I went on a trip to Cambridge in the February half-term with Laurelle Brant. This trip was both inspiring and useful – inspiring as seeing people who look like me at one of the best universities in the world, and useful as the people there gave us lots of tips and tricks to be the best that you can be.
“Work smart, not just hard”
However, the thing that fascinated me the most about Cambridge (and Oxford) is that they have a college system. There are 31 colleges in Cambridge. While you are at University, your college is like your family. You live together, you eat together, and you hang out together. Your college provides your accommodation for all three/four years. It also provides things like a library, a canteen, a common room, and sports and music facilities.
How application works
When you apply to Cambridge, you don’t apply to the university – you apply to the specific college that you would like to pledge your allegiance to. However – don’t think that this means that you should apply to a lesser known college. After the most popular colleges have sifted through their applicants, they put the strong candidates that they didn’t have space for into something called the Winter Pool. Then, all the other colleges can pick from the candidates that didn’t make it into their college of choice but still are gifted enough to deserve their spot at Cambridge.
How to choose
There are many different factors that can help you decide which college to apply to. If it’s important to you that you can wake up ten minutes before lectures start and still get there on time, then it would be good to look for colleges near your faculty building (where your lectures, supervisions and classes take place). If you cannot work without good food, maybe you should visit your prospective colleges to make sure the grub is up to scratch before you apply. Is sports/music very important to you? Maybe you should pick the colleges with the best sports teams/music department. No college is better than another on any given subject as you receive your education from your faculty.
Robinson College is the college that we were based in all day. It is about ten minutes from central Cambridge and is the newest college at Cambridge. I will warn you – it is very red (everything is red brick) and has a sort of industrial feel to it. However, as well as having its own library, it is right opposite the university library, which is one of three copyright libraries (a library entitled to a free copy of every book published in the UK) in the country (the other two are the British Library and the Oxford University library).
Gonville & Caius is one of the oldest and largest colleges at Cambridge (their buildings are beautiful). Founded in 1348, the College is located it the very centre of Cambridge, just a minute away from the high street. The large number of students they admit means that they can provide excellent sports and music facilities and that you are sure to find someone who shares interests with you. Stephen Hawkings is a fellow of Caius (someone who conducts research and teaches at a college) and although he no longer teaches, his portrait is hanging in the dining hall. It’s bigger than all the others.
In conclusion, choosing a college is a big decision; one that will require a lot of thought. However, if you don’t get into your first-choice college, don’t worry; I have been assured by the students that they grew to love whichever college they ended up in.