How to get into Cambridge University as an American

The University of Cambridge is renowned for its academic excellence. If you’re looking to attend one of the best universities in the world, Cambridge is up there. 

The UK has a very specific university application process; Oxbridge is particularly demanding. So, if you’re applying from the US or another country, it’s worth taking some time to understand what’s expected from you. 

Whether you’re a US applicant or another international applicant, this article will guide you through how to apply to Cambridge University, and better yet, how to get an offer! 

You can also check out our previous articles:

Here at The Profs, we have an experienced and talented team of admissions experts who can guide you through Oxbridge admissions. We have a success rate of triple the national average when it comes to getting students an offer from Oxbridge! If you want to maximise your chances of getting into Cambridge, we’re who to call.

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Cambridge’s acceptance rate for international students

Today, according to Cambridge, there are 9000 international students at Cambridge, representing over 140 countries. 

The most popular country outside of the UK that students are admitted from is China, and second is the United States. You can view the data here.

Also, note that Cambridge does not operate fulfilling quotas for students from specific backgrounds. Hence your admission success is based solely on your academic merit and potential. 

Check out the table below, based on 2022:

Undergraduate applicants from outside the UKOffersStudents acceptedSuccess rate
7,5479667389.8%

5.7% of the international applicants documented in the table above were US citizens. Hence, there were 427 US applicants; 39 of these were admitted and 23 accepted. So, the US success rate at Cambridge for 2022 was as low as 5.4%! You can find more information on this (including numbers regarding applicants from other specific countries) here.

Intimidated by Cambridge’s acceptance rates? Don’t be. Our expert admissions team specialises in Oxbridge as well as US to UK admissions. If you’re looking for someone with the know-how to guide you to success, it’s us!

Understanding Cambridge’s requirements for US applicants

Cambridge sets high academic standards for its applicants, usually ranging from A*A*A-A*AA. It is also worth noting that for many courses the majority of admitted students have A*A*A*. 

These grades are similar to a GPA of 4.30. So, you should be aiming for the highest grades possible. 

Below is a direct outline of the US entry requirements for Cambridge University:

Qualifications neededNumber of said qualificationsGradeOther guidelines
Advanced Placement (AP)55Normally taken within two years of matriculation.

Focus on subjects related to the course.

SAT or ACT1High score (unspecified) expectedApplicants are required to disclose all tests taken and scores achieved (including retakes). Failure to do so could disadvantage your application.

In addition to the above, Cambridge expects high passing marks on your school qualification, such as the relevant US High School Diploma. 

Even though the UK considers the grades in your final two years of high school with far more weight than the rest of your high school grades, you should still ensure that your previous high school grades are as high as possible (in the UK this would mean scoring 8s and 9s in your GCSEs, which is equivalent to As and A*s). This is because top UK schools, particularly Cambridge, are likely to evaluate your whole academic history. 

Please note that Cambridge states that offers are made on an individual basis. Cambridge also asks applicants to check the entry requirements for their chosen course as well as their preferred college, because they can vary depending on these factors. For example, your chosen college might have stricter grade requirements or your chosen course may stipulate subject-specific requirements. 

You should also note that it could also boost your application to highlight any exceptional academic achievements or awards. 

You can find further information on Cambridge’s US entry requirements and the rest of their international entry requirements here.

If you are worried that your grades aren’t high enough to get into Cambridge, reach out to our team. We have excellent tutors in the US and UK curriculum, as well as the SAT and ACT, and much more. We also have skilled subject-specific tutors in every topic! Just let us know what you need or the result you’re seeking, and we’ll take care of you.

Please note: If you receive an offer from Cambridge it will most likely be conditional, meaning you must meet their specified academic requirements to keep your offer.

Scholarships and financial aid for international students

There are many options for US students to receive financial support to attend Cambridge. 

  • Cambridge Commonwealth European and International Trust offers support to international students from countries outside the EU. They’ve helped students from over 149 countries. More information on this is available here
  • Rowan Williams Cambridge Studentship aims to help applicants who face severe barriers to studying at Cambridge. You can check your eligibility here.
  • You might also be able to apply for a US Federal Loan to study at Cambridge. Cambridge offers information about this process here.

