How to apply to Cambridge university

How to Apply to Cambridge University in 2024

Are you one of the best students in your class or just want to try an elite university? Are you thinking of applying to Cambridge University, to ensure your future and secure a well-paid job? This guide will help you, we can guarantee that. We prepared a very detailed guide on how to apply to Cambridge University, just because the university has one of the most selective application processes in the world. 

Why study at Cambridge University?

The University of Cambridge enjoys a strong global reputation. Selective is an elite research university, very involved in the development of new technologies.

Cambridge is a 2nd world university

We no longer need to introduce Cambridge, this mythical university in the United Kingdom located 100 km north of London. 

Cambridge university logo

For decades, it has been competing with Oxford for first place in national and world rankings. According to the Shanghai ranking of 2022, the University of Cambridge is thus placed in 3rd place in the world tied with Stanford University, behind the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Oxford. It is the second-best university in the UK.

The Times Higher Education gives it the place of the 5th world university in its ranking for 2022.

Due to its reputation, academic excellence and prestige, it is one of the five most targeted universities in Britain by employers, according to The Graduate Market. 

More than 90% of Cambridge students find a job within six months of graduation or continue their studies.

Cambridge students

Cambridge has nearly 25,000 students from 140 countries around the world. Among its graduates, we can cite in particular Isaac Newton, Alan Turing, Stephen Hawking and Charles Darwin. In addition, 121 people affiliated with the university have received a Nobel Prize and 11 have been awarded a Fields Medal.

Cambridge University alumni also include 47 heads of state and 190 Olympic medalists.

Cambridge Application Process

A strict selectivity

The entrance to Cambridge is extremely competitive. In 2022, 22,470 people applied for only 3,500 places in undergraduate programmes. This means that 6 people applied for each vacant place. Learn more here: Cambridge University Acceptance Rate.

Since the 1960s, the Cambridge application process has been subject to a triple selection process: the UCAS application, an interview and a written work

Cambridge thus stands out as one of the most selective institutions in the United Kingdom.

It should be noted that Bachelor’s candidates cannot apply to both Oxford and Cambridge at the same time, but must choose between one or the other university.


An innovative university

The University of Cambridge is at the heart of one of the largest technological communities that have created more than 1500 high-tech companies.

It is also part of the Russell Group universities, a research-driven network of 24 UK universities of excellence. It is also a member of the Golden Triangle alongside LSE, UCL, King’s College, Imperial College and Oxford.

Cambridge founded the Cambridge Network, an organization that offers recruitment services, innovative training and a large network of companies in the field of technology. It is also associated with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology as part of a partnership.

How to apply to Cambridge University, application timeline

Why is Cambridge University so special?

Cambridge University operates in a similar way to Oxford. The two institutions differ from other institutions in the United Kingdom, in particular in their system of colleges and tutoring.

Colleges at Cambridge University

The University of Cambridge, like that of Oxford, is a confederation of Schools, Colleges, Departments and Faculties. Its 31 colleges (29 for undergraduate students) are autonomous and each has its internal regulations and procedures. They all have an endowment consisting of land and real estate. 

Learn more: The Best Cambridge Colleges

Representatives from each college sit on the University Council and the Finance Committee.

Each university student is attached to a college, which thus appears as the foundation of their student life: the college is their place of life and allows them to integrate more easily.

Each college generally has student residences, common rooms, a dining room, a chapel, a lounge with television, sports facilities, etc. and organises its events.

Colleges are ranked on the Tompkins table every year for their academic achievements.

Recommended reading:

The tutoring system

More than a place of life, colleges are also places of education, where supervision takes place. This system, common to the two universities of Cambridge and Oxford – where it is called “tutoring” – is not practised by other British universities.

Supervisions allow undergraduate students to explore their subjects more deeply, discuss their work and ideas, and get feedback from a mentor professor. They are organized in small groups of one to three students to allow them to debate and talk more freely among themselves. 

One to two hours of tutoring are allocated per week and require preparation. The preferred tutor can thus give readings, problems to solve or essays to write.

The tutoring is in principle specialists in the subject and can change during the year depending on the theme studied and the evolution of the student.

This supervision system is considered one of the best teaching models in the world.

Cambridge University Courses

The University of Cambridge offers around thirty-degree programmes (undergraduate studies) covering more than 65 disciplines. Between arts, humanities, engineering, medicine and sciences, you will certainly find a course to your liking.

In the master’s (postgraduate programme), Cambridge’s offer is very extensive: there are more than 300 programmes, including research courses (Research Programmes) and “taught” courses (Taught Programmes).

Application Deadlines for Cambridge University

If you’re considering applying to Cambridge university, remember the October 16th deadline. This is a tight timeframe, and any student should start working on their Cambridge application as soon as possible to avoid stress and prepare all papers on time.

October 16th is the deadline to apply to Cambridge University. 

How to get into Cambridge University?

Undergraduate Application to Cambridge 

Register on UCAS

To apply to the University of Cambridge for the Bachelor’s degree, you must register on the UCAS website, and complete your profile. Find all our tips for a successful UCAS application.

Read our detailed guide How to get into Cambridge University?

The particularities of Cambridge on UCAS

After choosing the course you want to join, you will also have to choose the college you want to join. This choice is important: the college will be the foundation of your student life at the University of Cambridge. 

