Important advice - please read

Most of our undergraduate applicants will be applying to university for the first time, and it's natural that you will have questions. If the answers below don't contain the information you're looking for, feel free to get in touch using the details on the right.

If my education has been disadvantaged in some way, can this be taken into account? 

Yes. St Catharine’s enthusiastically supports the Cambridge Extenuating Circumstances Scheme.


Is there any funding available for travel costs incurred when attending interviews?

To enable applicants to come to interview in Cambridge, St Catharine's is pleased to provide support for travel costs to students who are in local authority care and/or are currently in receipt of free school meals and who attend a UK maintained sector school/college. Public transport travel costs will be reimbursed, and we will contact eligible applicants directly with further information when they are invited to interview.


I don't feel I have had access to good advice about applying to Cambridge - what should I do?

The first thing to say is please do not worry. Our admissions system focuses on specific academic things such as previous exam performance, our own admissions assessments, and how you fare at interview - and even when assessing these we always take into consideration infomation about how much educational support applicants have had, Also, we do not base our decisions on things which are very dependent on how much guidance students have received - how polished their UCAS personal statement is, or how 'slick' they are at interview. The best advice is simple: do as well as you can in your public exams, don't worry if you find the admissions assessments 'hard', and be ready to talk about academic things at interview. And, of course, apply!


Should I take more than three A-levels? Will I be at an advantage?

You should be aware that (1) we assess applicants' school performance based on their three best 'relevant' subjects, and (2) A-level, Scottish system and many other conditional offers are almost always based on achievement in three subjects. Thus, sitting four or more A-levels is not a direct advantage for an applicant to St Catharine's, and it is a personal decision whether doing more than three subjects is right for you. One disadvantage of doing more than three subjects is that you might think you are 'spreading yourself too thin'. Conversely, the advantages of doing more than three subjects are things you need to make your own personal decisions about:

  • You may decide that you can maximise your chances of achieving your three-subject-based offer if you take four or more relevant subjects.
  • You may feel that doing more subjects will help you get offers from your other university choices.
  • You may consider that taking extra subjects will be a good preparation for your eventual university course.
  • You may simply wish to continue with additional subjects because you enjoy them or because they provide you with skills which could be useful in the future (e.g. a language for a scientist, or Maths for an arts/humanities student).


What subjects shoud I take at school?

First of all, you should read the information on the webpage relating to the specific university subjects in which you are interested - subject choice is extremely important for some Cambridge courses, and largely unimportant for others.

  • If you want to apply for a science subject we strongly encourage you to take three of the following - Maths, Further Maths, Physics, Chemistry, Biology.
  • Things are often more flexible for arts and humanities subjects, but it is often a good idea to take subjects directly related to your chosen university subject, and then 'top up' with 'Russell Group facilitating subjects' such as English Literature, any non-native language, History, Geography, sciences or Maths.
  • Obviously, applicants for certain courses often take subjects which are not 'Russell Group facilitating subjects,' such as Music, Government and Politics, Classical Civilisation, Economics, Sociology, Psychology, and so on.
  • Archaeology and Law are notable because they encourage applicants who are currently studying sciences, arts, humanities, or any mixture of the three. Studying Law at school does not provide any particular advantage when applying to study Law.
  • There are some subjects we offer, for which you do not have to be formally studying the equivalent subject at school. These include Biology (for Biological Natural Sciences, Medicine or Veterinary Medicine), Geography, Law, Classics, Economics, Archaeology, Computer Science, Theology, Philosophy, Psychology and Music. This may be because no specific prior knowledge is required (e.g. Law), because other subjects provide just as good a preparation (e.g. physical sciences for Veterinary Medicine), other qualifications are acceptable (e.g. grade 8 Music Theory for Music) or enthusiasm and aptitude can be demonstrated by self-taught or recreational involvement (e.g. Computer Science). See individual subjects pages for details.
  • Please note that we consider Further Maths as a full subject in its own right - indeed, it is highly desirable for many of our courses.


If I have taken an A-level early, will it be taken into account when a conditional offer is made?

We frequently receive applications from candidates who have taken an A-level one year early - often, but not always, it is Maths. In general we prefer to make conditional offers based on three A-levels all taken at the same time, as we believe this is an indication of how a future student will cope with the workload involved in studying for a degree. Because of this, our conditional offers do not usually include any A-level subjects taken early.

However, you should be aware that 'early' A-levels still support your application in two ways. First, good performance in 'early' A-levels will certainly be taken into account in the assessment of your academic potential when we are considering to whom to make offers. Second, were you to narrowly miss your eventual conditional offer, high marks in a previous A-level would be one of the factors taken into account when deciding whether to still offer a place.

One common combination is that applicants take Maths A-level in their penultimate year of school, Further Maths in their last year of school, and Physics or Chemistry over the last two years of school. In this case, the 'double-load' of taking all of the Further Maths course in the final year, along with 'half of Physics/Chemistry', is considered to be a 'full A-level load'. In this case conditional offers may be set at A*A* or A*A (as well as a STEP requirement for Maths applicants).


Can I apply if I would be less than 18 years old when I start my course?

The College would not normally consider the application of a student who is under 18 by the 1st of January of the first year of their proposed course.


Can I take a year out before starting at St Catharine’s? 

We are generally happy for candidates to apply to defer entry for a year, especially if they have specific plans for that 'year out'.

