Admissions FAQs

Q: How should I select a college?

A: Picking a college might appear daunting, but colleges share more similarities than differences. Students studying the same course, regardless of their college, receive instruction from the same academic faculties and departments. Additionally, cross-college moderation processes ensure that your choice of college does not impact your chances of receiving an offer.

Our advice is to choose the college where you feel most comfortable, but also be open to the possibility of receiving an offer from a different College, especially after the Winter or Summer Pool process.

Q: Is it obligatory to select a college?

A: There is no obligation to choose a college when applying. If there is no preference for a specific college, you can opt for an 'open' application on the UCAS application. You would then been randomly allocated a college to review your application. Please bear in mind that there is no advantage or disadvantage in choosing this method; it is entirely down to personal preference.

Q: Can I submit applications to multiple colleges?

A: Unfortunately, you can only apply to one college.

Q: Are certain colleges better suited for specific subjects?

A: There are no colleges considered superior for particular subjects. Students pursuing the same course, regardless of their college, attend the same lectures, seminars, and practical sessions. The teaching quality remains consistent across colleges.

The University is responsible for determining course content, organising lectures, seminars, practicals, and projects, setting, and evaluating examinations, and conferring degrees, while the College admits undergraduate students, arranges small-group teaching (supervisions), provides accommodation, dining facilities, social spaces for interaction, and offers essential pastoral and academic support.

Q: How do I apply to Downing College?

A: After selecting a course for study at the University of Cambridge on UCAS, applicants will then have the opportunity to designate a college preference in their application.

Q: Can I apply to both Oxford and Cambridge?

A: It is not possible to simultaneously submit applications to both the University of Oxford and the University of Cambridge for undergraduate admission.

Q: What are the academic entry requirements for Downing College?

A: Entry requirements can be found on each courses webpage. Please see the list of undergraduate courses available at Downing.

Q: Can I apply if I am not enrolled in A Levels or IB subjects?

A: In instances where individuals are not following the conventional A Levels or International Baccalaureate (IB) curriculum, please refer to the University's website for information regarding equivalent qualifications and courses. 

For Scottish applicants taking Scottish Advanced Highers, you can find entry requirements here.

For international students, please see the A-Level equivalents here

Q: What if I don’t have qualifications or grades that meet your academic entry requirements?

A: Unfortunately, for applicants who have not achieved or are not on a trajectory to achieve at least the College’s standard academic offer for their chosen course, it is unlikely that we will be able to proceed with their application.

In cases where an applicant's school curriculum does not provide qualifications equivalent to the academic content provided by A levels (please contact us if this may be the case for you) we recommend considering self-study to fulfil the examination requirements as an independent candidate.

For many overseas students, the most straightforward approach may be to complete a single sitting of a minimum of five Advanced Placement (AP) tests relevant to their intended course of study, with a goal of achieving a minimum Grade 5 in each test. This approach can help demonstrate a candidate's academic readiness and eligibility for admission to Downing College.

Q: Is it possible to take exams early or stagger A Level exams?

A: We generally discourage applicants from taking exams early. Downing strongly advises that candidates to sit three A Levels simultaneously, as this demonstrates their ability to manage the workload effectively. Offers are typically made based on qualifications taken in Year 13 (or equivalent). If an additional A Level was taken early, and the undergraduate course has specified essential A Level subjects, we would expect these subjects to be sat together, with the fourth A Level a preferred or additional subject. For example, for Economics, Mathematics at A Level should be taken with two other subjects, and not earlier. Please note that not all courses have essential A Level subjects, so please check the relevant course webpage for more information.

Q: Should I take a fourth A Level?

A: All undergraduate courses offered at Downing College stipulate three A Levels (or their equivalent) as the minimum entry requirement. The pursuit of a fourth A Level is not deemed obligatory but at the choice of the candidate.

Q: I have been offered a place, why are specific grades required in subjects that are unrelated to my application?

If you are pursuing qualifications that include core subjects, like IB or HKDSE, we expect you to meet specific entry requirements based on the subjects you are studying. For instance, with the HKDSE (Hong Kong) qualification, a candidate’s typical offer would be to achieve grades of 5 in all core subjects and grades of 5* in at least two relevant core subjects. For further information, please see the University's guidance on international entry requirements

Q: Is it possible to defer my entry to Downing College and take a gap year?

