Here are some common questions asked by applicants to St Edmund’s College.

Which courses are taught at St Edmund’s College?

St Edmund’s admits undergraduates for all subjects offered by the University of Cambridge. We are one of four colleges that accepts applicants for the Cambridge Graduate Course in Medicine, and for affiliate (graduate) entry to Medicine and Veterinary Medicine.

What will happen in my interview?

For applications made in the 2022-23 academic year, all interviews will be online. The University has advice and guidance and a number of helpful videos on the Undergraduate Admissions pages.


What age are St Edmund’s undergraduate students?

We accept applicants who will be 21 years of age by 1st October the year they start their course. The majority of our undergraduate students are in their early to mid-twenties, but we regularly admit undergraduates in their thirties, forties and beyond. The age of an applicant is not taken into consideration when assessing the merits of an application.

Do I need to have A-levels?

Most school leavers apply to Cambridge with A-levels (or an international equivalent), and many mature applicants do so too. For some courses, especially in the sciences, specific subjects are a requirement, and it is difficult to find alternative qualifications that ensure a level of preparation that will allow students to thrive in Cambridge.  Please check any subject requirements listed for your intended course on the University website:

What are the alternatives to A-levels?

An Access to Higher Education Diploma is recognised by the University as a qualification for admission to most arts and humanities subjects and can be a good choice if you lack confidence in basic study skills. The structure of these courses vary, and you should ensure that the course you follow has a substantial examination element. We would be looking for distinction grades in each graded subject unit. You will also need to check that your Access to Higher Education Diploma meets any subject requirements. Please note that the University does not accept Access Diplomas alone for entry to Economics or any Science degree other than Psychological and Behavioural Sciences.

We regularly receive applications from students with Open University credits. If you are taking, or planning to take, Open University credits in preparation for applying to Cambridge, please contact the Admissions Office at an early stage for advice.

Vocational and professional qualifications can be used to demonstrate commitment to your chosen subject, but do not generally constitute sufficient academic preparation for study at Cambridge. Prospective applicants holding these qualifications are advised to contact the Admissions Office for further guidance.

For other qualifications, please refer to the University’s entrance requirements in the first instance, and feel free to contact the Admissions Office if you have further questions.


Will I be disadvantaged if I left formal education a few years ago?

The nature and demands of Cambridge courses mean they do require academic preparation, and mature students are expected to be of an equal academic standard to school leavers. We recommend that all applicants who achieved the academic standard required for entry more than three years prior to application undertake some additional preparation, and applicants who have taken a break from study lasting more than three years are likely to be disadvantaged if they do not prepare formally.


Will a ‘false start’ on another degree programme count against me?

A number of our applicants have made subject choices at school or at university that they later regret, and a ‘false start’ elsewhere will not normally affect your chances of admission, provided you are able to explain it sensibly and supply relevant evidence on request. Please note, however, that applications from students who failed at or have been excluded from another medical school will not normally be considered for entry to Medicine at Cambridge.

Do I need to take the IELTS if English is not my first language?

It is essential that your English language skills are good enough to undertake an intensive and challenging academic course that is taught and examined in English.

If English is not your first language and you do not have a history of education in English, we may ask for evidence of language proficiency prior to admission. For some European students, this may consist of a high grade in the English component of your school-leaving qualification. For other candidates, we usually ask for the IELTS with an overall grade of 7.5 or above (with 7.0 in each element). Please note that you do not need to have taken the IELTS when you apply; if you are offered a place, passing the IELTS may be set as a condition of offer.

Who should write my UCAS and College references?

Ideally, your references should be written by someone who has taught you in the last eighteen months and is able to comment on your academic achievement and potential. We recognise that some applicants have difficulties in securing an academic reference, in which case you should ask a responsible person who knows you well. This could be an employer, training officer, careers advisor or senior colleague in employment or voluntary work.

What are my chances of getting into St Edmund’s to study Medicine?

