FAQs for Parents & Supporters

If you are thinking about applying to Cambridge and to Newnham, please show your parents or supporters these pages.

This is not because we think they should decide where you apply, but because we know that the Cambridge system can be confusing and, hopefully, these FAQs will give your parents or supporters helpful information and clear up any misconceptions about life at Newnham.

Parents and Supporters:
If you are the parent or supporter of a young woman who is aiming high, then have a look at this information about Newnham College, Cambridge. If you have any questions which are not answered here, you are welcome to send these to Catherine, our Admissions Coordinator.

How can I help the applicant I'm supporting to choose the right course?

Choosing the right course is the most important aspect of the university application process. Cambridge offers not only familiar school subjects, such as English, Maths or History, or vocational subjects (e.g. Medicine, Architecture), where the degree will lead to a profession, but also new subjects such as Linguistics, or Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic. To find out more about the courses on offer at Newnham, visit our Subject pages.

And the right College choice?

When choosing a college, the applicant may find it helpful to think about issues such as location (e.g. proximity to the Department), size, and College facilities. Visiting Cambridge, if possible, and having a look round several colleges is usually very helpful. At Newnham, we hold our own Open Days at several points during the year. If you are unable to come for an Open Day, we may be able to arrange an individual visit. The Cambridge Virtual Tour is also a useful resource for those who may not be able to visit the University in person and would like to have a ‘virtual look around’ different Colleges.

What can Newnham College offer them? Why should they choose Newnham?

Newnham is a college for women because it enables us to prioritise the needs of, and do the very best for, our women students. For most of its history Cambridge was a university for men only, and old patterns can take a long time to change. At Newnham, we are firmly committed to helping our students achieve their personal best and to make the most out of Cambridge as a whole.

But there are also a lot of other, very special reasons for choosing Newnham. We not only offer single bedrooms to all students for three years, but also a subsidised canteen (known as the Buttery), well-equipped kitchens with ovens (for anyone who intends to cook, ovens can be rare at other Colleges!), bathrooms and free laundry facilities. Newnham students benefit from one of the best undergraduate libraries in Cambridge, our famous Iris Café, superb gardens to relax in, and a host of recreational facilities ranging from on-site tennis courts, sports fields and a gym, to an art room, music rooms, and a dedicated performing arts space.

Are there any subjects that can't be studied at Newnham?

At Newnham, we believe that a college benefits from offering as wide a range of subjects as possible because it makes for a much more colourful and interesting community. We therefore try to ensure that even minority subjects are represented at the College each year, and we welcome applications for all subjects, except Economics.

How does being at a women’s College affect Newnham students’ social life?

There is a lot of support for women at Newnham, but life at Newnham is emphatically not single-sex. Whilst Newnham is a lively community in its own right, with a great number of College societies, it is also at the heart of a mixed University. Newnham is a springboard into University life as a whole, and our students have a reputation for doing well in all areas of University life. They can be found on the committees or even presiding over all sorts of University clubs: from theatre companies and bands to political societies and sports teams. No College is an island, and we can guarantee that your students’ diary will fill up quickly.

Is there a typical Newnham student?

No, not at all. We take pride in being a very diverse College, where students come from all sorts of different backgrounds and have all sorts of different interests. This makes for a vibrant, active atmosphere, with both students and staff always ready to support each other in trying out new things. Most importantly, our students are encouraged to be themselves and to develop their full potential.

How does Newnham select its students?

There is no blueprint for an ‘ideal’ applicant! We select our students on an individual basis, solely on academic merit. We will take all aspects of their application into account: their past academic performance, their predicted grades, reference, personal statement and their interviews. At Newnham, we aim to interview everyone who has a realistic chance of an offer. Sometimes we may ask them to submit written work beforehand or to sit an additional admissions assessment around the time of their interview, but our applicants will be told about in advance and this information is clear on the individual subjects’ webpages.

How can we help them through the application process? It seems complicated!

