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Cambridge Natsci Admissions

So what's it take to make it to Cambridge Natsci from the US? I know what the minimum requirements are but I know those who make it are far beyond that. What do US applicants have to do to make themselves stand out the most and grab the attention of admissions to receive an offer?

I am asking because the UK system is so different from the US. I certainly meet the academic requirements for the application (35 ACT, 3.94 GPA unweighted, 5s on BC Calc, EnvSci, Chemistry, Biology, Physics I, US History, 1 of the econs AP tests) and I think I have a bit more strength chemistry wise as I've published a chemistry research paper in MDPI polymers (currently working on a different project that's a bit more engineering focused) and scored in the top 30 in my state in the Chemistry Olympiad. However, I've spent a lot of my energy invested in extracurriculars and I'm also a state championship qualifier in swimming and All-Eastern Mucisian. Do my extracurriculars hold any weight in admissions whatsoever? I'm currently a senior but I'm very determined to go to the UK to complete my education and I'm even considering a gap year to prepare for the admissions. I'm also strongly considering Imperial College London, UCL, UManchester.

I did not mean to show off in anyway - I just wanted to provide an overview of myself for you to evaluate - if you need any info please let me know. I'm so unfamiliar with the UK system and I know they really only care about academics as opposed to the US colleges that will consider so many things. I want to be in an environment where academic excellence in a specific is the priority so I'm pretty deadset on studying in the UK.

Sorry for the length but basically - please help me!!! Any advice would be appreciated big time

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Reply 1
So for Cambridge's Admissions to Natural Sciences. There are generally a few components in play:


1. The mathematics component. In the UK system, this means A Level Math & Further Math. The American equivalent would be taking AP Calc AB and Calc BC in addition to AP Stats. I would recommend taking AP Stats since you've covered the Calc requirements.

2. The sciences component. The entry requirements state that a combination of A Level Physics, Chemistry and Biology will be beneficial. If you are focusing on physics, you'll need to take AP Physics II... otherwise you should be fine.

3. The admissions test. Cambridge will make you take a natural sciences admissions test so be sure to check that out and practice that. This exam plays a key role in your admissions (perhaps even more so than some of your AP grades).

4. As for most UK universities, extracurricular unrelated to the subject are pretty much useless. But the extracurricular you've mentioned such as chemistry Olympiads and writing a research paper will certainly help a lot! Just be sure to write a superb personal statement which includes these accomplishments and expresses your love for chemistry.

Your GPA and ACT scores are good but these really are more of a hygiene factor in your admissions. They won't be as important as your grades in your AP courses.

US admissions to Cambridge are a bit on the low side though. The American system has a liberal arts education philosophy (a lot of gen ed courses and quite broad) whereas the UK system is a lot more specialized (a lot of work is done way before you even reach university). But I do think the AP courses are relatively equivalent to the A Level ones, so that shouldn't be much of a problem.

Apply now. If you get accepted, congrats!
If you don't, I think it would be because of your qualifications and not your extracurricular. Ideally, it would be amazing if you could do the A Levels as a private candidate because Cambridge isn't as familiar with the AP system. Your gap year will enable you to do this (if you want). There's always time to apply the following year anyways!
Reply 2
Original post by Zacky VT
So for Cambridge's Admissions to Natural Sciences. There are generally a few components in play:


1. The mathematics component. In the UK system, this means A Level Math & Further Math. The American equivalent would be taking AP Calc AB and Calc BC in addition to AP Stats. I would recommend taking AP Stats since you've covered the Calc requirements.

2. The sciences component. The entry requirements state that a combination of A Level Physics, Chemistry and Biology will be beneficial. If you are focusing on physics, you'll need to take AP Physics II... otherwise you should be fine.

3. The admissions test. Cambridge will make you take a natural sciences admissions test so be sure to check that out and practice that. This exam plays a key role in your admissions (perhaps even more so than some of your AP grades).

