (see opposite). ¹ Other deadlines apply for applicants wishing to be considered for interview in particular overseas countries (www.cam.ac.uk/uginternational), and for some mature students (www.cam.ac.uk/mature). ² Applicants must regularly check both the inbox and spam/junk folder of the email account they give in their UCAS application as they’ll be contacted by the University and/or UCAS by email at various stages of their application. ³ If a different deadline applies, the applicant’s College will notify them of the date. If there’s any doubt about the deadline by which they must complete the SAQ, the applicant should contact the College as soon as possible to check.
www.cam.ac.uk/apply 17 4. Written assessment Most applicants are required to take a course-specific With the exception of the Biomedical Admission Test (BMAT, written assessment, either pre-interview or at interview. for Medicine), there’s no entry fee for the pre-interview written assessments, but some assessment centres may These are designed to supplement the information in charge candidates an administration fee. each student’s application and provide a gauge of their existing abilities – to assess skills (such as comprehension Applicants must be registered in advance by their and thinking skills) and, where appropriate, levels of current assessment centre for the relevant pre-interview knowledge and understanding relevant to the course assessment. The assessment registration deadlines can applied for. be found online (www.cam.ac.uk/assessment), and pre- interview assessments (except for the August BMAT) will be The course information online (www.cam.ac.uk/courses) taken on 30 October 2019. provides details of the associated written assessment, including format (sections, timing) and content At-interview written assessments specification. Students should note that their written If a course requires a written assessment at interview, this assessment performance isn’t considered in isolation, but is taken when the applicant’s in Cambridge for interview (if taken into account alongside the other elements of their interviewed), which is usually during the first three weeks of application (see p10). December (see p18). Pre-interview written assessments There are no charges associated with taking any written Our pre-interview assessments are organised by Cambridge assessments at interview in Cambridge, and students don’t Assessment Admissions Testing and taken at an authorised need to register or be registered for them – the Colleges centre local to applicants. For most students this will be provide details of arrangements in the letters inviting their school/college. Applicants should check this with their applicants to interview. teacher/exams officer, as students who won’t be able to take their pre-interview assessment at their school/college Further information must find an open authorised centre instead www.cam.ac.uk/assessment (www.admissionstestingservice.org/find-a-centre).
18 Applying to Cambridge 5. Interviews The majority of applicants are invited to attend an interview. What are interviewers looking for? In previous years, this has been around 75 per cent of The main focus of interviews is to explore applicants’ applicants overall (though the percentage varies between academic potential, motivation and suitability for their courses and interview locations) and involves more than chosen course, as well as to assess how they’d respond to 20,000 interviews in each admissions round. the teaching methods used here. When the interviews take place Applicants must be prepared to think hard in the interview Most interviews take place during the first three weeks but should also be reminded that very often there are of December and applicants should avoid making no right or wrong answers to the questions asked. It’s unbreakable commitments or travel plans for this period. the process of reaching their answer – how they think around the topic being discussed and apply their current Interview arrangements knowledge to unfamiliar problems – that’s generally of The exact form and length of interviews vary from College most significance, rather than the answer itself. to College and between subjects, but typically applicants have two interviews of 20-45 minutes each. More details and advice about interviews, including short films about how to prepare and what to expect, can be If the student you’re supporting is invited for interview, found on our website. the College will send them full details – explaining when and where to go, what the format will be and what will Further information be expected of them, including arrangements for any www.cam.ac.uk/interviews written assessment (if relevant). If applicable and not already declared in their application, your student should contact the College as soon as possible to discuss specific requirements (eg access arrangements) so that appropriate adjustments can be made if needed. Some applicants may be asked to stay overnight, in which case they’ll not normally be expected to pay for accommodation or meals. Support is available for some UK applicants to help with travel costs (see the website for further details).