  • However, please note that we discourage deferred entry in Mathematics.
  • Engineers often take a gap year to gain industrial experience, but this is not essential. 
  • The situation is slightly complicated in Medicine, because the University and each individual college have strict, externally-imposed numerical quotas of medical students which they must admit each year (the St Catharine's quota is 11). Thus, any candidate applying for a deferred medical place is considered in the light of the likely field of Medicine applicants in the following year. However, if you wish to take a gap year, our advice is still to apply at the earliest opportunity - for most applicants this is their last year of school - because if you are not successful in gaining a place on a medical course, you can then re-apply during that gap year (see below, 'Does St Catharine’s consider candidates who are applying to university, or even Cambridge for a second time? ')
  • In exceptional circumstances we will consider applicants who wish to defer for two years - in the past this has usually been applicants from Singapore who are expected to undertake national service. If you are in this situation, then you should apply via UCAS to defer for one year, but also e-mail the St Catharine's Admissions Office to advise us of your intentions. Then, if you are successful, we would make you an offer deferred for one year in the first instance, but then move your entry year one further year into the future once this becomes possible in the UCAS system.


I am not from the UK – how does the application process work for me? 

Applicants from other EU member states and outside the EU are considered in exactly the same way as UK applicants, and make up perhaps 15% (EU) and 10% (non-EU) of our students. There are no maximum or minimum numbers of non-UK EU or non-EU students we must take, so admission is based entirely on academic grounds.

The only exception is that the University as a whole does have a maximum quota of non-EU Medical students - see this link. If you are unsure of your status, or live in a territory such as the Channel Islands or Switzerland (which usually 'count' as non-EU), you may want to contact our admissions office for more information. See also our page for international students, or the University website.


Can I be interviewed by Skype or other forms of videoconferencing?

St Catharine's does not currently favour the use of Skype or other forms of videoconferencing for admissions interviews, and you should bear this in mind when you apply. We strongly prefer to interview candidates in person, either in Cambridge, or at one of the University's rounds of interviews at centres outside the EU. If you would prefer a Skype interview, check the websites of other Cambridge colleges, as they may have different policies in this regard.

Please note that the exception to this is that the College is participating in the University's pilot scheme of high-quality teleconference interviews in the arts and humanities (not sciences) in New York City. This scheme involves the help of a partner organisation in the US to ensure technical stability of any interview connection. Please see this link for details,


Does St Catharine’s consider candidates who are applying to university, or even Cambridge for a second time? 

We are very happy to consider such applicants in exactly the same way as we consider first-time applicants, although we would normally expect you to have met or exceeded the University's typical conditional offer in the relevant subject. If you've applied to Cambridge before, our informal advice is that you may want to consider having a fresh 'bite at the cherry' by applying to a different college the second time round.


Does St Catharine’s consider applications to undergraduate courses by applicants already enrolled on courses at other universities?

We do not accept applications from candidates enrolled on undergraduate degree courses at other universities. An obvious exception to this is if you are just about to finish a degree course elsewhere and wish to apply as an affiliated student, in which case, see the next question. Also, you can of course enrol on short, non-degree, courses in advance of coming to Cambridge, if you wish.

In general, if a potential applicant has not achieved or exceeded our typical conditional offer in A-levels or other 'school-type' qualifications, yet still wishes to apply to us, we recommend they resit or take additional exams in such a 'school-type' qualification system. We could then in future compare such candidates' applications directly against the rest of our applicants, something which would not be possible using first- or second-year exam results from another degree course.


Does St Catharine’s consider affiliated student applications (students who already have a degree)? 

We strongly recommend that potential affiliated applicants contact us in advance. Please note that we do not accept affiliated student applications in Law, Medicine or Veterinary Medicine - we recommend that you get in touch with one of the colleges which specialise in such students. Indeed, all graduate applicants may wish to consider applying to one of the Cambridge colleges which specialise in admitting and supporting such students - Lucy Cavendish (women only), Wolfson, St Edmund's, Hughes Hall, Clare Hall and Darwin. 


Does St Catharine’s consider mature (i.e. over-21) applicants?

We are happy to receive applications from mature students in all subjects. However, applicants in Medicine and Veterinary Medicine are strongly advised to consider applying to a college more used to considering such applications: in these two subjects alone there are quota places available specifically for mature students at Wolfson, St Edmund's, Lucy Cavendish and Hughes Hall.

Entry criteria for mature students are generally similar to those for other applicants - we will usually expect you to be studying (or have recently studied) at an appropriate level, whether A Levels, foundation courses, or whatever; and we will expect you to be able to show recent evidence of your academic ability. We are prepared to take mature students from non-standard academic backgrounds, but it is essential that you make contact with the Admissions Office at an early stage so that we can discuss your needs and give you realistic advice.


Does it matter which other universities I have applied to? 

No. No one involved in the admissions process will know where else you have applied. We encourage you to use all the spaces available on your UCAS form (this advice includes medical and veterinary applicants who are sometimes erroneously told by other universities not to use their fifth, 'non-medic/vet' space).

Be aware, however, that UCAS does not permit applications to both Cambridge and Oxford in the same year (except for their Graduate Medicine Courses, for which St Catharine's does not accept applications). 


If I do not get into my college of choice, can I still get into Cambridge? 

Yes, through the Intercollegiate Pool - see the page about preparing for interviews for more information.


Where can I read an independent description of the admissions process?

For a very informative article about how we make our decisions, click here.