The application process & timetable

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

We are aware that the COVID-19 outbreak has disrupted most candidates' plans to apply to university in 2021 and beyond. In particular we realise that your school studies may have been partially interrupted. We are also concerned that the need to work from home, with access to a computer, internet, school resources, and a quiet working environment, will have widened the disparities in educational support available to our future applicants. Please be assured that we are aware of these problems, and we will carefully consider them if you decide to apply to St Catharine's in the future.

A note on Work Experience disruption by COVID-19

St Catharine's usually recommends that Medicine and Veterinary Medicine applicants gain work experience in either a care or a medical setting. However, we realise that the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak means that many will not be able to do this - so we will not expect work experience, and applying without its will not disadvantage you. Please do not postpone your application due to lack of work experience. However, we encourage you to conduct some online research: for Medicine, on the NHS and wider healthcare system, and for vets the UK animal industries and veterinary profession (the structure of these systems, the challenges facing them, and clinical staff perceptions of their working lives). Please note that you should NOT have to pay for any resources, online or otherwise, before you apply to us.

Application process

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.

There are two, three or four things you must submit as part of your application, depending on your situation. Every year we unfortunately have to reject applications because candidates have not sent us the appropriate information. However, please note hat the system may change in 2021, with most information being submitted through a single webform.

  • all must submit a UCAS application
  • all must submit a Cambridge Supplementary Application Questionnaire (SAQ)
  • all science applicants and many arts/humanities applicants must ensure they are registered for pre-interview assessments
  • those located outside the EU (this rule may change from autumn 2021 onwards) when they apply must submit a Cambridge Online Preliminary Application (COPA)

Applicants for some subjects will be asked to express a course preference during their application - for example, Modern Linguists will have to select languages. Natural Science applicants must select a 'physical' or 'biological' preference - if you are not sure you neatly fit either of these two categories, see the 'what we look for' tab on our Natural Sciences page.

Application timetable

Before the main UCAS submission deadline - special cases

  • Applications for Organ Scholarships must be in by the start of September.
  • Early September or late October - medics sit the BMAT - check the BMAT website for registration deadlines.
  • Some non-UK applicants may have to apply early - please see our page for international students for more information.
  • Non-EU applicants can apply to be interviewed by one of the University's overseas panels in Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, Mumbai, Shanghai, Singapore or Toronto - indeed, we recommend you take this option if one of these centres is closer to you than Cambridge. The interviews take place at different times in October, November and December.

15th October - deadline for the UCAS application & pre-interview assessment registration

  • All applicants should submit a UCAS form, including a course at Cambridge as one of your choices, and indicating St Catharine's as your preference college in the 'campus code' field.  Check the UCAS website for precise details of the deadline, 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.
  • Very soon after this deadline, applicants who are located outside the EU when they apply to Cambridge must also have filled in a Cambridge Online Preliminary Application (COPA). The deadline may be considerably earlier for some non-EU applicants - see this link. Please note - the need to complete a COPA relates to your location when you apply, not your citizenship or home address. Thus, EU applicants travelling outside the EU must submit one.

22nd October - deadline for the  Cambridge Supplementary Application Questionnaire

  • Soon after submitting your UCAS form, you will receive an email link to the online Cambridge Supplementary Application Questionnaire (SAQ). Some parts of this questionnaire may not seem relevant to you, in which case, don't worry. However, you must submit the SAQ by the deadline.
  • Please note that if you gain a place at Cambridge, the picture you submit as part of your SAQ will be used for various purposes once you start here (e.g. your university card)  - so make sure it's a nice one!

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

  • These assessments are sat in a local exam centre - for most applicants, this is their school. If you school cannot act as a centre, you will need to find a centre nearby.

Early-to-mid-November - submission of written work (some arts/humanities subjects)

  • Soon after the SAQ deadline, if you have applied for an arts/humanities subject which requires the submission of written work, you will be contacted with full details of what to do. 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)

  • Almost all in-Cambridge interviews take place between these dates. All candidates should ensure they are free to come for interview during that period.
  • If you are invited for interview you will be given full details of when and where to go when you arrive - also, our student team or the College porters will be able to assist you.
  • In some subjects you will be asked to read a text before the interview(s), and in others there is an 'at-interview' assessment you will sit of the same day - and again, you will be given full details of this in advance. There will be quiet spaces for you to read or relax, as well as spaces where you can chat, and there will also be refreshments available.
  • You will have been given an opportunity to tell us if you need any special conditions for your interview, so please inform us in advance - once the timetable is arranged, adjustments are difficult and sometimes impossible.
  • 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.

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 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.
  • That neither St Catharine's nor another college is able to make you an offer.

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

  • A very small number of applicants - mainly in arts subjects - may be called for further post-pool interviews in Cambridge on a single day in January. We would try to complete these before the main decision-notification day, anyway.
  • 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. Again, we try to make these decisions by the time all our other decisions are sent out.

If your application has been unsuccessful, you cannot re-enter the admissions process for that year - at St Catharine's or any other college. The only exception to this is that some unsuccessful UK-domiciled, UK-schooled applicants will be told in their January decision letter that they are eligible for the University's 'adjustment' process because they meet certain widening participation criteria. This is a route by which, if you subsequently meet the University's typical conditional offer level in your exams, you may opt in August to be reconsidered for entry to the University. Please see this page for further information, but note that you should assume you are not eligible for this scheme if you are not notified in your January decision letter.

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 (usually their school) for the relevant papers. 

Early May - acceptance of offers on UCAS

  • All offers 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 will probably 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 grade requirements 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 narrowly miss achieving their offers may nevertheless have their places confirmed, or be placed in the summer Intercollegiate 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 module marks. All decisions will be finalised by Friday evening.
  • St Catharine's aim also to admit some students via the adjustment process. This is only open to previous applicants who meet certain specific criteria - and all of these candidates will have been informed of their eligibility previously. If you are eligible, and you achieve the University's typical conditional offer in your subjects, we strongly recommend you participate in this process - a decision is usually made within 36 hours of the publication of A-level results. For more details see this link.

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 their studies at St Catharine's. Applicants who meet their offers by means of exam 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. All responses received before the deadline are considered equally. Obviously, if you have been informed relatively late of your place here - for example because you were waiting for a re-mark - we will be lenient about the deadline!


Next page: How we make our decisions