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Undergraduate Study


Once you've decided we offer a course that you'd like to study, you need to consider College choice.

In your UCAS application, as well as listing Cambridge (institution code CAM C05) as one of your options in the 'Choices' section, you'll need to enter the appropriate College (campus) code. When it comes to selecting a College, you have two options — you can either choose a particular College to receive your application, or you can make an ‘open’ application and accept the allocation made by a computer program. In both cases, your UCAS application is sent to a College, and that College assesses it. For equally well-qualified students, making an open application or specifying a preference College makes no difference to their chances of being made an offer.

Are some Colleges better for certain subjects?

No Colleges are 'better' for certain subjects. All students on the same course, regardless of their College, attend the same lectures, seminars and practicals together, and sit the same exams. The key functions that the University (through the faculties and departments) and Colleges are responsible for are outlined in Cambridge Explained.

How to choose a College

There’s no single answer to this – everyone’s reasons for choosing their College differ. Some Colleges don’t take students in all subjects so check availability for your course first. Otherwise, we suggest that you think of choosing a College in terms of where you’d like to live, so you may want to consider the following points:

  • course, some Colleges don't take students in all subjects so check availability for the course you're interested in
  • your age — four Colleges are exclusively for students aged 21 or over (mature students), and their facilities are geared accordingly
  • your gender — three Colleges consider applications from female students only
  • size — number of students
  • appearance and type of accommodation (eg on-site or College-owned houses)
  • particular facilities
  • personal instinct — many students can’t explain why they were drawn to their College other than it just ‘felt right’ for them

The individual entries within this section introduce each College to give you an idea of what they're like and have to offer. Once you've read the College profiles you may wish to:

  1. shortlist around half a dozen.
  2. look at their websites to get more detailed information about the features, facilities and aspects that you feel are most important to you.
  3. get in touch with College admissions offices if you have any questions — the staff will be happy to answer your queries and advise you.
  4. visit a few Colleges so you can meet current students, talk to admissions and teaching staff, and see for yourself what it might be like to live and study there.

Don’t agonise over choosing a College. They have many more similarities than differences and students quickly settle in and really enjoy their College, wherever they end up!

Each year around 850 applicants are made an offer through the pool system by a different College to the one they originally applied/were allocated to. That's about 25 per cent of all offers made. 

How NOT to choose a College

We're aware that a small number of myths exist about ways of choosing a College, but you shouldn't base your decision on a misconception, such as those below.

  • Based on application statistics. Some applicants think, or are wrongly advised, that choosing a College that attracts fewer applications or making an open application will increase their chance of being made an offer. In fact, careful ongoing analysis of our admissions statistics shows that, for equally well-qualified applicants, making an open application or applying directly to a College does not affect your chance of being made an offer of a place. This is because we have rigorous procedures in place to compare all applicants for each subject before selection decisions are finalised. Strong applicants who’ve been squeezed out by the competition at their original College can be made an offer by another College through the pool. Colleges would rather admit a strong applicant from the pool than a weaker applicant who applied directly to them.
  • Travelling time. It's worth remembering that Cambridge is a compact city so, wherever you are, getting between your College and your department (on foot, by bike or by bus) isn't difficult.
  • Discounting single-sex Colleges. University teaching (lectures, practicals and seminars), is mixed and attended by students from all Colleges, and male friends are welcome in the women’s Colleges. Women may apply to any College but the women’s Colleges are able to provide an environment focused entirely on the needs and expectations of female students.
  • Age of the College. The Cambridge Colleges range in age from over 700 to 30 years. No matter how old or young a College is, it has its own traditions and history. All Colleges provide the facilities and support that you’d expect to find, together with high quality supervision and support. In other words, the age (or youth!) of a College won't affect your student experience.
  • Specialisms of a College's Fellows. Contrary to what some people believe, the research specialisms of a College's Fellows won’t dictate what you can study study or guarantee you'll be supervised by them. If a Fellow of your College is an expert in the aspects of the course you’ve chosen, you may be supervised by them. However, you'll attend supervisions at another College if that's where the relevant subject expert is based. Teaching is a level playing field across the University and is not determined by the College you attend — the differences between the Colleges lie in the ambience, not the educational opportunities.

Choosing a College