Shadowing Scheme

what is the shadowing scheme?

The Shadowing Scheme is a university access scheme designed by current Cambridge undergraduates and run by Cambridge Students' Union (Cambridge SU). The Scheme is for home students in their penultimate year of secondary school, with little family history of attending University, who go to schools where few people progress to University. We also prioritise students who:

  • Are eligible for free school meals
  • Are refugees
  • Have caring responsibilities
  • Have been/are in local authority care
  • Are estranged

In February, participants come to Cambridge, 'shadow' an undergraduate mentor who is studying a subject they are interested in, attend lectures, stay in student accommodation, meet lots of current students at a range of events and activities, and get advice on applying to Cambridge from staff and students.

Participants can also stay in contact with their Mentor after the Scheme, and attend online application and study skills sessions in summer, in order to help them make well-informed, successful University applications.

The Scheme is free to all Shadows, including accommodation, meals and travel. 

What is Cambridge teaching like?

Is the Scheme accessible to me?

Are there activities I will enjoy?


  • Shadow your Mentor, a current Cambridge undergraduate, in Cambridge for three days
  • 1-1 mentoring through a safe online platform before and after the Scheme
  • Attend lectures and supervisions (teaching in a small group) with your Mentor
  • Go to events and activities with other Shadows and current students
  • Tours of the city and colleges
  • Admissions talks with University staff

The Scheme is for students with little family history of attending University, who go to schools where few people progress to University. We especially welcome applications from those from WP (Widening Participation) backgrounds. Students beginning Year 12 in England and Wales, Year 13 in Northern Ireland, or S5 in Scotland, are eligible for the Shadowing Scheme. For 2025, we are also focused on students from Scotland and the North of England in particularly.

If you're in your penultimate year of secondary education and you meet some of the criteria listed above then the Shadowing Scheme is absolutely for you. We can't guarantee that you will love Cambridge or choose to apply to the University, but we can guarantee that you will leave the Scheme knowing a lot more about what it is really like to be a Cambridge student. We want you to have the support, experiences and information available for you to feel confident about whatever decisions you make about University. This includes building friendships with other prospective students, asking honest questions to current students, and having a Cambridge Admissions Tutor explain to you exactly how the process of applying to Cambridge works.

We would love you to come to Cambridge. The Scheme is put together to give you an authentic sense of what it is like here, behind all the myths and stereotypes, to see if you could love it too!

The residential aspect of the scheme will last for three days, and when you apply you'll get to choose between three possible weeks to attend. The dates for the 2025 Scheme are:

  • Sunday 2nd to Tuesday 4th February 2025
  • Sunday 9th to Tuesday 11th February 2025
  • Sunday 16th to Tuesday 18th February 2025

Applications for the 2025 Shadowing Scheme open on GCSE results day, 22nd August 2024. Applications close on 16th October 2024, with the deadline for guardian and teacher consent forms on 23rd October. There is a possibility that consent forms will get sent to junk/spam inboxes so please make sure to check these once a student has applied.

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