Cambridge has more financial support options, some of which is specific to certain countries or geographical areas. Read this page for further information.

9 tips for Cambridge’s application process: US applicants edition 

To get started, familiarise yourself with Cambridge’s application process. 

For undergraduate studies, US students must apply through the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (the UCAS application form). This is an online application for five UK universities of your choosing. 

Usually, UCAS deadlines are in January, however, Oxbridge deadlines fall earlier in October. So, you must start early and be organised. 

Pay attention to the course code and college choice within the UCAS form. Unlike the University of Oxford, Cambridge has an extra application form called MyCapp. This is not to be overlooked. We have a blog on how to complete the MyCapp here.

There could also be further deadlines for extra requirements, so always check your course page carefully.

Please note that postgraduate applications are made directly to the university via the Cambridge University Graduate Admissions website. 

Don’t forget that The Profs are here to help you every step of the way. If all of this is overwhelming or confusing, just contact our admissions team and we can support you through the whole process. 

Ensure that you:

1. Start early:


Give yourself ample time to research, prepare, and complete your application. You might struggle to meet certain requirements or be surprised by some expectations. So, it’s best to allow yourself lots of room to complete everything to the best of your ability as Cambridge hosts a very competitive admissions process with earlier deadlines than most other UK universities.

It’s a good idea to notify your high school in America that you intend to apply to Cambridge so that they can offer you some support and guidance with your application. 

Begin at least one year in advance to ensure you have enough time to study for your standardised tests and admission tests, write a compelling personal statement, and gather supporting documents.

Starting early can also allow you to consider options like completing a course at Cambridge’s international summer programme before your application. This could boost your chances of getting an offer by proving that you’re committed to Cambridge and that you’ve already got some experience with university-level study and Cambridge’s teaching style.

2. Choose the right course:

UK undergraduate courses work differently from the US. You cannot minor in a mix of subjects and choose your major later down the line. Usually, you choose one subject as a BA (Bachelor of Arts) or BSc (Bachelor of Science) course, unless you select a double-subject course (a joint honours degree). However, Oxbridge is unique in only offering BA courses for undergraduates, even for typically BSc disciplines (see here).

Hence, you need to be certain about your desired discipline as there is often little room to venture outside of this discipline within your degree (excluding interdisciplinary options). 

Cambridge offers a wide range of undergraduate and postgraduate courses across various disciplines. Begin by exploring their official website and familiarise yourself with the different programmes available. Reflect on your academic interests and career goals to select the course that aligns with your aspirations. Consider the subject and grade requirements as well as any additional admission tests or interviews that may be required for your chosen course (these are different for each course).

You might also want to consider taking an undergraduate course at an American university that offers a year-abroad programme at British universities, including Cambridge. You would still need to apply to Cambridge and meet entry requirements, but it could be a little less competitive. For instance, Cambridge runs a Junior Year Abroad programme which is detailed on this page

Unsure about what the right course is for you? Our knowledgeable team offers friendly and dedicated support.

3. Research Cambridge’s colleges:

Cambridge has 31 colleges so it’s a good idea to research each one and decide which you are more suited to. 

When choosing a college, be aware of the subjects your college offers as well as what university departments it specialises in. Is this college suited to your academic and personal interests? Can it facilitate your goals? More information on Cambridge’s colleges can be found here.

International students can take a virtual tour of Cambridge and its colleges here.

You will be able to select a college preference as part of your application, so you shouldn’t waste this opportunity. It could also demonstrate that you have a genuine interest in Cambridge, have researched it, and are thinking ahead. 

Also, have a look at Cambridge’s clubs and societies.

Note: you might be assigned a different college to the one you select as part of your application.

4. Meet the academic requirements

As previously mentioned in the table, you must meet Cambridge’s academic requirements which range from A*A*A-A*AA and the majority of the admitted students for multiple courses have A*A*A*.

Aim for the highest grades possible, especially in your two final academic years of high school. Also, try to study subjects related to your chosen discipline. Unlike the US, the UK expects your grades to be in subjects related to your discipline. 

Remember, Cambridge’s main criterion is academia, so your grades are of utmost importance.

Ensure that you know the grade and subject requirements for your specific course at your favourite college.

