skip to content

Undergraduate Study


Once you've decided on a course 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.

You can either choose a particular College or, if you don’t have a preference, 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?

Regardless of their College, all students on the same course, attend the same lectures, seminars and practicals, 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

Everyone’s reasons for choosing their College differ. Some Colleges don’t take students in all subjects so check availability for your course first (listed in Courses and Colleges fact files). Otherwise, you may want to consider the following points:

  • Your age - three Colleges are exclusively for students aged 21 or older (mature students), and their facilities are geared accordingly
  • Your gender - two 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 (eg for certain sports, performing arts etc)
  • Personal instinct - it just ‘feels right’

Take a look at the College profiles on this website for an idea of what each College is like and what they have to offer. Once you've done that, 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.  explore the Colleges on our Virtual Tour or visit a few Colleges so you can meet current students 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 settle in quickly and really enjoy their College, whichever that ends up being!

It’s the University (not your College) that determines course content and students from all Colleges study together in the University’s academic faculties and departments.

For equally well-qualified students, indicating a College preference or not (an ‘open’ application) doesn’t affect your chances of being made an offer. Interviewers can’t see whether you made an open application or selected a preferred College, and in a typical year, around 900-1,000 applicants are made an offer through the pool system from a different College to the one they originally applied/were allocated to. That’s more than one in five of all offers made. 

How NOT to choose a College

  • 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 -  Cambridge is a compact (and fairly flat!) city so wherever you are, it’s easy to travel between your College and your department on foot, by bike or by bus.
  • Age of the College - your student experience isn’t dependent on the age of a College. They all provide the facilities and support you’d expect and each has its own traditions and history.
  • Specialisms of College Fellows -  the research specialisms of a College’s Fellows won’t dictate what you can study or guarantee you’ll be supervised by them. You’ll attend supervisions at another College if that’s where the relevant supervisor is based.

Choosing a College at Cambridge