MFin applications are open this year until the end of May, one month less than last year. We currently offer a place to everyone who meets the necessary standard. This could change if we had so many successful applicants that the total exceeded our capacity of 60 per year. That’s unlikely this year but not impossible, given that last year we saw a rise in students from 33 to 45. When we do face that situation, we’ll have to use a wait-listing or reserve-list process. It won’t be first come, first served, we will want to select the best applicants.
But there are advantages to candidates and to us of earlier applications, especially if you’re a non-EU applicant.
First, you get a better choice of college if you apply early. Colleges have a fixed amount of capacity for graduate students and they start filling up quite early in the calendar year. By April or May, many have stopped taking MFin students. There is never any risk of not getting any college place but student preferences become increasingly irrelevant as the months go by.
Second, scholarships close. Gates (for non-US candidates) closed on 2 December this year. It’s fiercely competitive but worth a shot for the best qualified candidates.
Third, there is more time to get a visa. I cannot take any pride in the effectiveness of the UK Border Agency, which has been starved of funds along with other parts of the UK public sector. It is very nerve-racking to be waiting for weeks for a student visa as the course start date gets every closer. It’s much more comfortable to apply early in the year and have plenty of time to get the visa.
Fourth, you can finish off work in a smoother way. We have some students rushing to complete a project who end up having no break before the course. We strongly recommend a holiday before coming to Cambridge, as this is going to be a period of considerable hard work and you need to arrive relaxed and refreshed, not frazzled.
Lastly, you have more time to ask any questions, plan your accommodation, adjust to life in the UK, get in touch with the other new students in the class and all those other things that for oversees students can be time consuming and occasionally bewildering.