Sandtrooper
Badges: 21
Rep:
?
#1
Report Thread starter 5 months ago
#1
There have been so many repeat questions in the postgraduate applications thread for Cambridge recently, so we thought we'd make an FAQs thread to cover them all in one place.

This thread will cover questions about postgraduate applications. However, please note that we are not admissions tutors.

These questions have been kindly answered by threeportdrift, histmphil96, PhDLit2021, and myself.
Last edited by Sandtrooper; 4 months ago
3
reply
threeportdrift
Badges: 20
Rep:
?
#2
Report 5 months ago
#2

General Questions

What are the chances of getting into X course?

There’s no real way of telling. Some courses are more self-selective in terms of applicants than others. For example, courses that require a very specific combination of prior qualifications might have fewer applicants per place on the course, some courses which can admit from a very diverse range or backgrounds might have a very high number of applicants to place, but it doesn’t mean those applicants are all equally competitive. Broadly speaking, getting an offer is a bit easier at PG level than at UG, but funding is much harder to get and many offers cannot be converted to places because of lack of funds.

What's the application timeline?
The times given on the University website are generally nonsense. Each individual application follows its own timeline, the timing depends on several issues including

a) the strength of your application,
b) the availability of an academic to make a judgement on your application (they are lecturing, marking, supervising, researching, going to conferences etc alongside reading applications),
c) the number of applicants who have also made very similar research proposal to yours (creating a sort of ‘sub-competition’ for supervision), and
d) the relative strength of the rest of the applicant pool.

Rejections are made as soon as it becomes clear that an application is not going to be competitive, there is no bulk rejection process. However, applicants do not apply in any sort of ‘order of ability’, good and bad applications arrive randomly between September and April. The only general patterns are that only strong early applications are given offers before Christmas, because generally the overall quality of the applicant pool isn’t visible until the New Year. Having said that a higher than usual number of offers were given out before Christmas in 2020 for 2021 start. The bulk of offers are not made until late Feb/March and offers continue to be made until late April, when they tail off.

What does 'rolling admissions' mean?
It means that admissions are distributed to academics and read on a rolling basis, ie as they come in. However, it does NOT mean that decisions are made on the same timeline, an early application does not necessarily lead to an early decision. If you aren’t competitive, you will get rejected straight away. If you are immediately so strong that nothing in the future applicant pool is going to stop you getting an offer, then you will get an offer, otherwise, you will stay in the pool of generally competitive applicants until you float to the top and get an offer or sink and get rejected.

When a course sets a deadline for applications, then generally while they might read applications before the deadline, they will not make decisions until afterwards. So there is no point in refreshing until several weeks after the deadline date.

Will I hear by email or online (through Camsis)?
Official changes come through Camsis, the online application portal and are not emailed. Generally you will only get an email for some specific allied question about your application. Departments agree every year that they do NOT contact applicants and tell them they are going to be made an offer, until the GAO changes the online status to a conditional offer. Every year a few departments ignore this rule and email candidates with an offer before the GAO officially approves them. The Department’s rarely make an error, but the GAO is the official step in the process.

Is it bad I'm still on submitted?
The online system is updated by extremely busy graduate administrators with myriad other tasks that are more important than updating Camsis. However, if you spend more than 3-4 weeks at submitted, it might be worth checking they aren’t missing something from your application like an errant reference.

Why is my application still 'under review'?
Because they are still reviewing it! Applications can spend many months ‘under review’ at the department level, while the overall strength of the applicant pool and the variation in subject specialisms is understood. Meanwhile you are bobbing around in the pool hoping that you float to the top and get an offer and don’t sink to the bottom.

One exception to this seems to be for English. Possibly because there is only one MPhil degree, with different strands, English applications seem to be recorded on Camsis as going straight to the degree committee. It doesn’t seem to be accelerating the process though.

What is degree committee and does that mean I'm in?
The degree committee, for admissions purposes, moderates the quality and number of applicants between degree programmes. For example, a degree committee might oversee 5 programmes with roughly equal numbers of places between them, and they all have to fit in the same lab/classroom/lecture hall spaces. Then one year Course A finds it is getting a particularly high standard of applicants and really wants to give offers to fill an additional 10 places. They would take their case to the degree committee who, if persuaded, would allow them to fill the additional places. The degree committee would then ask two other courses to reduce their offers and fill a reduced number of places. So, the degree committee is unlikely to stop an offer being made, but it’s not inconceivable that a course might have to readjust its offer rate.

