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Questions about applying for maths at Cambridge

I am a Chinese student who will be applying to study mathematics at University of Cambridge this year. I already took the STEP exam and scored S(98) and S(102) in STEP 2 and 3, respectively. Is it going to make my application more competitive? I am also thinking about which college should I apply. Could you give me some suggestions?
(edited 1 year ago)
Hi, I've moved your thread to the Cambridge forum :smile:

Congratulations on your STEP results. I imagine you will most likely be interviewed at most* colleges even just on that basis. I'm not sure if you'd be required to take STEP for the year you are applying or they will accept your existing STEP results.

For college choice, basically any except Trinity College. Bear in mind that the central lectures are organised by the department, not the colleges, and you can have supervisions at any college, not only the one you are in, so college choice has relatively little bearing on academics. It's primarily your residence and where you get pastoral support, with some weekly teaching occurring within colleges (not necessarily your own as above though!).

The reason to avoid Trinity is because it is hugely oversubscribed for maths, especially by international students, because they believe college choice has any influence on future prospects or academics at the uni (neither is true). This means that competition for that one course at that one college is so high that applicants who would be routinely interviewed if not made an offer at other colleges don't even get called to interview for Trinity. A corollary of this is that they are therefore ineligible for pooling, as you can only be pooled after you are interviewed.

So basically just apply to any college except Trinity, and you are probably fine. For deciding between colleges otherwise consider location, style of architecture, cost of living, facilities offered, any bursaries/scholarships/book awards/travel grants offered etc. That said bear in mind it's pretty easy to get around Cambridge so "even" if you end up at Homerton or Girton, you're not that far from your lectures etc. Also bear in mind for maths, while the lectures are mainly based in the central sites, the department is off between Sidgwick and the West Sites (roughly) so even the Sidgwick colleges or Churchill/Fitz/etc will be near either the department or the lectures so you are near something in most cases (except Homerton but again, it's just a cycle ride away from everything regardless).
Reply 2
Thank you so much for your suggestions! I am considering Christ’s college. However, I already knew 4 students (including me) who want to apply for Christ’s to read mathematics. They all took STEP and they all did really well. Two of them scored S1 and one scored SS. The person who got S1 even completed 4 A-Levels already and his grades are all a*. Do you think it is a good idea to apply for Christ’s despite the competition this year?

Original post by artful_lounger
Hi, I've moved your thread to the Cambridge forum :smile:

Congratulations on your STEP results. I imagine you will most likely be interviewed at most* colleges even just on that basis. I'm not sure if you'd be required to take STEP for the year you are applying or they will accept your existing STEP results.

For college choice, basically any except Trinity College. Bear in mind that the central lectures are organised by the department, not the colleges, and you can have supervisions at any college, not only the one you are in, so college choice has relatively little bearing on academics. It's primarily your residence and where you get pastoral support, with some weekly teaching occurring within colleges (not necessarily your own as above though!).

The reason to avoid Trinity is because it is hugely oversubscribed for maths, especially by international students, because they believe college choice has any influence on future prospects or academics at the uni (neither is true). This means that competition for that one course at that one college is so high that applicants who would be routinely interviewed if not made an offer at other colleges don't even get called to interview for Trinity. A corollary of this is that they are therefore ineligible for pooling, as you can only be pooled after you are interviewed.

So basically just apply to any college except Trinity, and you are probably fine. For deciding between colleges otherwise consider location, style of architecture, cost of living, facilities offered, any bursaries/scholarships/book awards/travel grants offered etc. That said bear in mind it's pretty easy to get around Cambridge so "even" if you end up at Homerton or Girton, you're not that far from your lectures etc. Also bear in mind for maths, while the lectures are mainly based in the central sites, the department is off between Sidgwick and the West Sites (roughly) so even the Sidgwick colleges or Churchill/Fitz/etc will be near either the department or the lectures so you are near something in most cases (except Homerton but again, it's just a cycle ride away from everything regardless).
Original post by PXH
Thank you so much for your suggestions! I am considering Christ’s college. However, I already knew 4 students (including me) who want to apply for Christ’s to read mathematics. They all took STEP and they all did really well. Two of them scored S1 and one scored SS. The person who got S1 even completed 4 A-Levels already and his grades are all a*. Do you think it is a good idea to apply for Christ’s despite the competition this year?

Cambridge don't award "bonus points" for taking extra A-levels - in fact they very explicitly do not do so, because they would not want to disadvantage students who went to schools that could not offer 4 A-levels to their students.