4. As for most UK universities, extracurricular unrelated to the subject are pretty much useless. But the extracurricular you've mentioned such as chemistry Olympiads and writing a research paper will certainly help a lot! Just be sure to write a superb personal statement which includes these accomplishments and expresses your love for chemistry.

Your GPA and ACT scores are good but these really are more of a hygiene factor in your admissions. They won't be as important as your grades in your AP courses.

US admissions to Cambridge are a bit on the low side though. The American system has a liberal arts education philosophy (a lot of gen ed courses and quite broad) whereas the UK system is a lot more specialized (a lot of work is done way before you even reach university). But I do think the AP courses are relatively equivalent to the A Level ones, so that shouldn't be much of a problem.

Apply now. If you get accepted, congrats!
If you don't, I think it would be because of your qualifications and not your extracurricular. Ideally, it would be amazing if you could do the A Levels as a private candidate because Cambridge isn't as familiar with the AP system. Your gap year will enable you to do this (if you want). There's always time to apply the following year anyways!

Thanks so much! I'm a senior in high school right now so I don't think I'll be too interested in taking a gap year and taking even more APs or A Levels but I'll keep it in mind if it comes to it. I'm seriously considering a gap year to prepare for the test and interview mostly - and deferring any admissions offers that I'll receive.

Is there any particular reason US admissions are lower?
Original post by Anonymous
So what's it take to make it to Cambridge Natsci from the US? I know what the minimum requirements are but I know those who make it are far beyond that. What do US applicants have to do to make themselves stand out the most and grab the attention of admissions to receive an offer?

I am asking because the UK system is so different from the US. I certainly meet the academic requirements for the application (35 ACT, 3.94 GPA unweighted, 5s on BC Calc, EnvSci, Chemistry, Biology, Physics I, US History, 1 of the econs AP tests) and I think I have a bit more strength chemistry wise as I've published a chemistry research paper in MDPI polymers (currently working on a different project that's a bit more engineering focused) and scored in the top 30 in my state in the Chemistry Olympiad. However, I've spent a lot of my energy invested in extracurriculars and I'm also a state championship qualifier in swimming and All-Eastern Mucisian. Do my extracurriculars hold any weight in admissions whatsoever? I'm currently a senior but I'm very determined to go to the UK to complete my education and I'm even considering a gap year to prepare for the admissions. I'm also strongly considering Imperial College London, UCL, UManchester.

I did not mean to show off in anyway - I just wanted to provide an overview of myself for you to evaluate - if you need any info please let me know. I'm so unfamiliar with the UK system and I know they really only care about academics as opposed to the US colleges that will consider so many things. I want to be in an environment where academic excellence in a specific is the priority so I'm pretty deadset on studying in the UK.

Sorry for the length but basically - please help me!!! Any advice would be appreciated big time

Non-academic extracurricular activities normally don't matter very much for Oxford and Cambridge in the UK (also somewhat for most UK unis, although others might be a little more interested in those kind of things). It's not like the US where they want you to be captain of every sports team, play 15 instruments and to travel to 3rd world countries building houses - in the UK unis really more than anything just care about your academics.



Your academic activities including academic related extracurriculars (commonly called "supercurriculars" here) are more than sufficient I think though. The main factor will really be any pre-interview admissions assessment (the NSAA currently, although this won't be run after 2024 I think) and then the interview. Cambridge tends to invite the majority of applicants to interview unless there are glaring issues in the academic record I understand (the exception is maths at Trinity for various reasons), so I imagine you would be fairly likely to be interviewed unless you bomb on the NSAA (assuming it's still running when you apply).



Original post by Zacky VT
So for Cambridge's Admissions to Natural Sciences. There are generally a few components in play:


1. The mathematics component. In the UK system, this means A Level Math & Further Math. The American equivalent would be taking AP Calc AB and Calc BC in addition to AP Stats. I would recommend taking AP Stats since you've covered the Calc requirements.

2. The sciences component. The entry requirements state that a combination of A Level Physics, Chemistry and Biology will be beneficial. If you are focusing on physics, you'll need to take AP Physics II... otherwise you should be fine.