Although the University minimum requirements (A Levels in Chemistry and one of Biology, Physics or Mathematics) are all that is formally required to be considered for Medicine, to make a competitive application you would need to have at least three science/maths A-levels (or an international equivalent). Mature applicants are in direct competition with school-leavers who apply with at least three science/mathematics A-level subjects at grade A* or A. All mature and affiliated applicants for Medicine applying to the mature Colleges are expected to have passed A-level Chemistry or its equivalent.

Please note that for Medicine, only 21 places are available each year across the whole University for overseas fee status students.

Which is the most important part of the application?

All applications are considered holistically, and Admissions Tutors consider all of the information available to us before making decisions. In all cases, applicants will need to demonstrate academic achievement and potential, but no part of an application is considered in isolation. Along with your previous and predicted grades, we will look at your personal statement, references, written work, admissions assessment and performance at interview (if interviewed). There is no one element that will determine the outcome of your application.

Does St Edmund’s accept affiliate students?

If you are a graduate with an approved degree (at 2.1 or equivalent) from another university, you can apply to study for a Cambridge BA course as an affiliated applicant. This means you take the degree in a year less than usual. St Edmund’s is one of three Colleges that accepts affiliate students for Medicine and Veterinary Medicine, and a significant percentage of our Law students are affiliates. For other subjects, please get in touch with the Admissions Office for further advice.

Do you have quotas for different subjects?

There are external quotas for Medicine and Veterinary Medicine, and the University caps the overall number of places that can be offered in Architecture, History of Art, Music, and Philosophy. St Edmund’s does not have a fixed number of places in any other subject. Please note that the minimum entry requirements still apply even if a subject receives fewer applications in a particular admissions round.

What if I have extenuating circumstances?

If your education has been seriously disrupted or disadvantaged through ill health, disability, difficulties with schooling, or challenging personal or family circumstances, we would encourage you to submit an Extenuating Circumstances Form (ECF) with your application. This will enable us to take your personal situation into consideration when assessing your application. For further guidance, please refer to the University guidance here. For mature applicants, it is not expected that the ECF is submitted by your school or college. The ECF should normally be submitted by 22 October. Please be assured that these forms are kept securely and will only be read by the relevant parties.

Do you make lower offers to candidates who have experienced personal or educational disadvantage?

Many successful applicants have a past history of underperformance, or gaps in their education, and we take contextual factors into account in our decision-making process. For that reason, it is important that you provide information about the educational institutions you have attended, and any challenges you have encountered, in your UCAS form and Supplementary Application Questionnaire. In certain circumstances, it may also be appropriate to ask a tutor, doctor or social worker to complete an Extenuating Circumstances Form on your behalf. However, we would generally expect that candidate have attainment in recent qualifications which match the University requirements.

Does it make a difference if I apply in the March round?

We assess all applications in exactly the same way, and competitive applicants for subjects available in the March round stand as good a chance as those who apply in October. Delaying your application may in fact be to your advantage if you have only recently returned to study, since it allows you more time to build core knowledge, collect examples of written work, and obtain an appropriate reference. Please note that not all subjects accept applications in the March round. Applications for Architecture, Chemical Engineering, Computer Science, Engineering, History of Art, Medicine, Graduate Course in Medicine, Law (see below), Music, Natural Sciences, Philosophy, and Veterinary Medicine must be submitted by 15 October the year before your intended year of entry. Applications for Law are accepted by St Edmund’s College and Hughes Hall in the March admissions round.

Can I transfer to St Edmund’s from another University?

The University of Cambridge does not allow students to transfer from another university directly onto a Cambridge degree course. In some cases, work undertaken as part of another degree course can be taken into consideration as part of an application to start from year one. If you wish to come to Cambridge from another university, we will ask for a letter of support from your current course director or academic tutor, but please be aware that these moves are only possible in exceptional circumstances. Graduates and finalists may apply for affiliated entry in the normal way.

Should I reapply to St Edmund’s?

We are always happy to provide feedback to unsuccessful applicants, and we will occasionally recommend that a candidate reapplies if circumstances beyond their control prevented them from meeting their conditions of offer within the time frame permitted by UCAS. Where this is not the case, we would generally encourage second-time candidates to consider applying to another Cambridge College.