If you are worried that your grades aren’t high enough to get into Cambridge, reach out to our team. We have excellent tutors in the US and UK curriculum, as well as skilled subject-specific tutors in every topic! Just let us know what you need or the result you’re seeking, and we’ll take care of you.

5. Prepare for your admission tests:

The ACT or SAT

Cambridge expects its US applicants to submit either the ACT or SAT. You might also find this to be the case if you are applying from another country outside the UK.

Cambridge states that applicants must score highly in the ACT or SAT, however, it does not state a specific score. 

Your chosen course and college might state an expected score e.g. Christ’s College ask for an ACT score of at least 32-33 and a SAT score of at least 730-750 (depending on the course applied for). So, you should check your chosen college’s entry requirements, and if it doesn’t state a score, use these for guidelines.

Even if you are not required to take a standardised test, you might still opt to do so to make your application as competitive as possible. A high standardised test score could help prove your academic aptitude and boost your chances of success.

To get into Cambridge, you must smash the ACT or SAT. If you need help with this, reach out to our talented team of tutors who have plenty of experience helping students ace these standardised tests.

The English language proficiency test

International students may need to demonstrate English language proficiency through exams like the IELTS or TOEFL if English is not their first language. 

The minimum IELTS requirement is 7, whilst the minimum TOEFL requirement is 600 with a 5 in the written test. Cambridge also accepts a few other English language proficiency tests.

More information on this topic be found here.

Need support smashing your English language proficiency test? We’ve got you covered.

Other admission tests

Many courses at Cambridge require applicants to take admission tests, such as the Test of Mathematics for University Admission (TMUA), the University Clinical Aptitude Test (UCAT) and the Law National Admissions Test (LNAT). 

Cambridge might also ask applicants for two examples of written work fitting a specific outline and/or a written assessment and/or a practical assessment. 

You can find out what’s expected from your course here. We also have a previous blog on Oxbridge admissions tests. 

Familiarise yourself with the specific requirements for your course and check if you are expected to complete an admissions test or hand in any supplementary material. If you are, start preparing with ample time so that you can apply all your efforts. Cambridge runs a holistic application process, so they will consider the quality of this work as part of your general academic performance.

There are resources available online, including sample questions and practice tests, to help you prepare effectively. Here at The Profs, we can guide you through smashing any admission test as we have expert tutors for each niche. 

6. Craft an impressive personal statement:

In the US, you write a statement of purpose. However, in the UK, we write a personal statement. This is much more specific and academically focused than a statement of purpose. 

In the US, the discussion is quite broad and you can usually choose from a set of prompts/titles to guide you. The statement of purpose works as an introduction, where the university meets you, the real you. 

However, in the UK, there are no prompts/titles and our statements are supposed to demonstrate why we are an excellent student for our chosen course at our desired university. Hence, our statements stay on one constant topic: our discipline. Our statements should be subject-specific and remain focussed on our degree throughout. 

Personal statements differ from the US style in that they are far less personal and much more academic. The UK doesn’t care so much about all your activities and extracurriculars or even your family and home life, they just want to hear why you’re the right person to enrol on this course. So only mention extracurriculars that prove academic aptitude or your suitability and genuine passion for your course.

Similarly, unlike US applications, strong UK applications seldom mention experiences, awards, activities and achievements that are completely irrelevant to our subject or academia. However, in some cases, you might be able to demonstrate your link.

Personal statements also don’t mention specific universities by name. However, as an American student, it’s a good idea to mention why you want to study at a UK university, especially if the reason is related to your chosen course! 

For example, you might say that you want to study History in the UK because the UK is home to far older buildings than the US, and is closer to European countries like Greece which have fascinating ancient ruins. Or you might say that you’re eager to study for an undergraduate degree in the UK rather than the US as your course will be far more focussed on your subject of interest from the start.

Another difference in the UK style of writing is that it avoids humour and cliches e.g. a pet peeve of many UK admissions officers is reading the word “passion” in applicants’ personal statements. UK personal statements are much more “straightforward” and less about crafting something literary. 

A big focus for Cambridge is “potential” and “enthusiasm”. Do you have the potential to succeed, and how do you demonstrate that? What potential do you show? Are you enthusiastic about your discipline, and how do you prove this?

