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The Big 'Which Cambridge College?' Thread

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I don't know if this is in the right place, but it seems suitable.

Hey everybody, now it's the summery holidays I've began thinking about which Cambridge college I should apply to. I've narrowed my criteria down to a few points, and if anybody could advise me as to which ticks the most boxes I would be thankful.

Strong Drama Society

Good LBGT community

Old/Castle-y Feel

Ability to learn a new language there and learn music - not tied to a degree, but just for fun.

Thanks in advance.

Homerton is well out in head in terms of drama. It's pretty widely regarded as the thespy college. Then you'll get the colleges which are less drama-y but still pretty active; places like Pembroke and Jesus (Jesus Drama Society has the best venue for plays; an 11th century chapel), maybe Girton, maybe Queens'. But most serious theatre happens in the ADC which is university wide.

LBGT-wise I don't actually know. Going by stereotypes, Peterhouse is the most gay college, obviously Newnham and New Hall if you're female. And I think I've heard Homotown mentioned a few times. Certainly, by all accounts Hometonians are 'open-minded'.

If by Castle-y you mean 'old' then all the colleges except Churchill, Robinson, New Hall, Fitz and the grad colleges have buildings over 100 years old. Beyond that, it doesn't make a whole lot of difference (except go earlier than 1800 and you'll get buildings with very low ceilings). The exceptions are Downing (which is all Georgian loveliness but feels more Pride and Prejudice than Harry Potter). Emmanuel (which is baroque and very beautiful but again not very castle-y) and Newnham (which again is wonderful but in Queen Anne style). I'm not sure how fussy you are... The rest are castley or have castley parts.
I applied to a single-sex college (Newnham) but very nearly applied to St John's. It might look on paper like I just applied to Newnham because it's less competitive, or whatever, but actually I'm really pleased with my choice and there's nowhere I'd rather go. It seems like the Newnham girls are more outgoing than some at other colleges because they go out to meet guys. And the women's colleges are a great compromise between the old and new bits of Cambridge because they have a lot of history, what with the pioneering women's education thing, but they are not intimidating or stuffy. I love the Cambridge course and would have been prepared to go to any college to study it.

Please read the following carefully - it's important.

Tactical college choice

Lots of people look at the statistics and try to make a tactical college choice based on which ones look the easiest to get into. THIS APPROACH DOESN'T WORK.

This is a good post- worth rep imo. At my school, a friend and I both applied to single-sex colleges, not the same one, she didn't get an offer. Nothing is guaranteed, especially if you apply to really competitive courses like Law (which my friend applied for). You're up against lots of people when you get to the interview stage anyway because lots of girls who make open applications get allocated to the women's colleges anyway. They're not necessarily weaker applicants just cause they didn't apply to a college. On the day of my interview there were loads of interviewees who had applied to the college or who had done an open application- it didn't seem like there was a lack of applicants at all. Cambridge is just oversubscribed in general. There is just no way of getting round it.

It's stupid to try any 'strategies' to have a better chance of getting in- this includes applying for less competitive courses, less competitive colleges, etc. To my mind, if you're trying to rely on any of these things, then you really shouldn't be going to Cambridge at all. It's really not worth going through all the hassle if at the end of the day you get admitted for a degree you hate in a place you hate and get a third anyway. Because the Cambridge application process is hard, really hard. And you seriously don't want to do it just for the satisfaction of getting in. :rolleyes:
FYI: Your chances aren't much higher if applying to a single sex college than applying to a mixed sex one.

I see fumblewomble has already clarified this, but no: your chances are the same. If Newnham, Lucy Cav or Murray Edwards were swamped with applicants, but none of them were of Cambridge calibre, they would literally take all of their students from the pool instead, and possibly lower intake for that year.
Reply 783
One thing Cambridge guarantee is that the chances of getting into Cambridge as a whole are the same no matter which college you apply to.

To repost something I wrote a few days ago:

it is equally difficult to get into Cambridge no matter which college you apply to. Take the case of Murray Edwards. They don't get as many applications as many colleges and they often get weaker candidates because people apply there thinking it will be easier to get in. However they're not obliged to take anybody who applies to them directly. They can take as many as they like out of the pool - good candidates who applied to other colleges but were squeezed out by the competition there. So in practice, the people who apply directly to Murray Edwards still don't get offers even if the statistics look favourable.

Edit: I've expanded on the above with statistics in the 'Choosing a college' wiki See the section entitled 'Tactical College Choice'

Sorry, it is not your fault but I seem to me getting so many conflicting messages:p:

I recently heard from a 'source' that you should apply to a college which is relatively underapplied to, because surely it is easier to try and get into a college directly, than otherwise applying to another college (which is heavily applied to) and getting pooled.

