How to Apply
Applying to university is an exciting prospect, but it may be that you don’t know anyone who has been through the process before and can offer advice. This section contains some general information about how the University of Cambridge application process works.
The application process is very similar for all the Colleges of the University of Cambridge. Full details are given in the Applying section on the University’s website.
Choosing a College
Assuming you have already chosen your course (which is the most important bit), the next decision to make is which Cambridge college to apply to. This can seem like a difficult decision, but it is far less crucial than the choice of course. Colleges are more similar in terms of student experience than they are different, and it is very rare indeed for a current student to feel that they have made the wrong choice.
Many applicants wonder if some colleges are statistically ‘easier’ or ‘harder’ to get into than others. However, the University’s application process is designed to ensure that this is not the case, and there is sufficient moderation across all colleges that the best applicants are successful regardless of which college they applied to.
Your UCAS Personal Statement is your chance to tell us (and other universities) what makes you tick – why you are interested in the course, what you have done both in school and outside school to develop your understanding of the subject. At Cambridge we are particularly keen to hear about your academic pursuits and how they relate to your chosen course, so these should take up more space than your non-academic achievements.
If you are applying to different courses at different universities, it can be hard to phrase your UCAS personal statement accordingly. Don’t worry – after you have submitted your UCAS application you will also get an opportunity to complete a Cambridge-specific application form, called the Supplementary Application Questionnaire (SAQ), which includes a space for an additional personal statement if you wish to write specifically about the Cambridge course.
For further reading and ideas, CUSU (Cambridge University Students’ Union) have produced a very helpful Guide to Personal Statements and Wider Reading.
For some of our courses, we require written work to be submitted during the application process. We will normally ask for two essays written as part of your school work, to be submitted by a certain date. You do not have to send this work before applying – we will write to you after you have applied and let you know exactly what you need to send and when.
Sometimes an interviewer might want to ask questions about the work you have sent in. It is therefore a good idea to keep a copy of what you send so that you can read it again before the interview to refresh your memory.
Most applicants are required to take a written admission assessment, either ‘pre-interview’ (usually at your school) or ‘at interview’ (in Cambridge). The course-specific written assessments are designed to supplement the information in your application and to gauge your abilities – to assess skills (such as comprehension and thinking skills) and, where appropriate, levels of current knowledge and understanding relevant to the course for which you have applied. Performance in any required written assessment won’t be considered in isolation, but taken into account alongside the other elements of your application.
To find out what kind of assessment is used in the subject you are applying for, have a look at our Courses section.
Interviews are an important part of the application process, and we interview everyone with a realistic chance of being offered a place.
At Trinity Hall, applicants are usually given two interviews, each with two interviewers. The interviews are all academic in nature. The questions asked will range from topics that you have already covered at school to new material that you have not seen before. The interviews are designed to get you thinking and discussing and, believe it or not, can actually be quite interesting!
Financial support for interview travel costs
To enable applicants to come to interview in Cambridge, the Colleges are pleased to provide support for travel costs to students who meet one of the following criteria: a) are/have been in local authority care for any period of time, b) are currently eligible for Free School Meals AND who attend a UK maintained sector school or college, c) are mature applicants currently eligible for benefits that would entitle any dependent children to Free School Meals. The Colleges will contact eligible applicants directly with further information when they’re invited to interview.
In exceptional circumstances we have used Skype as an alternative to an in-person interview, though this format can be difficult for both candidate and interviewers, depending on the type of questions being asked and on the quality of the connection. From experience, we feel strongly that the interview experience cannot be entirely replicated on Skype, as it is difficult for the candidate and interviewers to build a natural interaction and engage in a candid, free-flowing discussion on technical, academic material. We therefore encourage candidates to attend a face-to-face interview in order to maximise their interview performance and their chances of receiving an offer.