We are very aware that the application procedure can seem quite daunting to our applicants, and we certainly do our best to put them at ease. Here are some ideas for additional support: Remind the person you’re supporting to focus on their reasons for choosing a particular subject when they are writing their personal statement. What have they done to find out more about it?

When preparing for interview, the applicant may find it helpful to chat to you or those around them about their interests, in order to get used to talking about the chosen subject. However, they should avoid learning prepared speeches by heart, since the interview is a two-way process and candidates who are able to be spontaneous in their thinking often perform better at interview. Interviews tend to be discursive and so being able to discuss topics or questions is more important than reciting knowledge in a certain area.  Before interview, applicants also ought to re-read their personal statement, and any written work that we asked them to send in, as these will almost certainly be discussed.

How do you tell applicants about the progress of their application?

Interviews usually take place in early to mid December, and we will send out more detailed information in advance. In late January, we will send decisions by email to all applicants, telling them whether we were able to offer them a place or not. Offer conditions will be specified in this letter.

Sometimes we may recommend strong applicants for consideration by other Colleges by placing their applications in the ‘Winter Pool‘. The ‘Pool’ is designed to even out applications across the Colleges. It takes place in January. If any application is ‘pooled’, the applicant may be asked to attend a further interview at another College, though this is very unusual. About one in five of all Cambridge applicants who are pooled receives an offer. After examination results are published in August, we can confirm applicants’ places if they have met the offer conditions that we set (i.e. A level grades).

We hope that applicants will find the interview experience useful, even if we cannot offer them a place. If unsuccessful, applicants can request feedback, but we do prefer to receive requests from schools/colleges instead as we find providing feedback to schools, rather than to the applicants themselves, means that the feedback is discussed within the context of their current academic performance and other university applications.

Who looks after students at Newnham?

There are several Senior Members who are particularly important to Newnham undergraduates. The Director of Studies advises on course choices and lectures, and organises supervisions (small-group teaching). As a pastoral adviser, a student’s Tutor can discuss anything from personal and emotional issues to financial difficulties. The Senior Tutor oversees the work of the Directors of Studies and Tutors.  The Tutorial and Admissions Office also plays a key role in supporting students and works closely with Senior Members and other staff within College and across the University to make sure students get the support they need.

Newnham is a non-denominational College and welcomes members of all faiths and none. However, we share a Chaplain with Selwyn College, who is available to all Newnham students, regardless of their religious (or non-religious) persuasion.

Health and wellbeing is very important in an intense academic environment. The College Nurse can always help with minor health complaints. In addition, all students enrol with an NHS doctor – the closest surgery is just a minute’s walk away from the College! We also have a part-time College Counsellor for students to see if they need emotional support – and there is the University Counselling Service as well. The College also has a Disability Officer and the College works closely with the University’s Accessibility and Disability Resource Centre to make sure additional support is in place where students need it.

Last but not least there are the friends a student makes during their time at university. Newnham has a reputation for being a very friendly College, and every year the current students welcome the newcomers with specially organised events at the beginning of the academic year. First years (also known as ‘Freshers’) are also allocated ‘College parents’ (students from another year group) to help them get to know the College and settle in. The College parents network also means that first years get to know students from other years and the wider Newnham community.

How much will it cost to study at Cambridge and at Newnham?

Probably less than you think! Cambridge is no more expensive than other universities (and often cheaper), and the University and Newnham together can provide plenty of financial support where needed. See our Costs & Funding section.

Will there be any financial support?

See our Costs & Funding section and Bursaries and Grants page.

Can parents contact the Admissions Office if they have any questions?

You are always welcome to get in touch with our Admissions Team and we’re happy to talk more about Newnham, subject suitability or other questions you may have. However, due to GDPR, once the UCAS application has been submitted, we will only be able to be in contact with the applicant or their UCAS referee. We can only discuss the application with you if we first have written permission from the applicant.