THE 2018 VERSION OF THIS THREAD CAN BE FOUNDHERE >>
Cambridge used to send out its decision letters over the first weekend of the New Year. However, in order to reduce the uncertainty and stress for those applicants who are placed in the Winter Pool (3804 last year) the university decided a couple of years ago to delay ‘decision day’ for long enough to allow the Pool process to be completed for almost everyone first.
This means that most people will know where they are on or shortly after Thursday 12th January. Decision letters will be posted out to all applicants, UK-based and abroad, on Wednesday 11th January. College policies on sending emails to home applicants vary, and it is worth checking their websites for information and advice in case you don’t receive your letter as expected. International applicants should receive emails on 12th January.
It is worth checking now
that your preference college has your up-to-date contact details, including mobile and landline numbers. If these have changed since you were interviewed and you haven't told them, do so now, by email, putting "Applicant Contact Details Update" in the subject line so that the admin team will know what it is.
Most people will receive a letter or email by Thursday 12th January from their preference college (ie the one you applied to), and this will tell you one of the following:
The Winter Pool – what is it?
- you have been made an offer (any conditions attached to that offer will also be in the letter)
- your application was unsuccessful
- you were placed in the Winter Pool but unfortunately no other college expressed interest in your application, so your application was unsuccessful
The Winter Pool is the mechanism by which Cambridge colleges ensure that all applicants of equivalent standard have a fair chance of an offer. About a fifth of all offers made every year go to applicants who have been pooled: 853 out of 4307 offers in 2015-16, 897 out of 4253 offers in 2014-15, 887 out of 4220 offers in 2013-14, and 876 out of 4138 in 2012-13. However, there is significant variation by course, college, and year; you can look up the statistics for individual colleges and subjects here
If you were placed in the Winter Pool, and another college expressed interest in your application, you will hear directly from that college, not your preference college. The ‘new’ college will either have called or emailed you on 6th January or shortly afterwards to invite you for re-interview, or will make you a direct offer which you will hear about at the same time as everyone else gets their decision letters. If you haven't heard anything about an interview by the end of this week or very early next week, you can expect to hear the outcome of your application with everyone else on 12th January.
It's worth remembering that applicants who achieve offers through the Pool are as strong as those who achieve direct offers, and do just as well in their undergraduate studies.
What happens in the Pool?
Colleges place the files of everyone they think has a reasonable prospect of an offer in the Pool so that all the other colleges can look them over during meetings that have been taking place this week. Sometimes colleges retrieve applicants they placed in the Pool and make offers to them after all (this happened to 220 people last year). In most cases, applicants being taken out of the Pool by other colleges will be made a direct offer; only a small minority of applicants will be called back for another interview.
When will I hear anything?
Those being called for Pool interviews will be contacted directly by email or telephone by the college/s concerned, from Friday 6th January, with the interviews taking place later next week. UK-based applicants are advised to ensure that they are contactable (really important to check your email spam folders!) on Friday 6th January and Monday 9th January - there is a very tight turn around. However, this does not mean freaking out every time you see a missed call on your phone – last year, only 221 out of 3804 pooled applicants (2016 figures: 288 of 3776) were recalled for interview, and of those people, only some will have been reading the equivalent of this thread! Given the rapid decline in numbers of people called for re-interview in recent years, I would expect that perhaps 20 or so TSR people will be contacted in this way, and it may well be fewer than that. The briefing here
also suggests that even fewer people will be recalled for interview this year, as there are only a couple of days between when the pool interviews begin and the applicants could be told the outcome.
The posting date for colleges making direct (ie without further interview) offers through the Pool is also Wednesday 11th January, so the applicants concerned will receive letters or emails from their ‘new’ college from 12th January. Re-interviewed applicants should hear the outcome from Saturday 14th January onwards, although officially the final deadline is the end of January. If you have been successful after re-interview, you will hear only from the college that is making you an offer. If you have been unsuccessful, your preference college is responsible for letting you know, although it is to be hoped that the college/s that interviewed you would also tell you.
International applicants who were interviewed abroad, and those living outside Europe, will certainly not be called for re-interview. Someone living in Europe may be recalled, but this is very rare.
I haven’t received my decision letter yet – what should I do?
If you are a UK applicant
, and have not heard anything at all by Tuesday 17th January, contact your preference college.
should be emailed by their college on Thursday 12th January. If you have heard nothing by Monday 16th January, email your preference college.
Is there any possibility of changing the college that has made me a Pool offer or called me for re-interview?
No. If you are worried about it being an all-women/out of town/modern/mature student college, check out the individual college threads in the Cambridge forum. Many others have been there before you!
What are my chances of an offer following re-interview?
It is noticeable that over the years the number of applicants being called for re-interview has declined significantly. Back in the 2007-08 round, 548 people were re-interviewed, of whom 285 were successful. Last year, only 221 of 3804 pooled applicants (compared with 288 in 2015 and 370 in 2014) were re-interviewed and 99 (163 in 2015 and 170 in 2014) were made offers. The success rate is around 1 in 2, with some fluctuations from year to year.
How should I prepare for my interview?
Get to know something about the college – use their website, and the TSR resources. Otherwise, make sure you read carefully any instructions you are sent, especially if there may be some kind of test, and review your personal statement. The most useful thing you can do, though, is to draw on the experience of being interviewed in December. The admissions tutors are as interested in how you think something through as they are in you getting to the ‘right’ answer – if indeed there is one
Do post in this thread and let us know how it's all working for you. If you have been successful, congratulations. If not, commiserations, but remember that there is life after a Cambridge rejection, as I have good reason to know