www.cam.ac.uk/apply 19 6. The application outcome All undergraduate admissions decisions are the responsibility of the Cambridge Colleges. Following the assessment of each application there are two possible outcomes. 1. The student may be made an offer. This might be from the College they applied/were allocated to, or from a different College as a result of their application being ‘pooled’ (see right). If they’re still studying, an offer will normally be conditional and dependent on them achieving particular grades in their qualifications (the University makes unconditional offers only to those who have already met the conditions for entry to their chosen course). The pool system 2. Their application may be unsuccessful. On average, we receive around five applications for each place, so The pool system is designed to ensure that the every year we have to turn down many students with best applicants are offered places, no matter which good grade predictions whom we’d like to have taken. College they applied/were allocated to. Disappointing though this may be, we hope that all applicants find the process a useful experience, providing If a College is over-subscribed for a particular course, valuable preparation for their other university choices strong applicants are put into the ‘winter pool’ for and we hope that students won’t be deterred from other Colleges to consider. All Colleges can consider applying by the prospect of not being successful – we pooled applicants and Directors of Studies in each can only offer places to those who apply. subject meet during the admissions period to discuss the overall standard of applications so they If the student you’re supporting is offered a place at Cambridge, they’ll be informed by the College and through can see how their own College’s applicants compare UCAS. They must then reply, as per UCAS requirements and – Colleges would rather admit a strong applicant deadlines. from the pool than a weaker applicant who applied directly/was allocated to them. If they accept Cambridge firmly they must meet any conditions of the offer by 31 August of the admissions cycle As a result of being placed in the winter pool, in which they applied. some applicants may be asked to attend another interview at a different College, usually in January. Alternatively, they may be offered a place at another Clearing and the adjustment period College without further interview; or they may be The University of Cambridge doesn’t enter Clearing, so no unsuccessful, in which case they’ll be notified by course vacancies are available through this application their original College. method. However, we anticipate that places may be available for some students through Adjustment. You Normally, around one in four applicants is pooled can find out more about Adjustment at www.cam.ac.uk/ and, of these, around one in five (954 for 2018 entry) adjustment. receives an offer of a place from a College other than the one they applied/were allocated to. A second smaller pool of offer holders who narrowly miss the conditions of their original offer takes place in August after examination results are released and places are confirmed. This again helps to ensure that the best applicants secure places.
20 How you can help How you can help If the student you’re supporting intends to apply to Remember the deadlines Cambridge there are many ways you can help them to do Once the autumn term begins, 15 October can come this. round very quickly. You could help them to prepare for deadlines and respond promptly to correspondence from Encourage wider academic engagement the University and/or UCAS. Students must regularly check We expect applicants to be taking an active interest in the both the inbox and spam/junk folder of the email account subject they’re applying for and look for evidence in their they give in their UCAS application as they’ll be contacted application of their motivation to learn about that subject by the University and/or UCAS by email at various stages of area in their own time (their super-curricular activities). their application. Students should also be encouraged to read broadly and Interview preparation critically beyond the range expected for their current If your applicant is invited to attend an interview, you can courses – particularly in the areas of their A Level/IB Higher support their preparation by encouraging them to talk in Level (or equivalent) subjects that they find most interesting detail in conversation about the course they’ve applied for – and should have an awareness and understanding and explain what attracted them to their subject, as well as of subject-related issues (relevant to their current and discuss their wider interests. university courses) visible in the wider world. The student’s school/college may be able to arrange a Guidance on suggested reading and other preparation can mock interview. These can be useful for giving students be found in the course information on our website (www. experience of discussing their ideas and responding to cam.ac.uk/courses), and the HE+ website (www.myheplus. questions with an interviewer they’re unfamiliar with, rather com) provides subject enrichment for Year 12 and 13 than as an opportunity to guess which questions may come students considering research intensive universities. up or to prepare responses. Come and visit See p18 for more information about the interview process Though they don’t need to visit Cambridge to apply to and visit www.cam.ac.uk/interviews for further advice the University, the student you’re supporting may find about how students can prepare for an interview at it useful to do so. We offer a large number of open days, Cambridge. masterclasses and residential events throughout the year to provide information about and preparation for study at the University. Details about our events are on our website at: www.cam.ac.uk/outreachevents. Please note You might like to explore together which events may be We’re aware of private companies and individuals of use to them, and help them to plan their visit and the that offer, at a charge, information and advice on our questions they want to ask. If the student you’re supporting admissions process, assessments and interviews. has a disability or health condition (see p7) then this is a good opportunity for them to discuss their requirements We DO NOT support or encourage any of these with the University and any College(s) to which they’re commercial enterprises. None of these companies/ interested in applying. individuals has access to any information that’s not already available free of charge to all schools, Think ahead colleges and individual students from College Because the UCAS application deadline for Cambridge is admissions offices, the Cambridge Admissions Office earlier than for most other universities, we advise students or CUSU; and we’re unable to verify the accuracy of to start thinking about their application early and become familiar with the admissions process so they know what to the information these companies/individuals may expect and when. The long summer break is the perfect provide. time to think about what to include in their personal statement (www.ucas.com/personalstatement). Why do Please contact the admissions office at any College they want to study that particular subject? What interests or the Cambridge Admissions Office for more do they have within that field? How have they been information. pursuing their subject interests?