3. The admissions test. Cambridge will make you take a natural sciences admissions test so be sure to check that out and practice that. This exam plays a key role in your admissions (perhaps even more so than some of your AP grades).

4. As for most UK universities, extracurricular unrelated to the subject are pretty much useless. But the extracurricular you've mentioned such as chemistry Olympiads and writing a research paper will certainly help a lot! Just be sure to write a superb personal statement which includes these accomplishments and expresses your love for chemistry.

Your GPA and ACT scores are good but these really are more of a hygiene factor in your admissions. They won't be as important as your grades in your AP courses.

US admissions to Cambridge are a bit on the low side though. The American system has a liberal arts education philosophy (a lot of gen ed courses and quite broad) whereas the UK system is a lot more specialized (a lot of work is done way before you even reach university). But I do think the AP courses are relatively equivalent to the A Level ones, so that shouldn't be much of a problem.

Apply now. If you get accepted, congrats!
If you don't, I think it would be because of your qualifications and not your extracurricular. Ideally, it would be amazing if you could do the A Levels as a private candidate because Cambridge isn't as familiar with the AP system. Your gap year will enable you to do this (if you want). There's always time to apply the following year anyways!

Students usually just do Calc AB or BC - the curricula overlap, it's not like A-level maths and further maths where they are separate subjects here. I think AP Stats wouldn't really be necessary for admissions purposes (although may well be useful once on the course, particularly for bio natsci options). Since A-level Physics is algebra based I imagine physics B is acceptable, although physics C is probably better preparation for degree level study here (and there).

Cambridge will be plenty familiar with the AP system, they get more than enough US applicants every year. Taking A-levels in addition would be completely pointless.
Original post by Anonymous
Is there any particular reason US admissions are lower?

I think it's somewhat more complex than presented by the above poster. Certainly there is an element of US applicants being less familiar with the exact requirements and focuses of the UK uni admissions system, and so may think because they would be a strong applicant at US colleges they will necessarily be a strong applicant for UK unis, but because their profile focused much more on being an "all rounder" rather than specific preparation and expertise in their intended subject area, they may be more average in relative terms.

Also the cost may put off a lot of US students, even if they can get federal loans - since international fee levels here are comparable to some of the more expensive private colleges in the US (even before accounting for paying for flights, any visa related costs, etc, etc). And unlike the US there are very few formal scholarships in the UK, mainly just bursaries to support with costs, and none that I know of which will offer a "full ride" that are offered by the uni itself (rather than a third party e.g. Fulbright, Marshall, Gates etc).

Finally quite a few US students may apply to a large number of unis and colleges in the UK, the US, and elsewhere, and simply not choose the UK uni compared to others and thus while they may get an offer, they do not ultimately accept it. So this affects they overall apparent success rate (which is based on those that actually accept the offer and matriculate), so it may be prudent to look at the offer rate rather than success rate.
Reply 5
Original post by artful_lounger
Non-academic extracurricular activities normally don't matter very much for Oxford and Cambridge in the UK (also somewhat for most UK unis, although others might be a little more interested in those kind of things). It's not like the US where they want you to be captain of every sports team, play 15 instruments and to travel to 3rd world countries building houses - in the UK unis really more than anything just care about your academics.



Your academic activities including academic related extracurriculars (commonly called "supercurriculars" here) are more than sufficient I think though. The main factor will really be any pre-interview admissions assessment (the NSAA currently, although this won't be run after 2024 I think) and then the interview. Cambridge tends to invite the majority of applicants to interview unless there are glaring issues in the academic record I understand (the exception is maths at Trinity for various reasons), so I imagine you would be fairly likely to be interviewed unless you bomb on the NSAA (assuming it's still running when you apply).




Students usually just do Calc AB or BC - the curricula overlap, it's not like A-level maths and further maths where they are separate subjects here. I think AP Stats wouldn't really be necessary for admissions purposes (although may well be useful once on the course, particularly for bio natsci options). Since A-level Physics is algebra based I imagine physics B is acceptable, although physics C is probably better preparation for degree level study here (and there).