So, don’t submit your statement of purpose to Cambridge, if you’ve written one. Write a personal statement, especially for this objective. As you’re writing, try to tick off these points:

  • What is your mission statement?
  • Why have you chosen this course?
  • How do you align with Cambridge as a university?
  • What’s special about your department at Cambridge?
  • Does any of your department’s research at Cambridge stand out to you?
  • Are you in cohesion with Cambridge’s ethos?
  • What is your precise career plan?
  • Why do you need this degree to reach your goals?
  • What awards and achievements etc prove your academic aptitude and transferable skills?
  • What experience and research prove your passion for this subject?

Please note: When you upload a personal statement to UCAS, it will be sent to all 5 universities of your choice. Hence, it’s best not to specifically name Cambridge or write directly to Cambridge as you will alienate your other choices. However, you can allude to Cambridge.

Whatever you do, don’t underestimate this step. The personal statement is a vital component of your Cambridge application. It is largely this essay and the quality of your grades that will determine whether you get an interview.

Worried about your writing skills, or fretting over what to say? We know how to help! Here, at The Profs, we have excellent personal statement and writing tutors with plenty of experience who can help you craft a compelling body of work. If you need any assistance, just reach out.

You can also check out our previous article on UK personal statements which can offer some helpful tips for this step.

Note that all students applying to university for 2023, 2024 or 2025 will still be required to submit a UCAS personal statement as normal. However, from January 2025 onwards (October 2024, for Oxbridge applicants), there will be changes to the UCAS application process and students will no longer be required to write a personal statement. Instead, all applicants will answer a series of shorter, more tailored questions provided by UCAS.

7. Obtain outstanding letters of recommendation:

To be considered, you must submit a recommendation from a teacher or someone else who is qualified to comment on your academic ability (not a family member). 

There will be 3 main sections:

  • A section for the referee to enter a general statement about your school/college/centre.
  • A section for the referee to enter any information on extenuating circumstances (if applicable) e.g. reason for underperformance.
  • A section for the referee to enter any supportive information specific to the applicant and relevant to the course/s applied for that the institution should be aware of.

Cambridge specifically mentions that it values teachers talking about student’s curiosity and engagement with their chosen discipline e.g. hearing about independent or proactive steps a student took to learn further about a subject. Cambridge likes students who are willing to explore and venture outside of the syllabus. So, ensure that you inform your teacher (or demonstrate to them) how you do this.

Cambridge’s guidelines for letters of recommendation can be found here. UCAS provides specific information relevant to 2024 entry changes here.

Remember to choose individuals who know you well and can provide specific examples of your achievements and potential. Also, if there are things you’d like them to mention for you, ask them!

8. Prepare for the interview:

Cambridge conducts interviews for its undergraduate courses to assess candidates’ academic potential and suitability for Cambridge. So, if shortlisted, you will be invited for an interview in December as part of the admission process. 

As a resident outside of the UK, your interview will most likely be online. However, you should always check as this can vary.

Cambridge wants to see if you would fit in with Cambridge’s community, and your college in particular, as well as how you think.

If you’re shortlisted, be ready to demonstrate your subject knowledge, critical thinking skills, and ability to engage in thoughtful discussions. Practice mock interviews and run through likely questions. Cambridge interviews are renowned for their academic rigour, so it’s important to prepare thoroughly. 

Review your application materials (including your personal statement and CV), research your chosen course, and practice answering challenging questions related to your subject area. Additionally, think about experiences or achievements you might want to mention. If you get to the interview, you will need to demonstrate your ability to think critically and engage in intellectual discussions during the interview.

As an international applicant, it’s worth preparing some talking points as to why you would like to complete your degree in the UK, and more specifically, why Cambridge. How did you hear about Cambridge University and why does it appeal to you? This is especially relevant if you’re coming from the US which has plenty of renowned universities of its own, like Harvard, or another country with outstanding universities.

It’s worth noting that Cambridge’s interview process is far different from most US universities. US universities often host conversational interviews that aim to get to know you as a person and are relatively informal. 

Cambridge, however, is more on the formal side and they care less about who you are, and more about what kind of student you would be. Cambridge wants to test your subject knowledge and how you think on your feet; Cambridge wants to see that you fit their teaching style and would be a good addition to their seminars. 

