FAQs for Applicants

We are happy to answer your questions by email or phone, but you might find the answer here first!

How do I find out more?

The best way to find out what Newnham is really like is to come and visit us. Come to one of our Open Events, combine a visit to Newnham with a Department Open Day or a Cambridge University Open Day or contact us to arrange a visit on a day to suit you. If you can’t get to Cambridge, look round this website, phone for a chat or email us. We can also put you in touch with current students for an insider’s view of Cambridge life. And remember, we’re talking about your future (not your teachers’ or your parents’), so it pays to do your own research. And no, we don’t make notes on visitors, so don’t worry about having to make a good impression. We’ll only start assessing you after 15 October, when we have received your application form.

What grades do I need?

At Newnham, we very much welcome your application, and will treat you as an individual. Please do get in touch, if you have any questions. We are more than happy to talk through your individual circumstances. We aim to make the admissions process as fair as possible and therefore base our admissions decisions on all elements of your application: your personal statement, school or college references, GCSE (or equivalent) results, AS results (or equivalent), and performance at interview.

Any offer to an applicant who has not yet taken A levels would be conditional. Almost all successful post-examination applicants receive unconditional offers. The standard A level conditional offer made by the Cambridge Colleges is A*AA for arts courses and A*A*A for science courses (except Psychological & Behavioural Sciences, for which the typical offer is A*AA). The subject in which the A*s are to be achieved is unlikely to be specified in most cases. At Newnham, in a limited number of cases, non-standard offers may be made, appropriate to particular circumstances.

Are there fixed subject quotas?

No, except for Medicine and Veterinary Medicine. At Newnham we are usually allocated about ten medics and three vets each year. In all other subjects, we do not fix numbers in advance; instead our policy is to admit applicants on academic merit alone. We do try and maintain a broad balance between Arts and Science subjects in the College, and we also keep an eye out for our so-called minority subjects: ASNC, History of Art, Land Economy, Linguistics, Music, Theology, etc.

Will I be interviewed?

We interview the majority of our applicants, although we reserve the right not to call applicants who, on the basis of their application, will have little chance of success. We decide who to interview by carefully assessing the gathered field of applicants every year. If you have a strong performance record and a supportive reference, it is very likely that you will be interviewed.

What can I do to prepare for the interview?

Think carefully about exactly what it is that’s inspired you to spend three or four years studying your chosen subject, but don’t over-prepare! Interviews are a two-way process and you need to keep an open mind about the other half. Do not memorise set speeches or rehearse endlessly with teachers, family or friends. You will be fresher and more flexible if you focus on the question at hand, rather than trying to remember lists of dates, names or equations. And try to relax; we are not trying to catch you out. Your interviewers want you to do well (really!), and will do their very best to help you get the most out of your interviews. More information on interviews is here.

What is Newnham's policy on non-traditional subjects?

We take such subjects very seriously, and they can certainly form part of an offer. However, we advise applicants to offer a combination of such subjects and more traditional academic subjects if at all possible. Of course we realise that this depends on the subjects available at your school, so we are quite flexible.

What if I am taking exams other than A levels?

No problem! We are delighted that our applicants come with a wide range of qualifications: Scottish Highers and Advanced Highers, International Baccalaureate, European Baccalaureate, and German Abitur, to name but a few. See also our information on offers.

Should I apply before or after my A levels (or equivalent)?

We welcome gap years at Newnham, but are equally happy to receive applications for immediate entry. Ultimately the decision is yours. In most cases we have no preference.

Some applicants want their university place confirmed before their gap year and apply pre-A-level for a deferred place. Others want to see their results before they apply. If you feel that your academic profile will be significantly strengthened once you have your exam results in hand, you might like to make a post-A-level application. If you’re not sure, call the Admissions Office to talk it through.

Should I take a gap year?

We are happy to offer deferred places to applicants who have plans for a year out. Some students take jobs to build up their financial resources, or work abroad to improve their language skills and experience another culture. Others take a Year in Industry placement or travel.

Most gap year students feel they have benefited from the experience, and have no trouble getting back into the swing of academic work once they arrive, although we do suggest some revision is done in the weeks before arriving in Cambridge.

