Application guidance

Students working in the library

Applying to Cambridge can seem like a very complex process, but don't worry; there are plenty of resources available to help! It is advisable for Cambridge applicants to start their thinking about and preparation for their application early – i.e., at least a good few months before the application deadline in October – though it's never too late!

At Caius, we want to give you as much support and encouragement as we can as you prepare your application. Our  and are full of videos from our Admissions Tutor, outreach team, current students, alumni and academics with advice about the application process, insights into student life and taster lectures which might help you develop your interest in your chosen subject or choose your course. You can also follow .

If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to email us on admissions@cai.cam.ac.uk.

Visiting Caius

We are open to visits from prospective applicants. You are welcome to turn up at any time that the College is open. Make sure to pick up a Caius bookmark from the Porters' Lodge, which you can use to access our . If one of the Admissions team is in and free, we are happy to come and say hello and answer any questions – but please note we aren't able to guarantee we will be able to see you.

If you'd like to come to one of the University or College Open Days, you can find out more .

Guidance

Personal statements

Your personal statement is your first chance to tell us about yourself as a potential academic. We want to see that applicants have had some experience of exploring their chosen subject beyond the curriculum and outside of a school/college context, and we want to see this because we are looking, when making admissions decisions, for motivation and enthusiasm. These are great indicators of academic potential, which is ultimately the only thing we're looking for in applicants. A Cambridge degree also involves a large amount of independent study, and so you want to show that you have some experience of this and that you enjoy your subject enough to undertake this study with relish. Note the word "enjoy": you don't have to "love" or have a grand "passion" for your subject – although it's fine and great if you do! – but you do need to enjoy practising it.

Exploration isn't just reading: it can be watching documentaries, listening to podcasts, visiting museums and exhibitions, attending public lectures, and more. If you're thinking, "Can I put this on my personal statement?", the bottom line is, "Is it relevant to my subject and my interest in it?" and "Is there something I feel I want to say about it?". If the answer to both of those questions is yes, then put it down! Remember that all parts of a Cambridge application are considered contextually, and each applicant is treated as an individual. Please don't worry if you feel you have had less access to opportunities to explore your subject than some. What matters most is not what you do, but what you are thinking about and learning from what you do, and the fact that you are doing it. 

There aren't really any rules for a Cambridge personal statement. We don't give them marks out of ten, nor do we hover over them with big red pens putting crosses in the margin! As long as you are telling us about what you've been exploring, and why it interests you, you're well on the way. That said, here are a few tips:

  • Keep a notebook as you explore! Write down not just what you've been reading/watching/listening to/attending but a couple of thoughts about it too, so you can easily come back to this when producing the eventual document.
  • There's no "right" way to do a personal statement, but when it comes to finishing it and getting it down on paper, the following structure can work well: 1) something that you have explored; 2) what did you think about it?; 3) how did your thought(s) lead you to go on to explore the next thing? And repeat.
  • At Cambridge, we are purely interested in you as a potential academic. Extra-curricular interests are great, and our students pursue these when they get here in all forms; but anything extra-curricular you've been involved in, unless you can make it relevant to your subject, doesn't factor into our admissions decisions. We know that other universities are interested in extra-curricular activities, and they can also show good time management, so you are more than welcome to include a couple of sentences about them at the end of your statement. But otherwise, focus on the academic!
  • For Medicine and Veterinary Medicine, we like to see that you have done some thinking about what the life of a doctor/vet will involve. Ordinarily, this is most easily demonstrated by undertaking some work experience in a practical setting. We know that this can be difficult to obtain in the wake of the pandemic, so don't worry if you haven't been able to do any yet. You might substitute it for reading a book offering an account of the life of a doctor, for example; it's also fine to say on your statement that you have arranged work experience for a future date and say what you hope to learn from it.

My Cambridge Application (formerly the SAQ (Supplementary Application Questionnaire))

The My Cambridge Application is mainly there to tell us those things which we think are relevant to your application which UCAS doesn't tell us! (Class sizes, A level modules, etc.) There is a very thorough guide to completing it on the  – though you will also be guided through it as you fill it out.

Often applicants worry unduly about the additional personal statement part of the My Cambridge Application. This is optional, and while most applicants usually do put something down, it doesn't disadvantage you in any way if you don't. It's often most useful for those who are applying to a subject which is unique to Cambridge, and in this case, they can use it to talk about elements of the subject which haven’t made it into their personal statement. There’s no need to structure/focus it in any particular way – it can be, simply, "Since writing my personal statement, I’ve also been thinking about/reading/watching this etc."; "I’m looking forward to this element of the Cambridge course because I have a particular interest in this etc." 

Crucially, though, please make sure you complete the My Cambridge Application by the deadline. If you don't, your application will unfortunately be invalid!

Head over to to hear our Admissions Tutor give some advice on the personal statement and SAQ . You can also watch the video below for some advice from current Caius students.

Pre-registration required assessments

If your course requires a pre-registration required assessment (namely Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology, Computer Science, Economics, Engineering, Law, Medicine, Natural Sciences and Veterinary Medicine, although this may change), you will need to be registered for the assessment by the relevant deadline. The  has registration information and deadlines for all of these tests, so please check it carefully.