Cambridge will be plenty familiar with the AP system, they get more than enough US applicants every year. Taking A-levels in addition would be completely pointless.


Thanks for the info - glad to hear some of my extracurriculars will matter. I was never super serious about swimming or cello - I just happened to pick them up and be quite good, they are most definitely secondary to my academic ambitions, though I doubt I could live without them.

Although I will likely to field some respectable offers from the US I am almost certainly going to take a gap year to move - the liberal arts curriculum is absolutely not for me! Glad to hear how serious things are about academics in the UK.
Reply 6
Original post by artful_lounger
I think it's somewhat more complex than presented by the above poster. Certainly there is an element of US applicants being less familiar with the exact requirements and focuses of the UK uni admissions system, and so may think because they would be a strong applicant at US colleges they will necessarily be a strong applicant for UK unis, but because their profile focused much more on being an "all rounder" rather than specific preparation and expertise in their intended subject area, they may be more average in relative terms.

Also the cost may put off a lot of US students, even if they can get federal loans - since international fee levels here are comparable to some of the more expensive private colleges in the US (even before accounting for paying for flights, any visa related costs, etc, etc). And unlike the US there are very few formal scholarships in the UK, mainly just bursaries to support with costs, and none that I know of which will offer a "full ride" that are offered by the uni itself (rather than a third party e.g. Fulbright, Marshall, Gates etc).

Finally quite a few US students may apply to a large number of unis and colleges in the UK, the US, and elsewhere, and simply not choose the UK uni compared to others and thus while they may get an offer, they do not ultimately accept it. So this affects they overall apparent success rate (which is based on those that actually accept the offer and matriculate), so it may be prudent to look at the offer rate rather than success rate.

On the last note: Is there any way for me to convey a very strong interest in Cambridge? For me its not another option, its a 99%+ chance I will attend if I can receive an offer. I am not wealthy compared to the cost for the schools I am looking at, Cambridge is extremely manageable and might even save me upwards of 80k because of the 3-year system in the UK.

I'm somewhat well rounded but I think I can definitely focus on enhancing the Natural science aspects of my application
Original post by Anonymous
Thanks for the info - glad to hear some of my extracurriculars will matter. I was never super serious about swimming or cello - I just happened to pick them up and be quite good, they are most definitely secondary to my academic ambitions, though I doubt I could live without them.

Although I will likely to field some respectable offers from the US I am almost certainly going to take a gap year to move - the liberal arts curriculum is absolutely not for me! Glad to hear how serious things are about academics in the UK.

Don't get me wrong - this is just in terms of admissions that they aren't really interested in non-related things. There will certainly be opportunity to engage in those and other activities once you actually start at uni in the UK. There are lots of sports facilities at Cambridge (although I think Girton is the only college with its own pool, there is the uni sports centre otherwise) and no doubt plenty of opportunity to get involved in music within your college and in the wider university I would expect. It just won't usually affect an admissions decision.
Reply 8
Original post by artful_lounger
Don't get me wrong - this is just in terms of admissions that they aren't really interested in non-related things. There will certainly be opportunity to engage in those and other activities once you actually start at uni in the UK. There are lots of sports facilities at Cambridge (although I think Girton is the only college with its own pool, there is the uni sports centre otherwise) and no doubt plenty of opportunity to get involved in music within your college and in the wider university I would expect. It just won't usually affect an admissions decision.

I definitely understand, that's what I wanted out of a college experience anyway. The only kids making top schools like Ivies in the US from my area are lacrosse players with 1200 SATs and I've been searching for something better. I'm not too sure where to get info on Cambridge's swim team or the university orchestra (I've heard its difficult to make?) but I suppose that comes later.

Thank you so much for your time.
Original post by Anonymous
On the last note: Is there any way for me to convey a very strong interest in Cambridge? For me its not another option, its a 99%+ chance I will attend if I can receive an offer. I am not wealthy compared to the cost for the schools I am looking at, Cambridge is extremely manageable and might even save me upwards of 80k because of the 3-year system in the UK.