If you are considering a gap year, be prepared to discuss this at interview. Although we won’t expect you to have detailed plans, we would like you to have at least some thoughts about your activities during the year. Maintaining some sort of a connection with your subject is always encouraged, even if only through reading.

What kind of student are you looking for?

We don’t have a blueprint. Newnham 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 desire to get the most out of Cambridge.

Does Newnham favour applicants from particular types of school?

No, definitely not. Our aim is to select the very best applicants, regardless of their educational or other background. Newnham is a very diverse community, and we are proud of that.

How much work will I have to do when I get there?

We normally recommend that our students spend approximately 40 hours a week on their academic work, certainly towards exam time. But of course a student’s workload can very from year to year and from course to course. In general scientists have a more regular timetable and more contact hours. Arts students have to work more independently. The important thing is to organise your time, because often independent study can be done at times to suit you.

You would be amazed to see what our students manage to fit in around their academic timetable, whether it is sport, music, drama or any other activity. Having said that, Cambridge is also a place for bookworms, so we are more than happy to accept applications from students who do not have a wide range of extracurricular interests but like to pursue their subject at greater depth.

What if I am not 18 yet?

We normally do not admit students who are not yet 18 years old by 1 October of their first year of study. If you turn eighteen during the first term, this is generally not a problem. But if you do not turn eighteen for quite some time, why not take a year out first? Most of our students who have had gap years have had a very good time – and gained valuable new skills. If you do not want to take a gap year, contact us to talk things through. Ultimately, the admission exceptionally of an applicant under the age of 18 will be based on a judgment by the College of your age, quality and maturity and of whether you are able to gain full benefit from your admission at that time.

What if I am a mature student?

Newnham’s undergraduate community consists largely of students who come straight from school. However, we do welcome mature students and treat them in exactly the same way as younger applicants. There are no quotas. Do come and visit the college to see whether we can meet your needs. There is also lots of information for mature students on the University website.

What if I have a disability?

We assess all applicants on purely academic grounds. If you have a disability we strongly encourage you to get in touch with us early on to discuss the kind of support you may require, both at interview and during the course. The Cambridge Disability Resource Centre is also an excellent source of information, and we encourage you to contact them (tel: 01223 332301, email: disability@admin.cam.ac.uk), before you submit your application.

What if I have been ill or have family problems?

If your education has been significantly disrupted or disadvantaged through health or personal problems, disability or difficulties with schooling, your school/college can submit an Extenuating Circumstances Form. Follow the link to find out more about this on the University website.

What if I am applying from outside the European Union?

We welcome applications from overseas students in all subjects. If you have qualifications other than the IB or A-levels, please contact us early, so that we can discuss your application. Cambridge is able to hold some interviews abroad, notably in Australia, Canada, China, Hong Kong, Malaysia and Singapore, and Newnham applicants are interviewed there if possible. If you live in a different country and can come to Cambridge for interview, then this is usually beneficial. If this is not possible we may ask you to do a test under examination conditions at your school, or to send us some written work. We may occasionally use Skype interviews.

If English is not your first language, you will need to satisfy the University’s language requirements. We recommend that you take a language test (preferably IELTS) in the year you apply. Results should be indicated in the UCAS application, even if they do not fulfil the entry requirements; these will be included as part of any conditional offer.

What if I want to apply for an affiliated place?

If you already have a full Honours Degree, you can apply for an affiliated place at Newnham. Affiliated students normally take a Cambridge undergraduate course in two rather than three years. At Newnham, we assess applicants for affiliated places in exactly the same way as applicants for a first degree. There are no quotas. Entry is competitive: we would normally expect a First Class or a high Upper Second in your first degree. For more information click here.

I applied last year and wasn't successful. Should I reapply?

Every year there are applicants who obtain a place at Oxford or Cambridge on their second try. We certainly will not hold it against you if you have applied before. It might be a good idea to contact the college you originally applied to for advice, particularly if you find that you have done better in your A-levels or equivalents than you had expected. Re-application will mean a gap year, so do think about whether you would like to take some time out or whether you would rather get cracking at another university straight away. At Newnham we generally recommend that applicants try a different college the second time round, so that they can make a completely fresh start.

Any other questions?

If you have any other questions, large or small, that we have not answered here, phone the Admissions Office (01223 335783), or email us at admissions@newn.cam.ac.uk.