The Application Process
So... you've decided you want to come to Cambridge and to Christ's (obviously!) How do you go about it?
NB: This page outlines the process for home students (ie. UK residents) who are taking British A Levels. If you're applying from overseas, or taking a different sixth-form qualification, contact the Admissions Office for information about how it will differ from this: firstname.lastname@example.org
Step 1: UCAS application
If you're applying to Oxbridge, you need to send in your online form by 15th October. You're expected to submit lots of information, some of it only for statistics-gathering purposes, so it's worth going through exactly what Cambridge will be looking at:
- Your GCSE results: Unlike many other high-profile universities, Cambridge will NOT simply discard your application straight away if you don't have a certain quota of A*/A grades. You'd be expected to have a few A*s, probably in the subjects most relevant to your degree but, strange as it may sound, they're not the most important thing for us.
- A Level/IB subjects and predicted grades: Some courses at Cambridge require specific subjects in sixth-form: see their individual pages for more details. It's worth saying that they're looking for quality not quantity: it's far better, particularly for arts subjects, to do 3 A2 Levels well (and have time for wider reading) that to do 4 or 5 less well.
- Personal statement: There are loads of places to turn to for advice on this. All we'll say here is that you should remember to make it personal, and that Cambridge are more interested in your academic potential and interests than your extracurricular ones: at least two-thirds of your statement should be clearly linked to the subject you're interested in.
- Teacher reference: Not much you can do about this one – but make sure you're nice to whichever teacher's writing for you!
Remember to select ‘A' for the college code on your UCAS form in order to apply to Christ's.
Step 2: Supplementary Application Questionnaire (SAQ)
When you send in your UCAS form, Cambridge will send you an online form asking for a little more information. The most important is the UMS marks from the AS modules that you have already taken (as well as declaring any which you have resat or intend to resit). Cambridge is the only university to ask for these, and this extra data is the main reason why GCSE results are less critical – but again, don't be intimidated, as there's no hard-and-fast cut-off point below which you're application won't be considered.
There are a few other boxes asking you for things like class sizes, why you chose Cambridge in particular (which is mainly for those applying to courses unique to us, like Natural Sciences or PPS) and any other information. You aren't obliged to fill in all the boxes if you feel you have nothing significant to say; it won't damage your application if you leave them blank.
In some subjects, you will then be asked to submit some written work by post. There's no need to produce anything special; they're just looking for schoolwork.
Step 3: Interviews
Cambridge interviews almost everyone who applies. Interviews take place, normally over the course of a single morning/afternoon, during the last fortnight of November and first fortnight of December. At Christ's, most applicants have two subject-specific interviews of about 30 minutes each.
Lots of people worry about interviews unnecessarily. They are not the ‘final hurdle' or the single most important thing. In fact, you will be given a mark before interview based on all the elements of your paper application: 80% of the time that mark won't change after your interview and, where it does change, it's a matter of a few points up or down. So you won't wreck a good paper application if you have a poor interview, and you can't just impress at interview if you aren't strong enough on paper.
Interviewers will not be interested in what you wear, where you come from, or how you talk. They're more interested in how you think than what you already know: they'll be testing how you respond to new ideas or challenges beyond the scope of what you've done at school. It's a good idea to practise talking to somebody – anybody! – about your subject, but remember that an interviewer will inevitably take it in a new direction, so don't bother with pre-preparing answers or learning lists of facts. Many people, whatever the result, say that they enjoyed their interviews, as they were a chance to have a conversation with an expert in a subject they love. Many successful applicants also thought their interviews went really badly! This is often because these were the applicants who were pushed by interviewers to answer harder questions, and what they said while struggling to get the answers was the impressive stuff.
Step 4: Wait
This is the hard part! Decision letters and emails are normally sent out in the first week of January...
Step 5: The offer
Contrary to popular belief, the thickness and colour of your letter does not indicate the outcome of your application. And there are three possible outcomes...
- Unsuccessful – Oh dear! The College will normally send some feedback. Don't be too disheartened: there are many other great universities out there!
- Successful – Hooray! The average offer given by Christ's is A*AA, although this can vary depending on your specific circumstances. Generally they won't specify the subject for the A*.
- Winter Pool – This means that Christ's recognises that you are a strong applicant, but have had too many equally strong ones this year to offer you a place. The pooling system allows you to be passed on for consideration by other colleges, who may have not had as many good candidates and therefore be able to offer you a place. You will receive a letter telling you that you have been placed in the pool in early January, and then subsequently be informed whether another college has picked you up: sometimes you may be asked to come back to Cambridge for a second interview. About 20% of students who eventually get into Cambridge do so via the pool.
Step 6: Confirmation of offer
If you meet your offer, you'll receive confirmation on A Level results day in August, both through UCAS and the post. Christ's is sometimes in a position to give you a place if you miss your offer by a few marks, but, in practice, almost everyone meets (or exceeds) their offer. There is also a much smaller Summer Pool for those to whom Christ's feel that they can't offer a place, but are willing to offer to another college.
Step 7: Arrive!
You'll arrive on the first Sunday of October (squashed in with far too much stuff in your family car, probably) – and the fun begins with Freshers' Week!