FAQs for Parents & Carers

If you are thinking about applying to Cambridge and to Newnham, please show your parents or carers these pages.

This is not because we think they should decide where you apply, but because we know that the Cambridge system can be a mystery to most people and, hopefully, these FAQs will give your parents or carers helpful information and clear up any misconceptions about life at Newnham that they may have had.

Parents or Carers:
If you are the parent or carer of a bright young woman who knows her own mind and is aiming high, then have a look at this information about Newnham College, Cambridge. It might surprise you. And we hope that it will help you support your daughter in her decisions about University applications.

How can we help our daughter to choose the right course?

Choosing the right course will be vital for your daughter’s future. Cambridge offers not only familiar school subjects, such as English, Maths or History, or vocational subjects (e.g. Medicine, Architecture), where the degree will lead to a profession, but also new subjects such as Linguistics, or Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic. At Newnham we can send out specific guides and suggested reading lists for all courses available, but your daughter should also contact the Departments for more information.

And the right College?

When choosing a college, your daughter may find it helpful to think about issues such as location (e.g. proximity to the Department), size, and college facilities. Visiting Cambridge and having a look round several colleges is usually very helpful. At Newnham, we hold our own Open Days (places must be booked in advance), and whilst we regret that we cannot accommodate parents during most of the day, they are very welcome to join their daughters and the Admissions Tutor for a chat later in the afternoon. If your daughter is unable to come for an Open Day, we can arrange for individual visits or answer questions over the phone, by email or letter.

What can Newnham College offer my daughter?

Newnham is a college for women because it enables us to prioritise the needs of, and do the very best for, our women students. For most of its history Cambridge was a university for men only, and old patterns can take a long time to change. At Newnham, we are firmly committed to helping our students achieve their personal best and to make the most out of Cambridge as a whole.

But there are also a lot of other, very special reasons for choosing Newnham. We not only offer single bed-sitting rooms to all students for three years, but also a subsidised canteen, well-equipped kitchens, bathrooms and laundry facilities. Newnham students benefit from one of the best undergraduate libraries in Cambridge, internet access from all student rooms, superb gardens to relax in, and a host of recreational facilities ranging from on-site tennis courts, sports fields and a gym, to an art room and a dedicated performing arts space.

Are there any subjects that can't be studied at Newnham?

At Newnham, we believe that a college benefits from offering as wide a range of subjects as possible because it makes for a much more colourful and interesting community. We therefore try to ensure that even minority subjects are represented at the College each year, and we welcome applications for all subjects, except Education.

How will being at Newnham affect my daughter's social life?

There is a lot of support for women at Newnham, but life at Newnham is emphatically not single-sex. Whilst Newnham is a lively community in its own right, with a great number of College societies, it is also at the heart of a mixed University. Newnham is a springboard into University life as a whole, and our students have a reputation for doing well in all areas of University life. They can be found on the committees or even presiding over all sorts of University clubs: from theatre companies and bands to political societies and sports teams. No college is an island, and we can guarantee that your daughter’s diary will fill up quickly.

Is there a typical Newnham student?

No, not at all. We take pride in being a very diverse College, where students come from all sorts of different backgrounds and have all sorts of different interests. This makes for a vibrant, active atmosphere, with both students and staff always ready to support each other in trying out new things. Most importantly, our students are encouraged to be themselves and to develop their full potential.

How does Newnham select its students?

There is no blueprint for an ‘ideal’ applicant! We select our students on an individual basis, solely on academic merit. We will take all aspects of their application into account: their past performance, their predicted grades, the reference, the personal statement and the interviews. At Newnham, we interview a high proportion of our applicants. Sometimes we may ask them to submit written work beforehand or to sit an additional test at interview. But our applicants will be told about this well in advance.

How can we help our daughter through the application process?

We are very aware that the application procedure can seem quite daunting to our applicants, and we certainly do our best to put them at ease. Here are some ideas for additional support from home: Remind your daughter to focus on her reasons for choosing a particular subject when she is writing her personal statement. What has she done to find out more about it? We are also interested in what your daughter has gained from her extracurricular activities, especially if they relate to her subject choice.

When preparing for interview, your daughter may find it helpful to chat to you about her interests, in order to get used to talking about her chosen subject. However, she should avoid learning prepared speeches by heart, since the interview is a two-way process and candidates who are able to be spontaneous often perform better at interview. Before coming up for interview, applicants also ought to re-read their personal statement, and any written work that we asked them to send in, as these will almost certainly be discussed.

Sometimes applicants will need to stay overnight in Cambridge during the interview process. We provide free accommodation for applicants, but we regret that we cannot accommodate parents. There are a number of B&Bs and hotels in the area, and you may wish to look at the Visit Cambridge website for more information. On the day, parents are welcome to make use of our waiting room.


How do you tell applicants about the progress of their application?

Interviews take place in early to mid December, and we will send out more detailed information well in advance. Early in January, after the first round of interviews is over, we will send decision letters to all applicants, telling them whether we were able to offer them a place or not. Offer conditions will be specified in this letter.

Sometimes we may recommend good applicants for consideration by other Colleges by placing their applications in the ‘Inter-Collegiate Winter Pool’. The ‘Pool’ is designed to even out applications across the Colleges. It takes place in early January. If your daughter’s application is ‘pooled’, she may be asked to attend a further interview at another College. About one in five of all Cambridge applicants who are pooled receives an offer. After examination results are published in August, we can confirm your daughter’s place if she has achieved the grades we asked for.

We hope that applicants will find the interview experience useful, even if we cannot offer them a place. If unsuccessful applicants request feedback, we send this to their school/college, rather than to the applicants themselves, because we feel that such information is best discussed within the context of the current academic performance and other university applications.

Who will look after my daughter at Newnham?

There are several Senior Members who are particularly important to Newnham undergraduates. The Director of Studies advises on course choices and lectures, and organises supervisions. As a pastoral adviser, the Tutor can discuss anything from personal and emotional problems to financial difficulties. There is also a Financial Tutor who always has the latest information on College and University grants.

Newnham is a non-denominational College and welcomes members of all faiths and none. However, we share a Chaplain with Selwyn College, who is available to all Newnham students, regardless of their religious persuasion. The College also has a Disability Officer, and the College nurse can always help with minor health complaints. In addition, all students enrol with an NHS doctor – the closest surgery is just a minute’s walk away from the College!

Last but not least there are the friends a student makes during her time at University. Newnham has a reputation for being a very friendly College, and every year the current students welcome the newcomers with specially organised events.

How much will it cost to study at Cambridge and at Newnham?

Probably less than you think! Cambridge is no more expensive than other universities, and can provide plenty of financial support where needed. See our Costs & Funding section.

Will there be any financial support?

See our Costs & Funding section.

Can parents contact the Admissions Tutor if they have any questions?

You are always welcome to get in touch. Your daughter may hold this against you, but we certainly won’t! However, once your daughter’s application form has arrived, we will need written permission from her first before communicating with you.