A: While we recommend applying for the year of intended entry, prospective applicants have the option to apply as deferred entry candidate if they plan to undertake a gap year. In such cases, it is essential to clearly indicate on the application form the request for deferred entry . If you request for a gap year after applying, you must provide comprehensive details regarding academic pursuits during the year. Please bear in mind that in the latter case, your request may not be approved.

Q: I’m currently an undergraduate at another university. Can I apply to be an undergraduate at Downing?

A: Downing does not accept mid-course transfer applications from students at any other universities, UK or international, under any circumstances.

If you complete your degree course, you may consider applying as an affiliated student.

Exceptionally we consider applications from students to start a degree at Downing in a different subject to that which they are currently studying. This would mean starting undergraduate studies afresh. We regard a significant change of subject as a move to a different discipline, for example, you are currently studying Mathematics at another university and you want to apply to study History with us. If you are applying as a current university student, who would like to change subjects, we would require a letter of support from your current university. Please note that if you are eligible to apply, our academic expectations and admissions process remain the same for all applicants.

If you’re in any doubt about whether your target subject is too similar to your current one, email our Admissions Office.

Q: Can I reapply if my initial application is unsuccessful?

A: It is possible to reapply to the University, either in the following year or a future year. We recommend that an application is made to a different college. Please note that receiving an offer in a previous application does not guarantee an offer in a later admissions round.

Q: What is the most important aspect of my application?

A: Downing assesses all applications holistically – this means all of the information available is considered together before making any decisions – to assess your academic attainment and potential.  No part of an application is considered in isolation; e.g. an applicant’s performance at interview alone doesn’t determine the application outcome, and assessors are also ranking on the basis of the submitted application and any other assessments.

Q: Are GCSE grades looked at?

A: Downing does not set specific GCSE (or equivalent) entry requirements. Instead, we consider your GCSE results as an indication of your academic abilities. This evaluation is made in the context of your school or college’s performance in which you completed your GCSEs and any other relevant personal circumstances.

Q: Should I take an EPQ (Extended Project Qualification)?

A: We recommend that applicants consider taking an EPQ as it can foster the development of valuable independent study and research skills relevant to higher education. However, we do acknowledge that not all students have equal access to the EPQ, and its completion is not a requirement for receiving offers; therefore, we would not consider a reduced offer based on an EPQ grade.  The important point to demonstrate in your application is the development of your relevant skills, and the EPQ can be a way to do this.

Q: Does Downing College consider exam resits?

A: If there were significant extenuating circumstances during initial teaching or examination period, exam resits would be considered. Resitting one or two components may not adversely affect the application, but please be sure to indicate any intention to resist during the application process. We would require a letter from the applicant’s school or college detailing any extenuating circumstances.

Q: Do you take extenuating circumstances into account?

A: We place a strong emphasis on fairness in our admissions process and are attentive to both exceptional and extenuating circumstances.

It is imperative to bear in mind, however, that while we give due consideration to extenuating circumstances, they alone may not secure admission or an interview, particularly if candidates do not meet the College’s standard academic offer for the chosen course.

The application should clearly tell us about any extenuating circumstances, particularly if you have excelled in the face of adversity. Please remember that we are unable to consider extenuating circumstances in our assessment if the applicant chooses not to disclose them on their application.

If the extenuating circumstance occurs after the application process, it is imperative to email the Admissions Office as soon as possible.

Q: What should I include in my personal statement?

A: We value personal statements for their capacity to demonstrate the candidate’s genuine interest in the subject of study. For those that have been invited to interview, the personal statement may serve as a basis for discussion during the interview (although it is also possible that the interviewers will not refer to the statement explicitly during that assessment).

For further guidance, please head to the personal statements section of Cambridge's application webpage.

Q: Is work experience a prerequisite for admission?

A: Work experience is not commonly required for the majority of courses. However, for programmes such as Medicine and Veterinary Medicine, relevant work experience conducted within an appropriate context is recommended.

Q: How important are super-curricular activities?

Engaging in super-curricular activities provides an excellent opportunity for individuals to delve deeply into their chosen subject, explore specific areas of interest, and gain a more profound understanding of their academic pursuits. Additionally, these activities can assist students in confirming whether they have made the appropriate choice in selecting their university field of study. For further information, please see our super-curricular activities page

Q: Is there a minimum age for entry to Downing?