www.cam.ac.uk/apply 21 Glossary of terms You might come across many new and unfamiliar words and terms when helping the applicant you are supporting apply for university. We’ve explained some of these below, however if you come across anything else that isn’t clear or you simply want to find out more about life at Cambridge, have a look at our website or contact the Cambridge Admissions Office (firstname.lastname@example.org). Adjustment – UCAS Adjustment allows students who Pools – if a College is impressed by a student’s application have met all the conditions of their conditional-firm offer, but does not have a place for them, they may pool their and exceeded at least one, to be considered by other application for other Colleges to consider. universities without jeopardising their place. We may have places available through Adjustment (www.cam.ac.uk/ Pre-interview assessment – around half of our courses adjustment). require applicants to take a pre-interview assessment, taken Cambridge Bursary Scheme – this scheme gives non- at an authorised assessment centre local to the applicant. repayable bursaries for living costs to eligible students Pre-interview assessments will be taken on 30 October (www.cam.ac.uk/cambridgebusary). The Cambridge 2019. Other courses may ask applicants to take a written Colleges also offer a range of bursaries, grants and loans to assessment at interview. help students manage the cost of their studies. Clearing – the UCAS Clearing period begins after SAQ – Supplementary Application Questionnaire. The SAQ applicants receive their results and offers an opportunity for is sent to applicants after we receive their UCAS application. late applicants or those who have missed their predicted The SAQ gives applicants the opportunity to provide more grades to be matched with a university that still has spaces information about what they are currently studying and also available. The University doesn’t enter Clearing. offers the option to add an additional personal statement, covering any details applicants were unable to include in Conditional offer – this type of offer is dependent on the their UCAS application. applicant achieving certain grades in the qualifications they are taking. Super-curricular activities – these are activities relevant to the chosen course that an applicant is involved with Contextual data – this is used to help us obtain a more outside their studies. We expect to see evidence of these in-depth profile of an applicant. Contextual data includes activities and wider engagement with the applicant’s area information such as the academic performance of an of academic interest. applicant’s school or college. You can read more about contextual data online: www.cam.ac.uk/applying. Tuition fee loan – all students can apply for a tuition fee COPA – Cambridge Online Preliminary Application. loan to cover the cost of their course (excluding any cost Applicants from outside the EU also need to complete the that sits outside of the main tuition fee). COPA, alongside their UCAS application and SAQ. UCAS – the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service. Deferred entry – some students applying in 2019 Students should make their application online using the might choose to defer entry and join us in October 2021. UCAS website (www.ucas.com). Applicants should state their intention to defer entry in their Unconditional offer – we only make unconditional offers UCAS application and should be prepared to talk about to those who have already met the conditions of entry to their proposed year out at interview (if interviewed). their chosen course, so if an applicant has already received Maintenance loan – the government provides their results and they have achieved the grades we require, maintenance loans to eligible students to help them cover we may make them an unconditional offer. their living costs. This loan is given based on household income.
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