Cambridge Maths Application (Worried about Conditional Offer Timing?)

I’m planning on applying to Cambridge this week for Maths! Unfortunately for me, I’ve been doing some more reading these past couple of days into what the UK notification deadline is actually like. I expect that if I receive an offer from Cambridge, it will be a conditional one involving STEP, which comes out in mid-August - problematically, after registration dates for most U.S. colleges. Anyone have experience with this?

Suddenly regretting picking Cambridge over Oxford, who gives places after taking the MAT (on Nov 3) + interview. However, not sure if I could change my choices (would there be a problem with references? my personal statement is kind of Cambridge-focused too, and I’m wondering if I’d have regrets. Additionally, though the MAT is easier than STEP, I’m doubting my ability to well on a half-a-month timeframe to study).

Lastly, anyone have experience with what AP tests Cambridge generally uses to give conditional offers? I’m assuming Stats and the two Physics C tests for me this year - my current scores wouldn’t be enough, right?

I currently have scores for:
AP Calc BC (2021, 5, 5 AB subscore)
AP Comp Sci A (2020, 5)
AP Chemistry (2021, 5)
AP Physics 1 (2020, 4 - not ideal, my first test under change to COVID system but … yeah not ideal)

Kind of unrelated APs:
AP Microeconomics (2020, 5)
AP Psychology (2021, 5)
AP English Lang (2021, 5)
AP Chinese Lang (2019, 5)
AP US History (2021, 5)

Taking this year:
AP Stats
AP Physics C (both, not doing the ~greatest right now but I have an A)
AP Gov, AP Macroecon
AP English Lit

SAT of 1580: 800 Math, 780 EBRW

Thank you so much!

You are right about the timing of the STEP paper results, and there is nothing for it.

The norm in the UK is that you apply to up to 5 courses (same fee, same essay, same LoR), and once you have your offers (conditional or not), you ‘Firm’ your first choice and ‘Insure’ your second choice. As you know what your conditions are from each uni, you choose the one to ‘insure’ from either an unconditional offer or an offer that you are certain you can make. St Andrews, Imperial, Warwick and Durham all have excellent math programs and with the possible exception of Imperial you would be very likely to get an offer from all of them.

Are you taking any ‘real’ math, or just stats this year? If not, what are you doing that’s math-y in your own time? It is possible (though unlikely) for your only condition to be your results on the STEP paper. Somebody is sure to point out that the 4 in Physics 1 will hurt. Is your surname such that people might think that Chinese is a heritage language for you?

Your biggest challenge in shifting your application to Oxford is getting registered for the MAT by tomorrow, as well as any PS and LoR editing, and then of course prepping to take it in 2 weeks.

1 Like

You’ll have to choose a US school (or apply to some of the other UK schools that should provide an unconditional offer) and proceed as if you’re attending until your Cambridge acceptance is sorted out.

I think that Oxford might make your acceptance conditional on physics C, too. You have a lot to lose and not much to gain by switching around apps at this point.

Admittedly, you might know by May rather than August, but you’d still have to treat a conditional offer the way you’d treat a waitlist by a US college.

However, I don’t think they’d care in the least about whether Chinese is a heritage language for you.

Thanks for your reply, collegemom!

I’m assuming this means that if I receive a conditional offer ~January from UK schools, I will have to commit before May 1st to either the UK or US systems? (to register for my top choice US school or deal with the firm/insurance system?) Would it be possible to commit to a school in the U.S. before my STEP results come out?

I am just taking stats in school this year, but am working through the Art of Problem Solving books and doing some reading on my own time. Also will likely take linear algebra at my local community college sometime second semester (I wanted to leave 1st semester’s extra time to write college applications in), though I’m assuming if that’s second semester it’s not ideal.

My surname is a very common Chinese one, and I think many would assume it as a heritage language for me, which is (for the most part) true. I do try to learn languages as a hobby (I’ve currently been learning Russian for a little under a year), so there’s something to be said for that, although I don’t have any testing credentials for it.

Any suggestions to make up the poor grade physics-wise?

I have quite a few American EAs to finish before May 1st that I don’t want to totally jeopardize if I spend all my time on MAT-studying, so I think I’ll probably stick with Cambridge over Oxford (likely adding a couple of choices on the UCAS App and editing my PS a bit).

Oh, so I can treat it like a waitlist, then? It would make sense to apply for Cambridge if Oxford gives conditional based on AP Tests, too, as those only come out in August.

Thanks for making me feel a bit better about my decision.

You can commit to a school in the US and firm and insure two universities in the UK. Neither system cares about the other. If you were to switch to Cambridge in August after having committed to a US school in May, you’d lose your deposit at the US school, but that’s it.


No, AP scores come out in early July- usually around the 4th or 5th. Just clarifying- don’t expect it to change your decisions!

Good plan