He said that getting pooled is tantamount to trying to succeed from two rolls of a dice (where you had to get the right number twice consecutively), whereas surely trying to succeed from one roll of the dice would be easier statistically.

NB: I read the link that you posted, and I noticed thatti said of the 362 that applied, 236 were from open applications. Do you know what percentage of the 42 that got offers directly were from those who directly applied i.e. they didn't submit an open application?
Reply 784

Ultimately, and I think I'll put this in bold, apply to the college you want to go to and trust the system. Cambridge go to extraordinary lengths to make the admissions process as fair as possible. They spend huge amounts of time and money on it. It will never be perfect because it involved humans and huge numbers of applicants but I can assure you that it is as close as it could be.

Very well explained. This is a bit off-topic, but would you know anything about the oxford application process? Is it similar in the way that you are applying for the subject, and not the college; do they assess all of the applicants of a particular subject despite the college that they applied for?

I should ask this in the oxford forum, but it would be nice to compare and contrast it to the cambridge process.
Reply 785
I see fumblewomble has already clarified this, but no: your chances are the same. If Newnham, Lucy Cav or Murray Edwards were swamped with applicants, but none of them were of Cambridge calibre, they would literally take all of their students from the pool instead, and possibly lower intake for that year.

I hate to rouse any college sensitivities, and while I agree no cambridge college is 'easy' to get into, I still think it's a bit misleading to say college choice makes no difference to the chance of entry.

While numbers roughly equal up through pooling and the open application system, there are bound to be differences in the calibre of the average applicant; the more popular colleges attracting a higher calibre of applicant, the least popular attracting more 'tactical' applications. This is surely indisputable; its evident from the way less popular colleges accept such huge numbers from the pool.

While the intercollegeiate pool certainly aims to even up these discrepencies, and to a large extent, with success, I still think it can't even up competition across all colleges. For one thing, only 1 in 5 people in the pool ever get fished out, so its not something strong candidates can rely on in ensuring fair competition aross colleges. For another, if one particular college is swamped with outstanding applicants, they are bound to be a bit more ruthless about who gets to go in the pool in the first place; a candidate may be rejected at such a college who would have been pooled or even accepted by a college with a greater variation of candidates. Some will inevitably slip through the net at the more popular colleges. There will be exceptions of course; I think st john's one year attracted about 140 applicants for natural sciences alone, with over 70 ending up with an offer at some college, but generally speaking, the more strong applicants you're applying alongside, your chance of an offer is slightly reduced, if you yourself are a marginal candidate.

I hate to bring this up, but the Tompkins table is evidence of this to some extent. It should be noted that firstly, the table varies a bit every year, and also has a bias against colleges with more girls, or more arts students (both groups get less firsts), but is by and large quite useful. Given that the majority of the teaching at cambridge is done centrally through the faculty rather than the college (the only real role of the college is that the Director of Studies arranges your supervisions; my DoS didn't even do that), if the 'each college admits an equally high calibre of applicant' theory is true, then the Tompkins table would be pretty random, but in fact there always tends to be the same colleges at the top, and the same colleges at the bottom, with a few variations every year for exact places.

This would suggest, unless there really is a huge gulf in the supervision arranging and facilities between colleges, that the calibre of the average student admitted to each college was different to begin with; therefore the pool didn't entirely even things up. So its not entirely true to say that the competition at different colleges is comepletely equalled by the intercollegeiate pool, although of course it greatly helps.

1: If one in five are fished out of the pool, then that means the pool is about as competitive as an average college is in the first place, and the strong people are, in fact, being taken out of it while the 'maybes' remain 'maybes'.
2: I don't think that the Tompkins Table is usefully representative of anything at all. Some of the figures are taken from such astonishingly small sample sizes (my college sometimes only has one or two people in the entire college doing a particular subject), and the differences between colleges must be almost negligible in most cases (I can see there are some exceptions) As Arrogant Git usefully demonstrated, the table is biased for a number of reasons, which goes a big part of the way to explaining why some colleges stay at the bottom of the tables.