A: There is generally no minimum age requirement for admission to Downing College, with the exception of undergraduate Medicine programs, as detailed on the University's Medicine page. However, it's important to note that if a student does not reach the age of 18 during their first year of study, certain limitations related to being legally treated as a minor may impact their college experience. Given that the majority of our undergraduates are typically at least 18 years old upon enrolment, we strongly recommend that incoming students aim to reach the age of 18 by the end of their initial term.

For applicants who are successfully admitted but will be younger than 17 at the point of entry, special considerations regarding accommodation and care arrangements will be necessary. In such cases, we advise that either the student's family or a legal guardian relocates to Cambridge to provide off-site living arrangements until the student reaches the age of at least 17.

In all cases, our academic expectations and admissions process remain the same.

Q: Is there a maximum age for entry to Downing?

A: There is no maximum age restriction for admission to Downing College. We wholeheartedly welcome applications from mature students, as well as those pursuing a second or affiliated undergraduate degree, with the caveat that our academic expectations and admissions process remain the same for all applicants.

Q: Is there a cost to apply?

If you're applying from a location outside the UK, Ireland, Channel Islands, or Isle of Man, there is an application fee of £60. It's worth noting that some applicants may be exempt from this fee. Further information for international students is available on the University website.

Q. Are there Pre-Admissions Test Fees?

A registration fee is applicable for the BMAT, TMUA, and LNAT assessments, but financial support is offered to individuals from low-income households. There are no registration fees for other pre-registration assessments, nevertheless, most open test centres may impose an administration fee. If you can take the test at your own school or college you can usually avoid this cost. The University website has more information relating to admission tests

Q: How much does it cost to study at Downing?

A: At Downing College, there are two primary expenses associated with the study, namely tuition fees and maintenance. For detailed information, individuals are encouraged to refer to the Fees and Costs page on the College's website.

Upon extending an offer of admission, Downing College will request that candidates provide evidence of their financial capacity to support their education. Home fees students eligible for UK student finance, who choose to seek assistance for both tuition fees and maintenance, will be asked to furnish their UK student finance breakdown once available.

For non-home fees students and those not pursuing UK student finance, the college will require proof of sufficient liquid assets readily accessible to cover the complete duration costs of the course, with one or more guarantors underwriting these funds.

Q: What financial help is available?

A: The University of Cambridge, along with its constituent colleges, are committed to the principle that no suitably qualified home fees student should be deterred from applying to study here for financial reasons. There’s more information on the University’s Financial Assistance webpages, including particularly the Cambridge Bursary Scheme for home fees students from low-income households.

For non-home fees students or students who do not intend to apply for UK student finance, it is essential to prepare for covering the entire duration's expenses of the course by combining verifiable private finance (liquid assets) and potentially pursuing bursaries and scholarships.

Cambridge’s financial support for international fees undergraduates is limited and highly competed for, and there are only a few full undergraduate scholarships available. For more information, please read the University’s International Fees and Costs page and the pages linked from it.

Downing does not offer College-based financial support for international fees undergraduates to meet the required financial guarantee.

Q: Do I need to sit a written assessment?

A: Depending on the course, applicants may have a subject-specific written assessment. Further details can be found on the College Assessments page. 

Q: Do I need to submit any written work?

A: Depending on the course, applicants may have to submit written work. For further details, please view the relevant course webpage.

Q: Will I be interviewed as part of the admissions process?

A: If applicants meet the subject requirements and their predicted grades align with the offer levels, they may be invited to interview. However, due to the competitiveness of the application process, some highly qualified candidates may be disappointed. An offer will not be made without an admissions interview. Please remember that we also review the whole application (personal statement, school or college references) before the interview stage. Presently, interviews are conducted online, and they are typically scheduled for early December.

Q: Is accommodation available for the entire duration of my course?

A: At Downing College, undergraduate accommodation is guaranteed for the first three years of study. For students on longer courses, accommodation is provided based on availability but not guaranteed. Please see the Accommodation page for more information. 

Q: What accommodation is available for students with access difficulties?

A: Downing College offers rooms for students with access difficulties. If a student requires special accommodations, please include this information on the application form. Upon acceptance, the College requests a letter from the student's GP or medical practitioner to verify their needs.

Q: Does Downing College accommodate students with allergies or special dietary requirements?

A: Students can either cook in the shared kitchen facilities or eat in the Dining Hall or Lord Butterfield Café. We can cater to most dietary requirements if notified in advance. The menu regularly includes vegetarian, vegan, and meat options. We aim to accommodate various dietary needs. Please note that catering bills are not included in accommodation costs. Please see the Catering page for more information.