Careers Advice: What Does Cambridge Want In A Student?


On Monday 12 September, Jonathan Padley, an Admissions Tutor from Churchill College, Cambridge, visited Bede’s to talk to Gifted and Talented pupils about what the world’s most famous university is looking for in an application.

Mr Padley spent an hour speaking to us about why we should all aspire to achieve the best we can academically, and why Cambridge would be an ideal place for such aspirations to be taken forward.


He began by dividing what makes Cambridge unique into 4 key areas: a world class education, its collegiate supervisions system, the increased employment prospects gained by graduates, and the rounded student experience enjoyed by those it accepts.

These areas were then broken down. The ‘World Class’ education tag was easily justified by Cambridge University’s ranking as the third best university worldwide (after MIT and Harvard) in 2016.

We were shown how Cambridge’s students get regular sessions with world leaders in their field, known as Supervisions, which offer more personal and direct methods of teaching to those most passionate about their subject.


This unique, academically intensive teaching method provides graduates with some of the most desired employment skills. Within the first six months of finishing their degrees, we were told, 95% of all Cambridge graduates are in full time employment.

Yet, it was stressed to us that, when at Cambridge, not all of the terms are spent with heads in books (even though there are over 100 University libraries on site) as there are a wide variety of societies to join, from the prestigious Cambridge Rowing Team to something a little more off piste, such as Ultimate Frisbee.

After this synopsis of what could be expected as a student at Cambridge, the talk turned to a more collegiate focus and Churchill College in particular.

Bede’s has ties with Churchill College already, and it was exciting to hear that Churchill has been at top of the tables for consistent output of the best undergraduate grades, and has been within the top 6 of the 31 colleges since 2010.

We also learned that the college has a diverse intake, with 25% overseas students and 66% state educated.


Finally, it was especially surprising to find out that being a student at Cambridge is comparably cheap when compared with other universities.

To end the talk, Mr Padley turned to how we, as prospective applicants, could maximise our chances of success in application.

Unsurprisingly, topping of the list of requirements was a near-perfect academic record, as 61% of all undergraduates achieve straight A*s at A Level, with 86% achieving 2A*s and an A or higher, exceeding the minimum entry requirement for all courses of A*AA.

Of near-equal importance is to have your best written submitted work ready to share (if applying for Humanities) and a strong performance at Interview and in any Admissions Tests that the college may require you to complete.


Also vital, of course, is a school reference, as each one helps the Admissions Staff to predict what kind of a person you are, based on the opinions of your teachers – particularly as our teachers have known us for years, and offer the most accurate gauge of whether or not a given individual would be suited to a Cambridge-style of education.

All in all, the talk was a fascinating exploration of Cambridge’s many assets, and we both came away with plenty to mull over in the coming weeks.

Thank you of course to Mr Padley for all the time he gave us, including the many questions he answered after the talk, and to Mr Gibbs for organising the event.


Learn more about Bede's Gifted and Talented Provision >

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