What are the degree committee dates?
Someone will dig them out of the depths at some point in the application season, but really there is no point. Moderating decisions between degree programmes is only one of very many tasks of the degree committee, they are primarily concerned with overall academic standards, new programmes etc. So while the degree committee does unblock the progress of applications, there are also many other subsequent administrative steps and the timing of your arrival at the GAO is hard to tie in to a degree committee date.

What's the GAO?
The GAO, Graduate Admissions Office (may be changing to PAO, Postgraduate Admissions Office is the final step in the admissions process. They make no academic decision, but they do a final double-check that a) the department has made an offer in accord with the previously agreed standards (on things like minim grades or mandatory qualifications) and that the application is legitimate (no fraud and the university is recognised). The chances of being rejected at the GAO stage are very slim, especially if you haven’t applied fraudulently – get the drinks on ice!

Will I hear back on the weekend?
The standard office hours at Cambridge are about 0830 – 1700. Staff do not routinely work outside those times. However, if individual staff involved in updating is working unusual office hours/from home then it's not impossible.

Should I email the department/my supervisor/GAO to ask whether I am in/why it's taking so long?
Probably not, you will just be cluttering up already busy inboxes. Generally you should prompt if you’ve not moved from ‘submitted’ after 3-4 weeks, and if you’ve been at the GAO with no movement for 3 weeks. Otherwise, just hang on in there, while you haven’t been rejected you are still competitive.

Why did someone who applied later than me hear back earlier?
For no reason that means anything to your application. Maybe the academic who read their application had nothing else to do on the day it landed on their desk, maybe yours was away at a conference for a week. Maybe their research proposal was only suited to one supervisor, maybe two or three have been fighting over you! Maybe their application arrived an hour before the pack up for the monthly degree committee meeting was completed and maybe yours arrived an hour afterwards.
Last edited by threeportdrift; 4 months ago
7
reply
Sandtrooper
Badges: 21
Rep:
?
#3
Report Thread starter 5 months ago
#3
College Questions (written by histmphil96)

What are my chances of getting into X college?

Like everything at Cambridge, it depends. College decisions are not made based on merit like admissions decisions (see below). Your chances will mostly hinge on which college you apply to. Some colleges are much more popular than others. This official list can show you roughly which are the most popular: https://www.postgraduate.study.cam.a...ts-and-figures.

King’s, Trinity, and St. John’s are by far the most popular colleges. These fill up very quickly and are nearly impossible to get into, as a large percentage of students put at least one of them as a preference. Your chances of getting into one of these are low, especially the later into the cycle you get.

If you want a higher chance of getting into a top choice, consider one like Hughes Hall, Darwin College, Lucy Cavendish College, or Wolfson College.

How do colleges decide who is admitted?

Colleges recruit in order to create a diverse postgraduate community, but there are no quotas, there is not a planned set of numbers they are looking to fill. The University does not acknowledge any material difference between colleges and the system is based on the premise that they are perhaps different, but equal.

When will I hear back about my college allocation?

It depends. It could be a few hours to a few months. There is no typical timeline.

What happens if I don’t get into one of my choice colleges?

If you don’t get into your two top choices, your application will be pooled. This means that the GAO will send it to up to five colleges with low enrolment. One of these colleges will accept you. You will not know what colleges it is sent to after your first two choices and your status will not update until you are accepted by a college.

Can I change college?

Only if you get a funding offer at another college (either by a Department/Faculty allocated scholarship or through an application that doesn’t need you to already be accepted by the college) or if you have a disability the college cannot accommodate.

Should I accept my offer? Do I need to for funding?

You don’t need to accept your offer for funding or college decisions to be made. You are welcome to accept your offer right away or wait; it really doesn’t matter. The true ‘acceptance’ is fulfilling all the conditions by the deadline
Last edited by Sandtrooper; 5 months ago
2
reply
Sandtrooper
Badges: 21
Rep:
?
#4
Report Thread starter 5 months ago
#4
Funding Questions (written by histmphil96 and Sandtrooper)

What are my chances of getting funding?

