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FAQs and links for Undergraduate admissions

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Can I apply for deferred entry? »

The College is pretty neutral with regard to Gap Years, and we really have no bias one way or the other (although some subjects, such as Maths, would expect you to do some revision before coming up to Cambridge to get back up to speed!). However, you should be aware that the College does need a firm commitment to a particular year of entry, and this has to be indicated on your Cambridge Application Form. It is almost impossible to amend a year of entry after an offer has been made. Interviews take place in December each year and so you should try and avoid any clash if Gap year plans involve working abroad.

Can I spend just one year or part of a year at John’s? »

Unfortunately not. We don’t take what we call 'visiting' students, unless they come to us via an existing exchange scheme (such as those we have with Heidelberg, Caltech and MIT).

Can I study for a Joint Honours degree? »

Not in Cambridge at present. However, it is possible to transfer from one Tripos to another with the approval of both Directors of Studies. Details can be found in the Cambridge Admissions Prospectus. At John’s you will be considered for admissions in the subject that you want to study when you first come to Cambridge.

Does John’s accept re-sits? »

We are happy for applicants to re-sit individual A-level modules, as long as this is done and the result included in their final A2 result.  Please note, however, that we do not accept re-takes or re-sits of final examinations.

How should I dress for the interviews? »

In whatever makes you feel the most comfortable and confident! There is no need to dress formally at all, and a lot of applicants opt to dress “clean but casual”. Remember that it will be winter, and it may be bitterly cold and raining: dress appropriately!

If I’m not successful, can I reapply to St John’s next year? »

We strongly advise such applicants to have a fresh start and re-apply to another Cambridge College next time. We are happy to accept applications from those who applied to another Cambridge College in a previous year.

If St John’s turns me down in January, is that the end of my application to Cambridge? »

Not necessarily. If we don’t have a place for you, but feel that you are a strong applicant then we might place your application in the Winter Pool, where it will be available to all other Cambridge Colleges that might be looking for stronger applications than those they received directly. The Winter Pool is designed to ensure that the best applicants are offered place, whichever college they applied to originally. Once the pool ends you may be asked to attend for further interviews in Cambridge at the beginning of January (make sure to keep this period as free as possible), or you may even be offered a place at another College without further interview. If your application is not selected for further consideration from the Pool then you will hear from us to this effect, normally by the end of January.

Is it a disadvantage if several people from one school apply to the same College? »

Not at all, as all applicants are assessed on their own individual merits.

Is it possible to apply to St John’s through “clearing”? »

I am afraid not, as we do not enter into Clearing. Each December we make offers to more applicants than we have places for, and this takes into account the number of applicants who may narrowly miss their offers in August. We will not consider any applications in the August adjustment period. If a student's results turn out to be much better than expected and they decide that they wish to try for a place at Cambridge, they will need to apply in the next application round (deadline for application: 15 October).

Is it possible to make a visit to St John’s and meet with a Director of Studies? »

You are more than welcome to come and have an informal look around St John’s at any time. If you make your way to the Admissions Office you can collect a printed tour leaflet and map that will help guide you around the grounds. Please tell the Custodian on the Gate that you are an Admissions visitor and the normal entrance fee will be waived. If you have specific questions, then you can chat to us in the Admissions Office and hopefully we will be able to answer any queries you may have. In addition, at certain times during the year, the Admissions Tutor holds weekly “pre-application clinics” for prospective applicants. The best way to meet with a Director of Studies is to attend one of the College Open Afternoons held in late June/early July each year.

What are the language requirements for applicants whose first language is not English? »

Applicants would be expected to take the IELTS exam and should achieve an overall band score of 7.5 with no individual element of the score below 7.0. In addition, if overseas students come for interview, then this too is used to assess that the applicant’s language is of a sufficiently high standard.

What do you really look for in an applicant? »

Our students come from every imaginable background and have the widest possible variety of experiences, interests and skills. The one thing they share is intellectual curiosity, enthusiasm for their subject, and the potential to get the most out of what a Cambridge degree has to offer. These qualities are often clear in the school record, but they may be apparent in a range of other ways. Within the means available to them, some good applicants will have read widely around their subject in their own time; some may have taken the trouble to seek work experience connected with their academic interests; some may have planned a Gap year in the same way. But do not worry — genuine commitment and motivation usually come across anyway!

What happens if I am made a conditional offer, but in August I don’t quite meet the exact conditions set? »

If you are taking A-levels, the first thing you should do is ask your school to send through your UMS marks to the Admissions Office as a matter of urgency. We set our conditional offers high because the higher we set them the more offers we can make, thus giving more applicants the chance to compete for a place. However, we do not expect to fill all our available places with applicants who satisfy the conditions we set; so in practice some relaxation of the conditions may be made for certain applicants once the examination results are known. If we are still unable to confirm your place, then your application may be placed in the Summer Pool in August where it will be available for consideration by Colleges who may be looking to fill some of their places. In this instance you will not be required to come for further interviews. Final decisions about all conditional offer applicants are generally made within a week of the publication of A-level results and by the end of August at the very latest.

What is the accommodation like, and will it be provided in College for the duration of my course? »

Accommodation is guaranteed at St John’s for the duration of the degree course. First-year students are accommodated on site usually in single rooms, sharing a bathroom and small kitchenette with 3 other students (this “self-catering” provision is mainly intended for light meals and snacks as a complement to the College Provision). Second-year students are either accommodated in the College grounds or in one of the College town houses, which are situated in the city centre. Students in the final year of their course usually have rooms within College. All rooms have Internet access and are centrally heated (included in your rent) and have basic washing facilities.  All rooms are allocated by means of an online ballot system. After the first year this online ballot gives preference to Scholars of the College.

What should I put in my personal statement? »

We firmly believe that the personal statement is just that: personal. We therefore can’t be too prescriptive as to what you should or shouldn’t include, but you might want to tell us what has inspired you to apply for your chosen subject; why you think the Cambridge course is the right one for you; how you see yourself using your degree in the future. You might also want to tell us a bit about any hobbies or extra-curricular activities you participate in. Remember that the person conducting the general interview will not be a specialist in the subject you have applied for, and they may well rely quite heavily on the substance of your personal statement as a starting point for discussion. It is important to be truthful, and to make sure that you only introduce subjects that you would be happy to chat about for 5 minutes or so.

What sort of questions will I be asked at interview? »

Most applicants will have two interviews. One will be conducted by the Tutor for your chosen subject, and will be of a more general nature. You will also have at least one subject-specific interview conducted by at least one of the Teaching Fellows in that subject. Here the interviewer(s) will not be as interested in your capacity to recall facts from your courses, as in your ability to think on your feet and reason coherently and intelligently. In the course of the interviews you will have the opportunity to ask questions of you own; for example concerning the University course or life in College. We will try to make the occasion relatively informal and hope that when it is all over you will be able to look back on your two interviews as discussions where you were given every encouragement to demonstrate your ability, your interests and your motivation towards your chosen subject. The important thing to remember is that your interviewers want you to do well and will do their very best to help you get the most out of your interviews.

Will you accept my combination of A-level subjects? »

If you have any doubt about the suitability of your A-level subjects for the subject you want to read, contact us. We’ll be able to answer your particular query.