If you have no preference or don’t know which college to choose, you can also do an “open application” and let the university decide for you.

Unlike the majority of universities, the deadline for sending your application to Cambridge is set for October 16 the year preceding the start of the school year. This very short deadline, therefore, requires anticipating the preparation of the documents in the file, from the end of the class.

The University of Cambridge does not participate in UCAS Extra or UCAS Clearing. In other words, if you do not apply on time, you will not be able to submit your Cambridge application for the rest of the year.

It is not possible to apply to both Oxford and Cambridge at the same time. 

The two universities receive many requests, it is a way for them to limit the influx. You must therefore choose between one and the other according to the programs that interest you. No Cambridge student studies at this university unless they have been admitted to Oxford, and vice versa.

The documents to be collected on UCAS

Once registered on UCAS, you must submit your application before the deadline, October 16

Fill in your personal information then complete your file with:


The Supplementary Application Questionnaire

Once your UCAS application has been sent, you must complete an additional form. This is the Supplementary Application Questionnaire (SAQ), the link to which will be automatically sent to you by email within two days of receipt of your application file.

The purpose of this questionnaire is to allow the university to collect information that is not in your UCAS application. This step is mandatory and you will have until October 22 to complete and submit the SAQ. 

For international students who wish to obtain an interview as early as October, the completed questionnaire must however be sent as early as September 27. This means that their UCAS application will have to be sent at least two days before.

Additional Applicant Information Form

The University of Cambridge also requires applicants to complete an Additional Applicant Information Form (AAIF). This form will be used to indicate your availability for a possible interview. 

It will also inform examiners of a possible interruption of your studies during the pandemic. Again, you will receive a link to the questionnaire by email. A guide is provided to help you answer the questions effectively.

The written assessment

Most candidates must pass a written assessment, either before the interview or during the interview – if they are called for an interview. This is subject-oriented work to assess writing skills and knowledge on the subject of the chosen course.

You may also be asked to provide excerpts of work written in English.

The interview at Cambridge University

All candidates whose file has a real chance of being accepted are invited to a Cambridge interview, which generally takes place between November and the beginning of January.

If English is not your first language, you will of course have to show the admissions jury that you are fluent in the language. You must be able to express your ideas clearly in fluent language.

If you do not live in the United Kingdom, the health context allows you to have your interview remotely, via videoconference.

Read more: Cambridge interview guide

Proof of English level and grades

At the end of the tests and interviews, candidates may be offered a conditional offer by the university. This means that they will only get a permanent place if they meet Cambridge’s selection criteria. 

These criteria may vary depending on the course. They will therefore have to prove a good level of English by providing a test such as the TOEFL or the IELTS and obtain the minimum marks required for the Baccalaureate.

Master’s Application to Cambridge University

To apply for a master’s degree (postgraduate) at the University of Cambridge, you must carefully research the program that interests you and find out about its selection criteria and its deadline. 

You apply directly on the university portal.

Deadline for a Postgraduate Application

The deadlines vary according to the program chosen, but all registrations open from September 1st. There are two types of deadlines:

  1. The course deadline: this is the date after which your application file will no longer be considered, so you must send it well before. It differs according to the courses and the departments.
  2. Deadline for funding: for most courses, you will need to apply before December or January if you want your application to be considered for a scholarship.

In any case, it is recommended to start early and submit your file at least two weeks before the closing date to be sure of not encountering any problems.

What Documents Do You Need to Provide?

Students wishing to apply for a Master’s degree at the University of Cambridge must carefully prepare their application file. They will therefore have to ask two academic referents for letters of recommendation.

Transcripts and diplomas translated into English are required for international students, as well as an excellent score on an English test and a CV. A “statement of purpose” or a “research proposal” explaining the professional or research project of the student – ​​depending on the course he wants to join – must be included in the file. 

Some courses also require candidates to provide an excerpt from an assignment written in English.

The Interview for Master Application

The majority of Cambridge Masters select candidates also through interviews. Some scholarships (scholarships) may also invite students to an interview.

Since the health crisis, it is possible to interview by video conference or telephone.

Cambridge campus life at Cambridge University

Most of the colleges and halls of the university are located in a historic setting, in the heart of the old town of Cambridge. They are spread out over the city, housed in buildings from various periods ranging from the Gothic to the 1970s.

Museums and libraries

The University of Cambridge manages eight cultural and scientific museums as well as a botanical garden. Libraries are distributed on campus and in the colleges. They hold more than 15 million volumes, eight million of which are housed in the University of Cambridge Library, one of the five legal deposit libraries in the United Kingdom.

One of the departments of the university is the oldest publishing house in the world and the second university press in the world: Cambridge University Press.

Clubs and societies

Although the atmosphere is very studious in Cambridge, the university offers an incredible variety of activities. With more than 900 clubs and societies present on campus, it is possible to practice sports, and cultural and social activities, invest in a new discipline or pursue an existing passion.

Sports competitions are organized every year, sometimes between colleges within the university itself, and sometimes between universities. Oxford and Cambridge thus compete in a famous rowing race, the famous Boat Race, which takes place every year on the Thames in London.

Checkout guide: Cambridge Colleges Pros and Cons

Final Thoughts 

Reserved for elite students, the University of Cambridge offers excellent teaching, a fulfilling study environment and an enriching student life. To apply to Cambridge University, you need to prepare the admission files and interviews and be excellent.