Millie’s UK University Spotlight: Next Stop, Cambridge!
Article written and edited by Yadavi Madani.
Whether you’re drawn to Cambridge for its academic rigour, stunning architecture, or simply because you’re longing to take a punt along the River Cam, the University of Cambridge is one of the most prestigious and sought-after universities in the world.
The University of Cambridge is situated on the River Cam in the South East of England and boasts incredible scenery enjoyed by students and tourists alike. Cambridge ranks second in the UK (Complete University Guide) and third worldwide (Top Universities), making it an exceptional choice for top students. This is evidenced by its impressive list of alumni, which includes Sir Isaac Newton, Zadie Smith, Ian McKellen and Diane Abbott. Founded in 1209, the University of Cambridge is the second-oldest university in the English-speaking world. Like the University of Oxford, Cambridge offers a more personalised teaching style, with each student attending “supervisions” – small discussion groups of between one to three students – to more deeply explore lecture subjects. The university also uses a collegiate system, which helps to create a sense of family while students are away from home.
Cambridge offers 30 undergraduate courses, ranging from Architecture to Veterinary Medicine. Below is some further information about three of its top-ranked majors, and the grade requirements for each:
Engineering – Ranked #1
- IB: 40-42 points with 776 at Higher Level including Maths (Analysis and Approaches) and Physics
- A-Levels: A*A*A including Maths and Physics
- AP: 5, 5, 5, 5, 5 including Calculus BC and Physics C
Law – Ranked #1
- IB: 40-42 points with 776 at Higher Level (one Higher Level in an essay-based subject))
- A-Levels: A*AA (one in an essay-based subject)
- AP: 5, 5, 5, 5, 5 or more
Natural Sciences – Ranked #1
- IB: 40-42 points with 776 at Higher Level including Maths (Analysis and Approaches) and Biology, Chemistry or Physics
- A-Levels: A*A*A including Maths and Biology, Chemistry or Physics
- AP: 5, 5, 5, 5, 5 including Calculus BC and a Natural Science
Only at Cambridge
Like what you’ve heard so far about the University of Cambridge? Fantastic! Read on for some more things that make it truly unique.
#1 – Colleges
Cambridge uses a collegiate system. It has 31 colleges, each with its own distinct atmosphere and quirks, including hosting the famous May Ball with themes ranging from “The Roaring Twenties” to “A Midsummer Dream”.
Whatever you’re looking for, you’ll be able to find your perfect college! Here’s a quick taster on a few of the colleges:
- Christ’s College: Established in 1437, Christ’s College is the goldilocks of colleges - not too big, not too small, but just right with a capacity of around 450 undergraduate students! It is sociable without being overwhelming. Academically, it ranks first in the Tompkins Table, a system used to rank the performance of undergraduate students in each college. While this added pressure can make the exam period a bit intense, the college’s quaint gardens and its central location provide more than enough places to relax with friends.
- King’s College: If you’ve ever seen a picture of Cambridge, chances are it’s the iconic King’s College chapel. Established in 1441, the college accommodates approximately 400 undergraduate students and ranks twelfth in the Tompkins Table. While one downside is that many tourists are attracted to the picturesque chapel, the college has a friendly atmosphere and plenty of options for you to meet up with your friends close to your accommodation.
- Trinity College: This college was established in 1546 and houses about 600 undergraduate students, which can be a bit overwhelming but means you will have ample opportunity to find like-minded friends. It also ranks highly in the Tompkins Table, in second place, which can make it quite competitive during the exam period. However, it hosts the largest May Ball, so once you survive the stress of exams, there’s a fantastic treat waiting for you!
Whether you want a college large or small, competitive or sociable, you’ll be sure to find your dream college! Use this Cambridge College Finder to see which college is right for you.
#2 – Your personal statement
"There’s no blueprint for an ideal Cambridge student."
When applying to Cambridge or Oxford, your personal statement will look very different from students who are applying to non-Oxbridge universities. Around 80% of your personal statement should be focused on extracurricular reading you’ve done on your chosen major and the impact that it had on you. However, listing 20 books that you’ve read won’t cut it. You need to take a deep dive into about three books that really taught you something and gave you a new perspective, showing the admissions team that you have a passion for your subject and are eager to learn more – exactly what Cambridge is looking for! Remember, there’s no blueprint for an ideal Cambridge student.
#3 – Cambridge Assessment
The Cambridge Assessment is the first step of the application process. The test allows students to demonstrate their potential for success in an equitable manner. Depending on which major you choose, you will have to complete one or more of the entry examinations, either pre-interview or at the interview. Some of the pre-interview admissions tests and their corresponding courses include:
- ECAA (Economics Admissions Assessment) - Economics
- ELAT (English Literature Admissions Test) - English
- TSA (Thinking Skills Assessment) - Land Economy
- BMAT (BioMedical Admissions Test) - Medicine
- NSAA (Natural Sciences Admissions Assessment) - Natural Sciences
- TMUA (Test of Mathematics for University Admission) - Computer Science
“The test allows students to demonstrate their potential for success in an equitable manner.”
Additionally, all colleges will require an admissions test at the interview stage for the following courses:
- History and Modern Languages
- History of Art
- Modern and Medieval Languages (MML)
- Theology, Religion, and Philosophy of Religion
You can find more information about the Cambridge Assessment in our Millie’s Guide!
#4 – The Interview
Finally... the interview *panic intensifies*. While the Cambridge Interview may seem daunting, it’s there to assess your academic potential and if you will benefit from Cambridge’s more hands-on, personalised learning environment. If you are the right fit, then you have nothing to worry about! Remember, the interviewer is NOT trying to catch you out; all they want you to do is apply your existing knowledge to an unfamiliar situation. Interviews usually take place during the first three weeks of December, so you’ll have plenty of time to prepare by practicing discussing your major with friends or family and answering questions on the spot. The interview is there to see if you will excel at Cambridge; it may be you are more fit for a different learning environment, and that is ok too!
"Remember, the interviewer is NOT trying to catch you out; all they want you to do is apply your existing knowledge to an unfamiliar situation."
No way… that can’t be true!
Aside from its impressive architecture and prestigious standing, there are lots of quirks that make the University of Cambridge truly special!
Did you know...
- Many Cambridge students enjoy punting? And before you ask, not the Superbowl kind! Punting is a type of boating where you push a small boat along a river using a long pole – a slightly eccentric and much-loved hobby of Cambridge students!
- Lord Byron kept a live bear in his room during his stay at Cambridge in retaliation for not being allowed to keep a dog in his accommodation? Talk about noisy pets!
- The head of Oliver Cromwell, the English general who helped overthrow the Stuart monarchy in the 17th Century, is buried in a secret location at Cambridge?
- Football/soccer as we know it today has its origins in Cambridge? The first official game of football using the “Cambridge Rules” was played in 1848 on Parker’s Piece, and formed the basis of the Football Association’s rules created in 1863!
So, fancy a lazy river punt or a magical night at the May Ball? Maybe the University of Cambridge is the one for you! Don’t forget to sign yourself up for a free Millie consultation to plan your next steps!