It’s impossible for us to say without knowing specific information about you and your funding situation. You can see the proportions of current students funded here: https://www.postgraduate.study.cam.a...n_timeline.pdf. However, take into account that this only considers current students. So the proportion of offer holders that get funding is less than this.

In order to be considered for most funding, you have to be nominated by your Faculty or Department. They will look at all the applications they receive, rank them, and then send the best to be considered by the funding body. The funding body will re-rank the applications they receive and give the best funding.

Anecdotally, I (Sandtrooper) know the figures for my department. There were 191 applicants, 116 offers, 70 acceptances, and 7 of those students are funded. This is specifically for Cambridge Trust funding, so it's possible that there might be the odd student with external funding, but again, that's probably going to be slim. So, competition is steep.

How does nomination work?

Your supervisor first will rank your application on three things:

  • Strength of academic history,
  • Research proposal (if applicable)
  • References

The score is out of 30, and it is usually around a 27 that would be needed for funding. The Department/Faculty will then look at all the rankings by supervisors and put them together, and then decide who to put forward for funding.

When do funding decisions come out?

From early March until late July, but sometimes even until term starts in October. There are some scholarships that you can only apply for once you start your course, too (I - Sandtrooper - have one of these).

Who should I contact about funding?

After you apply, there’s not a lot you can do about funding, so sadly, you just have to wait and see.

Can I apply for funding at a college I wasn't allocated to?

Some colleges have open applications for anyone, some colleges need you to rank them as a first or second choice to get funding, and some only let admitted members apply for funding. If the funding is at a college with open applications for funding, then you can of course apply regardless if you are accepted there or not. If it’s a first or second choice ranking-necessary funding, then if you list them as a choice you will be considered. However, if, for example, you put them down as a first choice and are rejected, you will no longer be considered for funding. Obviously, with the last category, you need to be accepted to the college to apply.

Please note that open or first or second choice funding options usually have a deadline around the general funding deadline.

Will I hear if I am nominated for funding? What about my ranking?

Some departments/faculties tell you if you are nominated, others do not. So it depends. It is exceptionally rare to be told your ranking and pretty pointless, as you are re-ranked when your application goes to the funding bodies. Do not ask about your ranking; it just puts everyone in an awkward position.

How much funding will I get?

This varies massively by award. Here's a useful quote from Modpol I saw the other day: It varies, but I checked and AHRC/Peterhouse had an allowance of around 15.5k/year, Gates had 17.5k/year, Harding 18k/year. I think the 15.5k/year is quite standard across humanities scholarships. It's also common to only get funding for your fees, or living costs, and not both, particularly at MPhil level. So, please bear this in mind.
1
reply
Sandtrooper
Badges: 21
Rep:
?
#5
Report Thread starter 4 months ago
#5
More General Questions (taken from the Cambridge Postgraduate Applicants thread and answered by PhDLit2021

Steps and timelines:
If you're looking to understand the steps and rough timelines for each step in the admission process, [you can visit University of Cambridge's postgraduate admissions website where there is a link to "Application process" and "What happens next?"]. Note that the timelines on this page aren't 100% accurate during the pandemic: we have evidence from certain individuals that the PAO stage has taken up to 4 weeks in some cases, and not the "approximately ten days" this page suggests. Directionally speaking, however, this page is a great place to start.


GAO and PAO
There is no difference between them. None. If your status happened to change from GAO to PAO (or even vice versa), it's likely because some back-end person realised it was high time to start using a single term consistently. That's all.

Funding (Sources and Rankings)
Scholarships / funding can be given out through by various sources. The ones that come up here most often are the Cambridge Trust, the individual colleges at Cambridge and the UKRI councils. For these three sources, your department (e.g. Dept of French) essentially ranks you against other applicants; those department rankings are then used to establish a ranking at the Faculty level (e.g., Faculty of Modern and Medieval Languages and Linguistics for the Dept of French) that is then sent to these funding bodies, along with any additional material that might be appropriate (e.g. transcripts; any scholarship-relevant material in your university application). These bodies then use all of this information to allocate their scholarships. Note: some departments might be willing to tell you how high they ranked you for funding purposes. The information might give you some comfort - but it's really quite useless, as the dept will likely not know what rank the overall Faculty ended up giving you, and the funding bodies take a whole bunch of other criteria into account other than just rank.