I don't think anybody can argue that there are no statistical differences in applying to different colleges, or trends explaining why some colleges seem to have better students. However, I do think that the differences we're looking at are so small, that its not worth an applicant trying to use these in order to affect their decision making process.
its a bit offtopic, but I got pooled by girton and then taken back by girton :P

not directly relevant, but im sure someone can use this as empirical evidence in favour of their arguement :biggrin:
Reply 788
I should point out to everyone that Hubba Me Up is now banned, so I wouldn't worry too much about what they have to say. :wink:

I must confess that back when I was a young and innocent applicant, if I had been pooled to an all-girls college I would have thought twice about going there. I had had enough of bitchy horrible girls at my school and didn't want any more - plus I was also in love with another university (who unfortunately rejected me) so I would have been happy to go there instead.

HOWEVER, with the benefit of hindsight and knowing people at Newnham/Lucy/Murray Edwards, that would have been a mistake on my part. They all have lots going for them and I expect I would have had a great time at any of them (though obviously wasn't eligible for Lucy Cav), as I probably would have at most other Cambridge colleges. So I'd like to pass that message on to the next generation!
I remember choosing my college partly because it had the *most* applicants for my subject (I assumed that meant it was the 'best' for my subject...I didn't know that so much of the teaching was faculty based, and that colleges often share supervisors).

In answer to the original question: back then, I'd have seriously considered turning it down. I get on quite well with guys, and went to an all-girls school so maybe would have wanted to be in a mixed environment. With the knowledge I have now, I would probably accept, as I loved the course I did at Cambridge and the city. On the other hand, it was mainly my college that made my experience so good, rather than anything about the university or city itself, so who knows.
Reply 790
Do you think mature students should apply to Lucy Cavendish, Hughes Hall or St Edmunds in order to maximise their prospects?

I'm 21 and I do not feel very different from when I was 18. As recommended I wrote to a few colleges and although they all said that I should apply, Sidney Sussex answer was most encouraging. Magdalene answered also very friendly. I wonder whether they simply have nice admission tutors...

Should I take the risk and apply to a normal college? :rolleyes:
Reply 791
I'm applying for natsci(physical) at Cambridge, which colleges have a good scientific tradition?
I am a keen rugby player and rower, in my school's 1st team for both, and would want to carry on with them.

Any suggestions as to a suitable college would be much appreciated.
Jesus College has a good field, if you're into rugby. Most of the course is taught/organised centrally. Anyway, this shouldn't be in D&D.
Reply 793
what's D&D and how do i put it where it should be?
I've reported the thread so it'll be moved to the Oxbridge/Cambridge forum eventually. D&D is 'Debate and Discussion', usually for politics and religion and so on. :smile:
Downing is the closest to the science sites (except Physics, but aside from practicals you don't really go there till third year) and is pretty good at rowing, and is in the top division for rugby.

Johns is the best college for rugby though, don't really know about their boat club, but I imagine it's pretty good.
I'm applying for natsci(physical) at Cambridge, which colleges have a good scientific tradition?
I am a keen rugby player and rower, in my school's 1st team for both, and would want to carry on with them.

Any suggestions as to a suitable college would be much appreciated.

Have a look at this:

Dont use it too work out percentages of getting in, that wont work- applicant numbers change year on year. However it will give you an impression for the number of Nat Scis that attend each college and depending on how many you want, you can use this to narrow your choice down.
Hi, I'm thinking of applying to Downing for Phys NatSci, and I was just wondering about how musical the college is... is there an orchestra or anything? I'm a grade 8 standard flautist, and I don't want to give it up when I go to Uni.

Thanks (:
I'm applying for natsci(physical) at Cambridge, which colleges have a good scientific tradition?
I am a keen rugby player and rower, in my school's 1st team for both, and would want to carry on with them.

Any suggestions as to a suitable college would be much appreciated.

St John's have by a fair distance the best rugby club in Cambridge and probably will continue to do so for some time. Then you have Jesus who are also normally pretty good. Then any of Downing, Girton, Magdalene, Trinity Hall all normally field sides varying from quite good to pretty gash depending on the year. There might be one or two others in this category. Most other colleges either can't put out a team and combine with other colleges or vary between pretty gash and very gash.

Regarding rowing, it's the most popular sport in Cambridge so any college will have a decent first boat and it's hard to pick out any one college that will be good eighteen months from now.

That said, a bigger college will almost certainly put out a competent crew whereas a smaller college like Peterhouse might end up with a catastrophic first boat in a poor year. It's worth looking at the bumps charts- colleges near the top will be consistently reasonable year in year out. Also look at how many boats colleges put out. A college putting out six boats in mays probably has strength in depth and will be good even in the event of injuries. Which school do you row for?
Reply 799
I row for monmouth school's 1st VIII, i pulled a 6.27 2K last time i did one(when i was 16).

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