I'm somewhat well rounded but I think I can definitely focus on enhancing the Natural science aspects of my application

To be fair, I think they sort of assume most people applying will have them as their main choice so unlikely to be an issue. If you wanted to discuss particular aspects of the Cambridge nat sci course you find appealing then there is the option to submit an optional additional personal statement in the SAQ. This may be particularly relevant if you are applying to non-nat sci courses elsewhere (e.g. nat sci at Cambridge and chemistry at other unis - then you can have your UCAS statement be chemistry focused and discuss the opportunities nat sci offers a chemist particularly in the SAQ additional statement).

Note that while the course is 3 years typically, I think it's relatively unusual for those doing physical natsci options (chemistry, physics, astrophysics earth sciences, materials science) to not do the 4th year integrated masters. That said I'm fairly sure it's possible to exit with just the BA if you wish after 3 years (most bio nat sci options don't have a integrated masters 4th year, except biochemistry and systems biology I believe).

One thing to note though in terms of cost, Cambridge is a very expensive city to live in, although the colleges try to subsidise the cost of accommodation a fair bit relative to market rental rates in the city. But still, worth bearing in mind. That said the terms are shorter which gives you potentially longer breaks between terms to find work/internships/etc, which might balance things out - however for an international student this gets balanced against the fact you're usually required to move out of college between terms and then you need to pay plane tickets to go home (or find somewhere else to stay in the interim).
(edited 11 months ago)
Reply 10
Original post by artful_lounger
To be fair, I think they sort of assume most people applying will have them as their main choice so unlikely to be an issue. If you wanted to discuss particular aspects of the Cambridge nat sci course you find appealing then there is the option to submit an optional additional personal statement in the SAQ. This may be particularly relevant if you are applying to non-nat sci courses elsewhere (e.g. nat sci at Cambridge and chemistry at other unis - then you can have your UCAS statement be chemistry focused and discuss the opportunities nat sci offers a chemist particularly in the SAQ additional statement).

Note that while the course is 3 years typically, I think it's relatively unusual for those doing physical natsci options (chemistry, physics, astrophysics earth sciences, materials science) to not do the 4th year integrated masters. That said I'm fairly sure it's possible to exit with just the BA if you wish after 3 years (most bio nat sci options don't have a integrated masters 4th year, except biochemistry and systems biology I believe).


Sounds good, thank you! The masters just makes it even better - in the US it would likely take about 6 years to achieve the same credentials.
Original post by Anonymous
I definitely understand, that's what I wanted out of a college experience anyway. The only kids making top schools like Ivies in the US from my area are lacrosse players with 1200 SATs and I've been searching for something better. I'm not too sure where to get info on Cambridge's swim team or the university orchestra (I've heard its difficult to make?) but I suppose that comes later.

Thank you so much for your time.

Not sure how the competitive sports things go aside from a vague awareness of rowing being very popular and there being a big race against Oxford every year. I've no doubt there are some opportunities (although I don't think Cambridge is especially known for performance in BUCS, the UK inter-university sporting league).

Can't comment on music options really but between the university itself and all the colleges, I imagine there are a fair number of opportunities of varying scales. I believe the music department lets other students book music practice rooms and pay for lessons even if they aren't music students, although I may be misinformed there!
Reply 12
Original post by artful_lounger
Not sure how the competitive sports things go aside from a vague awareness of rowing being very popular and there being a big race against Oxford every year. I've no doubt there are some opportunities (although I don't think Cambridge is especially known for performance in BUCS, the UK inter-university sporting league).

Can't comment on music options really but between the university itself and all the colleges, I imagine there are a fair number of opportunities of varying scales. I believe the music department lets other students book music practice rooms and pay for lessons even if they aren't music students, although I may be misinformed there!


