Applying to the University of Cambridge to read for any subject is certainly a daunting process for most applicants. There are lots of confusing, unanswered, and frankly quite important questions that are asked every year about the process as a whole by applicants.
In this article, I will aim to answer two of these key questions:
- When are applicants notified of whether they have been invited for an interview?
- When do applicants get notified of whether they have secured a place at the University of Cambridge?
This article will focus solely on the undergraduate admission process.
Some context concerning the author of this article: If you’ve read some of my other articles on this website, you will know that I’m a two-time University of Cambridge applicant and although both applications resulted in a rejection, I’m well versed on the admissions process and where possible, I like to offer knowledge that may potentially come helpful to other prospective applicants.
Table of Contents
For those in a rush, the short answer
As Cambridge interviews typically take place in the first three weeks of December*, most applicants will receive their email invitation to an interview during middle-to-late November.
Additionally, the infamous Cambridge decision letters are posted to applicants around mid-January** the following year***. They are typically emailed and posted so you likely shouldn’t have to worry if you aren’t at home at that time.
(*) From the two applications I have partaken in (read more below), I can confirm this official interview timeline is accurate. For more on the official dates, visit the University of Cambridge’s official “Application dates” page, which you can find here. It is also worth noting that different colleges have slightly differing interview invitation timings.
(**) If you have been admitted into the Winter Application Pool, you may be invited to a further interview. At this point, your college will notify you of any relevant dates.
(***) Although the University of Cambridge key dates page (see here) only specifies January as the decision timeframe, I typically have seen that it is fairly consistently around the middle of the month. Like with interview invitations, different colleges have slightly different decision letter timings.
What time do University of Cambridge decision letters come out?
When an applicant is nearing closer to the decision date (mid-January) their college will typically email them, or update their online notice page, with some form of message that states the following: “If you have not received a decision letter by (insert time here) on the (insert date here) please contact us”. Therefore, the specific decision letter timeframe for your individual college may well be told to you closer to the time.
For a slightly more helpful answer, and for those colleges who don’t provide a time period for when decision letters are being distributed, I will say that both of my decision letters were received in the morning. One decision letter, which was in the form of an email, I received just before 9am and the other, which I don’t have the exact time for, I remember it also being in the morning.
When are University of Cambridge offers confirmed?
If you are a University of Cambridge offer holder, your offer will be confirmed in line with UCAS policy – just like any other university you’ve applied to. As UCAS states (read more here), if you’ve met the conditions of your offer, the university will confirm your place in your application. This, in easier words, means that if you’ve got the grades that the University of Cambridge required you to get as part of the conditional offer they gave you, they will confirm your place. You will know once your offer has been confirmed as it will show on your UCAS portal.
This means that your offer will likely be confirmed on A-Level (or your relevant qualification) results day. Not only should your UCAS portal update to reflect the change in status of your offer but you may even receive an email from the Cambridge college you applied to if you are successful.
If you want to learn more about when A-Level results day is, check out this article.
When do you receive feedback on your interviews?
At least at the colleges I applied to, feedback is not automatically given – you must request it from the Cambridge college that you applied to. At the point of requesting the feedback, there is usually a college-specific time delay from the moment of requesting it to you receiving this feedback. Additionally, if the feedback has been given to your college instead of you, there may be an extra delay before you hear it. Read more below on this.
Typically, the feedback from Cambridge is supplied not to the applicant themselves, but actually their sixth form or college that they have applied from. Although I must say that I strongly disagree with this, it is the University of Cambridge’s opinion (at the time of writing) that a sixth form or college is better placed to explain the feedback to a student than the university is.
You can read the official University of Cambridge statement of admissions feedback here, although I understand and have witnessed this process to take shape in the format of the following:
- The applicant, applicant’s college, or a parent / guardian of the applicant request feedback from the relevant Cambridge college.
- One of college interviewers or representatives that oversaw the application writes a feedback letter explaining the reasons for the applicant’s decision letter (be it a straight rejection or an unfulfilled Winter Pool entrance).
- The Cambridge college then send the feedback letter to the applicant’s UCAS reference (usually their sixth form or college).
- The applicant’s sixth form or college deliver the feedback to the applicant in a more appropriate format.
This process means that many applicants never get to hear their original Cambridge feedback as it has been delivered to them in a certain, and potentially softened, way by their UCAS reference. It is my opinion that, although potentially upsetting, the feedback in its rawest form can be invaluable to a student’s academic journey. It is important to note that the feedback does not always go to an applicant’s UCAS reference, for example if the applicant has already left school / college.
Going back to the timeline of feedback, the process of feedback going to a sixth form or college before it gets to the applicant can mean that timing is additionally dependent on the availability of UCAS representatives at the school / college which could slow things down.