I imagine it's fine to apply to Christs, most colleges interview a majority of applicants (Trinity, and maybe St Johns, being the exception(s)). As long as you get interviewed you can be pooled, so even if that particular college can't take you, you can be pooled to another one. So your main objective is to get interviewed, and do as well as you can there. At the moment from what your application would look like, I think almost all colleges would interview you (excepting Trinity as above) and thereafter I expect the interview will be the biggest deciding factor.

Again though, a STEP requirement is a standard part of the offer, and they may request you take it again - I think it's a bit variable how they approach historical STEP results (or at least I've not seen a clear pattern/answer yet personally!). Part of the STEP requirement is that it allows them to compare students from the same cohort, since they also get the STEP paper scripts sent to them, so they can compare how individual students approached the same questions etc. @Peterhouse Admissions might be able to advise more on how they/other colleges may handle applicants for maths who have already/previously taken STEP before applying?
(edited 1 year ago)
Original post by PXH
Thank you so much for your suggestions! I am considering Christ’s college. However, I already knew 4 students (including me) who want to apply for Christ’s to read mathematics. They all took STEP and they all did really well. Two of them scored S1 and one scored SS. The person who got S1 even completed 4 A-Levels already and his grades are all a*. Do you think it is a good idea to apply for Christ’s despite the competition this year?

Christ's receive about 70 applicants a year for maths and give out 20 offers. The 4 students you know are definitely not tipping the balance to the point that you wouldn't be interviewed or receive an offer. (Not to mention, on paper you are better than two of them anyway.)
(edited 1 year ago)
Wow, you guys are really good! I was actually always planning to apply to Christ's College but now maybe I have to reconsider the college I will apply to……
Original post by PXH
Thank you so much for your suggestions! I am considering Christ’s college. However, I already knew 4 students (including me) who want to apply for Christ’s to read mathematics. They all took STEP and they all did really well. Two of them scored S1 and one scored SS. The person who got S1 even completed 4 A-Levels already and his grades are all a*. Do you think it is a good idea to apply for Christ’s despite the competition this year?
@Peterhouse Admissions do you think the OP will have to take STEP again to make sure they keep their maths going?
Reply 7
Original post by artful_lounger
Cambridge don't award "bonus points" for taking extra A-levels - in fact they very explicitly do not do so, because they would not want to disadvantage students who went to schools that could not offer 4 A-levels to their students.

I imagine it's fine to apply to Christs, most colleges interview a majority of applicants (Trinity, and maybe St Johns, being the exception(s)). As long as you get interviewed you can be pooled, so even if that particular college can't take you, you can be pooled to another one. So your main objective is to get interviewed, and do as well as you can there. At the moment from what your application would look like, I think almost all colleges would interview you (excepting Trinity as above) and thereafter I expect the interview will be the biggest deciding factor.

Again though, a STEP requirement is a standard part of the offer, and they may request you take it again - I think it's a bit variable how they approach historical STEP results (or at least I've not seen a clear pattern/answer yet personally!). Part of the STEP requirement is that it allows them to compare students from the same cohort, since they also get the STEP paper scripts sent to them, so they can compare how individual students approached the same questions etc. @Peterhouse Admissions might be able to advise more on how they/other colleges may handle applicants for maths who have already/previously taken STEP before applying?

Thank you! I will apply for Christ’s then.
Hi there @PXH!

(Thanks for the tags @artful_lounger and @Muttley79!)

I can't give a definitive answer about whether you would be requested to take STEP again or not. Having achieved SS, there's not a lot of room for improvement, so it's quite possible that they wouldn't. However, I wouldn't bank on that being the case - it is possible that a college would want to ensure you're maintaining your Maths skills through STEP. If you have not yet taken A Levels or equivalent, they may be content for you to maintain your Maths skills in that way, but because this decision is at the discretion of the Admissions Tutor and Director of Studies in each College, I can't say for certain what would happen, I'm afraid.
Original post by PXH
I am a Chinese student who will be applying to study mathematics at University of Cambridge this year. I already took the STEP exam and scored S(98) and S(102) in STEP 2 and 3, respectively. Is it going to make my application more competitive? I am also thinking about which college should I apply. Could you give me some suggestions?

Heya!
Congrats on your STEP results:h: That will def make you more competitive and you will probably be invited to interviews! If you need any help with selecting a college then do check out this Oxbridge comparison tool that goes over different colleges in a lot of detail to help you make a decision. You can select multiple of them and compare them side by side.

I hope this helps!
Milena G.
Oxbridge Mind

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