Funding (Timing)
The Cambridge Trust and individual colleges announce their results progressively between late March and mid-July; the UKRI councils all have their own timings that are available on their websites (AHRC is in April, for instance). There's nothing you can do to influence that timing.

Funding (College-specific scholarships)
Some scholarships from individual colleges are only available if you opted for that college as your first choice. The information is available in the small print of each scholarship. If you only realized after applying that you could have theoretically obtained a scholarship from a college if you had selected it as your first choice, that's unfortunate, but there isn't anything you can do about it.

Funding (Stats)
If you're looking for stats on scholarships, [you can visit the University of Cambridge's postgraduate admissions website, click on "How to apply for funding?" and then under the "What are my chances" section], it has stats available for the past couple of years; the rest of the page is pretty useful too. That's all there is really. The rest is conjecture and anecdote.

College membership
You may not get your 1st choice of college anyway. People here have got their 1st choice or their 2nd choice or sometimes have been given a random college that wasn't in any of their choices. How each college chooses its students isn't super transparent - but generally depends (a bit) on your academic background and (a lot) on the kind of diversity (subject-based, gender-based, ethnicity-based, graduate vs postgraduate, etc) that that college is trying to establish. Whichever college you get, take a deep breath and relax: you only get a college once you have an offer, so that means you have got into Cambridge! Congratulations! Isn't that the bigger picture?

Random email sent by Cambridge
Many of us got this random email from Cambridge on February 26 ("Update from Cambridge University Admissions Office"). It's poorly worded and misleading but here are the takeaways: (a) the email contains no information whatsoever on your application specifically - only the application portal and / or any specific updates you receive via email about your application matter in this regard; (b) they've linked to an offer booklet PDF in that email; if you end up receiving an offer, maybe just go back to this PDF and read it, as it likely contains answers to the questions you're asking yourself at that stage. That's all - other than that, you can pretty much ignore the email. PS - And if you DIDN'T receive the email, no FOMO please - it's a pretty useless email and you can do without it really.

OMG OMG OMG. I haven't heard back. What can I do? Does this mean I'm out ? Woe is me. The anxiety. The angst. The panic. OMG OMG OMG.

Things will take the time they need to take. Sometimes that feels slow. The pandemic isn't helping either. But mailing your dept tutor and / or some rando's email address at Admissions or General Administration to request updates is likely not going to get you any further in the line. Rest assured, the uni hasn't forgotten your candidacy. If you haven't heard back, it's because they're struggling to clear backlog and for whatever reason, some applications are just quicker to clear than others. You'll hear back eventually - even though it might be later than some people (and earlier than others) for reasons no one can really know. Trying to second-guess those reasons (is it taking more time because you're an international student vs a UK student? Part-time vs full-time? Is it because your dept was slow in its paperwork? Because you wore green to graduation?) is going to be an exercise in futility. Take a chill pill. Focus on what you CAN control (the application and the interview - that's it, really). Have a glass of wine. Do some yoga. Breathe. Maybe connect to this thread less often. And it'll all work out in the end.
Last edited by Sandtrooper; 3 months ago
3
reply
T8W
Badges: 4
Rep:
?
#6
Report 4 months ago
#6
(Original post by Sandtrooper)
More General Questions (taken from the Cambridge Postgraduate Applicants thread and answered by PhDLit2021

Steps and timelines:
If you're looking to understand the steps and rough timelines for each step in the admission process, [you can visit University of Cambridge's postgraduate admissions website where there is a link to "Application process" and "What happens next?"]. Note that the timelines on this page aren't 100% accurate during the pandemic: we have evidence from certain individuals that the PAO stage has taken up to 4 weeks in some cases, and not the "approximately ten days" this page suggests. Directionally speaking, however, this page is a great place to start.


GAO and PAO
There is no difference between them. None. If your status happened to change from GAO to PAO (or even vice versa), it's likely because some back-end person realised it was high time to start using a single term consistently. That's all.

