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The application process & timetable

There are a few additional steps and things to consider when applying to Cambridge. This page is to give you an idea of what you need to do.

Most applicants select a college where they would like to live and work, and that college will then deal with their application. However, you do not have to choose a college – instead you can make an ‘open application’ and the central Cambridge Admissions Office will then allocate you to one of the colleges, which will deal with your application in the usual way. We ensure that ‘open’ applicants have the same chance of gaining a place as ‘direct’ applicants to the college. However, from your point of view, you may well decide that you want to have direct control over which college you may end up at. Obviously, we recommend St Catharine's...

At the outset it is worth mentioning that entry is entirely on the basis of academic potential (with 'clinical' potential mixed in for prospective medics and vets). Most people who apply are very able, and will attain (or already have) excellent grades at A Level, or equivalent (see our page on admissions requirements for more information). Regrettably, we have to make difficult choices, and every year we turn away well-qualified applicants simply because we don’t have the capacity to teach every one. But if you don’t apply, you cannot be considered. So why not give us a try?

Please note: St Catharine's usually discourages applications from students who would be under 18 by the January 1st of the first year of their proposed course. For example, if you wish to start your studies in October 2021, you should be 18 by 1 January 2022. If you are in this situation, we strongly advise you to contact the college admissions office in advance.

Below is a summary of the application process for Cambridge. If, after reading this, you have any further questions, see our 'important information' page or get in touch using the details at the bottom of this page.


Application timetable

Before the main UCAS submission deadline - special cases

  • Applications for Organ Scholarships must be in by the start of September.
  • Some non-UK applicants may have to apply early - please see our page for international students for more information.
  • Early September or late October - medics sit the BMAT - check the BMAT website for application deadlines

Mid-October - UCAS form deadline

  • All applicants should submit a UCAS form, including a course at Cambridge at Cambridge as one of your choices, and indicating St Catharine's as your preference college in the 'campus code' field.  The deadline is often 6pm on October 15, but check the UCAS website, as we cannot accept late applications.
  • By the same deadline, applicants for subjects in which an admissions written assessment is set should have been separately registered for this.

Mid-October, one week after UCAS deadline - Cambridge SAQ form

  • Soon after submitting your UCAS form, you will receive the online Cambridge Supplementary Application Questionnaire. Please note that the deadline for submitting this may be as soon as one week after the UCAS deadline.

Late October or early November - pre-interview admissions assessments (sciences and some arts/humanities subjects)

  • These assessments are sat in a local exam centre (probably your school).

Mid-November - submission of written work (some arts/humanities subjects)

  • Please see this page for details of the written work you are required to submit for some subjects.

First three weeks of December - Interviews (and at-interview admissions assessments in some arts/humanities subjects)

  • Most (often 90% or so) of UK-interviewed candidates are called for interview between these dates. All candidates should ensure that they are free to come for interview during that period. Interview timetable adjustments are difficult and sometimes impossible - every year we have to turn down applicants because of this. (Accommodation during the interview season can be provided only when a very long journey is necessary, or in exceptional cases).
  • Please see this page for guidance on preparing for 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 between £20 and £80 will be reimbursed, and we will contact eligible applicants directly with further information when they are invited to interview.

By mid-January - decisions made: All candidates will receive a decision by post or email. There are three likely outcomes:

  • That St Catharine's would like to make you an offer (conditional or firm as appropriate).
  • That St Catharine's is not able to make you an offer.
  • That another college would like to make you an offer, after the Intercollegiate Winter Pool. This system allows colleges to make good applicants to whom they themselves were unable to make offers, available to other colleges. Many very well qualified students follow this route. We will usually be looking for candidates in some subjects, and we always do our best to find places at other colleges for those we have placed in the pool. For this reason, every January many applicants instead receive an offer letter from a different college. Please note that decisions made at the pool are sent out at the same time as decisions made by the colleges to which applicants originally applied, so any letter you receive will take into account any redistribution to other colleges. Thus, unfortunately, if you receive a letter from a college saying you have been unsuccessful, then this also means that you were not taken from the pool by another college.

The only applicants who may not receive a decision letter at this time are:

  • A small number of applicants - mainly in arts subjects - may be called for further post-pool interviews in Cambridge on a single day in January.
  • The University runs an 'open offer' system by which a small number of offers are made which are subsequently allocated to colleges in the summer, following publication of A-level results. These offers are usually made by the end of January, although in some cases a decision may be made by the time most decisions are sent out.

By mid-February - entry for STEP exams

  • All candidates whose offer of a place is conditional upon STEP grades (only Mathematics at St Catharine's) must be entered by their examination centre (school) for the relevant papers. 

Early May - acceptance of offers

  • All offers made must be accepted (as firm or insurance offers) or rejected through UCAS. Check the UCAS website for the exact deadline for this.

Before mid-August - some examination result become available

  • Grades for many examination systems become available before UK A-level results are published. If you receive your results before mid-August, and have met your offer, then your place will be confirmed.
  • If you have narrowly missed your offer, then we may decide to wait until A-level results are published in mid-August, so we can compare your performance fairly against the entire field of our offer-holders.

Mid-Augus​t - examination results

  • Once A Level and STEP results have been published, places are guaranteed for all conditional offer candidates who achieve the grades set - your application status will be .changed on UCAS, and you need simply await information from us about accommodation and starting here as a student
  • Some applicants who only narrowly missed achieving their offers may nevertheless have their places confirmed, or be placed in the summer Inercollegiate Pool which takes place the day after A-level results are published. If you have taken A-levels, please contact us as soon as you can on results day with details of your UMS marks. All decisions will be finalised by Friday evening.

Last day of August

  • All applicants who meet their offers following a re-mark by the last day of August will be allocated a place to start in the year they originally applied for. Applicants who meet their offers by re-marks finalised after that date cannot be guaranteed a place that year - although we will endeavour to provide a place to start in the year for which they originally applied.
  • The last day of August is also the deadline for completing our online accommodation application form (which is sent to you a few days after A-level results day). All first years are housed on our main site, but incoming students should submit this form by August 31 to increase their chances of being allocated to one of the the accommodation bands they requested.


Next page: How we make our decisions

If after reading this website you still have questions about applying to St Catharine's for an undergraduate degree, please email us at