Your Cambridge interview may be split into multiple components. For instance, you might have one interview which is more about your personal background, and one which is based around specific questions to your discipline e.g. for Maths you might be asked to solve an equation. You could also be asked to attend interviews for multiple colleges.

Cambridge interviewers might ask about:

  • Your background, achievements and extracurricular activities.
  • Your enthusiasm for your discipline.
  • Academic questions related to your discipline.
  • Wider reading or current affairs related to your discipline. 

Be sure to check out our previous article on preparing for an online interview and our video on how to smash a university interview. 

Worried about your Cambridge interview, or any university interview for that matter? You don’t want to fall at the last hurdle. Your interview performance is crucial! Reach out to our experienced interview coaches for expert guidance.

9. Seek guidance:

Consider working with one of our experienced Oxbridge admissions tutors who can provide personalised guidance, review your application, and help you polish your essays. 

We have a track record of success in applying to top-tier universities like Cambridge and Oxford. In fact, our Oxbridge success rate is triple the national average! If Cambridge is your dream, take every step to make it happen and reach out to our expert team.

Remember to check the official Cambridge University website and relevant scholarship pages for the most up-to-date information on requirements, deadlines, and available scholarships.

Get your UK student visa!

Well done if you gain admission to Cambridge! It is only now that you can apply for a student visa as you’ll need evidence of your agreement to attend Cambridge.

If you’re going to study for a full degree, you must apply for a Tier 4 Student Visa. However, if your degree programme is 6 months or less, you need a Student Visitor Visa.

You can apply online, via the visa application centre in your home country.

Remember: apply at least three months before your course in the United Kingdom begins!

Cambridge offers information on the student visa process here

How we can help

Gaining admission to Cambridge University as a US student requires dedication, hard work, and careful preparation. By seeking guidance from our experienced and accomplished Oxbridge admissions team, you can maximise your chances of achieving your dream of studying at Cambridge. 

We have special expertise in US to UK admissions and our success rate for getting students into their first and second-choice universities is over 95%! If you’re serious about having a future that involves Cambridge, do all you can to secure this!

We offer a talented team of tutors, including specialists in:

We are here for every step of the process. Call us for a Cambridge application review and a bespoke plan of action. There’s no reason you shouldn’t succeed! Just reach out to join our winning team.

FAQs

Can US students apply to Cambridge University?

Yes, Cambridge University welcomes applications from international students, including those from the United States. The university takes pride in its diverse student population and encourages highly motivated and academically ambitious students from around the world to apply.

What are the admission requirements for US students applying to Cambridge University?

US students applying to Cambridge University are typically required to have completed a high school diploma or its equivalent along with 5 grade 5 APs. Additionally, they will need to provide standardised test scores, such as the SAT or ACT. Some applicants may also need to demonstrate proficiency in English through exams like the TOEFL or IELTS. More information on entry requirements for American applicants can be found in this article.

How competitive is the application process for US students at Cambridge University?

The application process for US students at Cambridge University is highly competitive. 

5.7% of the international applicants documented in the table above were US citizens. Hence, there were 427 US applicants; 39 of these were admitted and 23 were accepted. So, the US success rate at Cambridge for 2022 was as low as 5.4%! There is more information on acceptance rates available in this article.

Admission is based on academic achievements, test scores, personal statements, recommendation letters, and interviews. It’s important to showcase your academic excellence and highlight the unique qualities that make you a strong candidate. Read this article for tips on how to get in, or reach out to our experienced team!

Are there any specific scholarships or financial aid options available for US students at Cambridge University?

Yes, Cambridge University offers a range of scholarships and financial aid options for international students, including American applicants. These scholarships can cover tuition fees, living expenses, or both. It’s recommended to check the university’s official website for more information on available funding opportunities. You can also read this article for further information.

Are there any resources or support for US students to navigate the application process at Cambridge University?

Yes, Cambridge University’s website provides resources and information for US students regarding the application process. This article provides information and tips regarding US students’ application process to Cambridge. 

Alternatively, here at The Profs, we have special expertise in US to UK admissions. Our success rate for getting students into their first and second-choice universities is over 95%! Just reach out for expert guidance.