Funding (Sources and Rankings)
Scholarships / funding can be given out through by various sources. The ones that come up here most often are the Cambridge Trust, the individual colleges at Cambridge and the UKRI councils. For these three sources, your department (e.g. Dept of French) essentially ranks you against other applicants; those department rankings are then used to establish a ranking at the Faculty level (e.g., Faculty of Modern and Medieval Languages and Linguistics for the Dept of French) that is then sent to these funding bodies, along with any additional material that might be appropriate (e.g. transcripts; any scholarship-relevant material in your university application). These bodies then use all of this information to allocate their scholarships. Note: some departments might be willing to tell you how high they ranked you for funding purposes. The information might give you some comfort - but it's really quite useless, as the dept will likely not know what rank the overall Faculty ended up giving you, and the funding bodies take a whole bunch of other criteria into account other than just rank.

Funding (Timing)
The Cambridge Trust and individual colleges announce their results progressively between late March and mid-July; the UKRI councils all have their own timings that are available on their websites (AHRC is in April, for instance). There's nothing you can do to influence that timing.

Funding (College-specific scholarships)
Some scholarships from individual colleges are only available if you opted for that college as your first choice. The information is available in the small print of each scholarship. If you only realized after applying that you could have theoretically obtained a scholarship from a college if you had selected it as your first choice, that's unfortunate, but there isn't anything you can do about it.

Funding (Stats)
If you're looking for stats on scholarships, [you can visit the University of Cambridge's postgraduate admissions website, click on "How to apply for funding?" and then under the "What are my chances" section], it has stats available for the past couple of years; the rest of the page is pretty useful too. That's all there is really. The rest is conjecture and anecdote.

College membership
You may not get your 1st choice of college anyway. People here have got their 1st choice, their 2nd choice, their 3rd choice, and sometimes have been given a random college that wasn't in any of their choices. How each college chooses its students isn't super transparent - but generally depends (a bit) on your academic background and (a lot) on the kind of diversity (subject-based, gender-based, ethnicity-based, graduate vs postgraduate, etc) that that college is trying to establish. Whichever college you get, take a deep breath and relax: you only get a college once you have an offer, so that means you have got into Cambridge! Congratulations! Isn't that the bigger picture?

Random email sent by Cambridge
Many of us got this random email from Cambridge on February 26 ("Update from Cambridge University Admissions Office"). It's poorly worded and misleading but here are the takeaways: (a) the email contains no information whatsoever on your application specifically - only the application portal and / or any specific updates you receive via email about your application matter in this regard; (b) they've linked to an offer booklet PDF in that email; if you end up receiving an offer, maybe just go back to this PDF and read it, as it likely contains answers to the questions you're asking yourself at that stage. That's all - other than that, you can pretty much ignore the email. PS - And if you DIDN'T receive the email, no FOMO please - it's a pretty useless email and you can do without it really.

OMG OMG OMG. I haven't heard back. What can I do? Does this mean I'm out ? Woe is me. The anxiety. The angst. The panic. OMG OMG OMG.

Things will take the time they need to take. Sometimes that feels slow. The pandemic isn't helping either. But mailing your dept tutor and / or some rando's email address at Admissions or General Administration to request updates is likely not going to get you any further in the line. Rest assured, the uni hasn't forgotten your candidacy. If you haven't heard back, it's because they're struggling to clear backlog and for whatever reason, some applications are just quicker to clear than others. You'll hear back eventually - even though it might be later than some people (and earlier than others) for reasons no one can really know. Trying to second-guess those reasons (is it taking more time because you're an international student vs a UK student? Part-time vs full-time? Is it because your dept was slow in its paperwork? Because you wore green to graduation?) is going to be an exercise in futility. Take a chill pill. Focus on what you CAN control (the application and the interview - that's it, really). Have a glass of wine. Do some yoga. Breathe. Maybe connect to this thread less often. And it'll all work out in the end.
good stuff!
0
reply
b12197
Badges: 2
Rep:
?
#7
Report 3 months ago
#7
Just wondering, is there a deposit to pay once we accepted the offer?
0
reply
X

Quick Reply

Attached files
Write a reply...
Reply
new posts
Back
to top
Latest
My Feed

See more of what you like on
The Student Room

You can personalise what you see on TSR. Tell us a little about yourself to get started.

Personalise

Are you tempted to change your firm university choice on A-level results day?

Yes, I'll try and go to a uni higher up the league tables (30)
29.41%
Yes, there is a uni that I prefer and I'll fit in better (10)
9.8%
No I am happy with my choice (56)
54.9%
I'm using Clearing when I have my exam results (6)
5.88%

Watched Threads

View All