How could I find out more about the BUCs competitiveness at Cambridge? I'm super interested in competing in BUCs swimming and I haven't been able to find much info on the Cambridge Swim Websites.
Original post by Anonymous
How could I find out more about the BUCs competitiveness at Cambridge? I'm super interested in competing in BUCs swimming and I haven't been able to find much info on the Cambridge Swim Websites.

Not really sure, ask during an open day I guess? Also check the BUCS webpages.

Generally Loughborough, Durham, and Exeter tend to dominate the BUCS leagues in most areas as they're the "sporty" unis. Not sure how Cambridge fares for swimming specifically.
Reply 14
Original post by artful_lounger
Not really sure, ask during an open day I guess? Also check the BUCS webpages.

Generally Loughborough, Durham, and Exeter tend to dominate the BUCS leagues in most areas as they're the "sporty" unis. Not sure how Cambridge fares for swimming specifically.


My priority is academics so I'll likely stay the course for Cambridge but thanks for all the info!
Reply 15
Ok, sport isn’t going to get u in unless it’s rowing.

There is fancy new sports centre and gym on the west Cambridge site, but no pool.

In terms of music, there are scholarships but generally worth a few ££ hundred. Esp choral scholarships…
Reply 16
Original post by Kazibar
Ok, sport isn’t going to get u in unless it’s rowing.

There is fancy new sports centre and gym on the west Cambridge site, but no pool.

In terms of music, there are scholarships but generally worth a few ££ hundred. Esp choral scholarships…


Not expecting it to, I had heard that mentioning it in a personal statement along with academics could reflect a good way to say how I'd fit in and also how I've been able to excel academically while having other things on the side
If you are a senior aren't you too late to apply for 2023 entry?
Original post by Anonymous
So what's it take to make it to Cambridge Natsci from the US? I know what the minimum requirements are but I know those who make it are far beyond that. What do US applicants have to do to make themselves stand out the most and grab the attention of admissions to receive an offer?

I am asking because the UK system is so different from the US. I certainly meet the academic requirements for the application (35 ACT, 3.94 GPA unweighted, 5s on BC Calc, EnvSci, Chemistry, Biology, Physics I, US History, 1 of the econs AP tests) and I think I have a bit more strength chemistry wise as I've published a chemistry research paper in MDPI polymers (currently working on a different project that's a bit more engineering focused) and scored in the top 30 in my state in the Chemistry Olympiad. However, I've spent a lot of my energy invested in extracurriculars and I'm also a state championship qualifier in swimming and All-Eastern Mucisian. Do my extracurriculars hold any weight in admissions whatsoever? I'm currently a senior but I'm very determined to go to the UK to complete my education and I'm even considering a gap year to prepare for the admissions. I'm also strongly considering Imperial College London, UCL, UManchester.

I did not mean to show off in anyway - I just wanted to provide an overview of myself for you to evaluate - if you need any info please let me know. I'm so unfamiliar with the UK system and I know they really only care about academics as opposed to the US colleges that will consider so many things. I want to be in an environment where academic excellence in a specific is the priority so I'm pretty deadset on studying in the UK.

Sorry for the length but basically - please help me!!! Any advice would be appreciated big time


If you are a senior, is that the last year at high school in America? Have you not missed the application deadline then for UK universities for those starting university this September?
Original post by Anonymous
Not expecting it to, I had heard that mentioning it in a personal statement along with academics could reflect a good way to say how I'd fit in and also how I've been able to excel academically while having other things on the side

Hey, I got an offer for nat sci at Cambridge so I'd just like to mention some things...
They don't care if you'll fit in because of your extracurriculars, or if you can balance the work with other stuff. Often they don't even read the bit about extracurriculars or volunteering - as an admissions tutor said to me "we couldn't care less if you are a nice person or not "
Other unis like you to be a "rounded individual" and be able to balance work with other stuff, but Cambridge doesn't care.
They care about your academic abilities, and how you think, so target your personal statement towards this. Mention the chemistry paper, and another other reading, lectures, online courses etc that you've done. If you want more ideas, I've got a list of stuff they like to see, so of you need ideas, feel free to ask.

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