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Picking a College

The college system is one of the features that makes Cambridge distinctive, but it can be confusing. The Colleges’ main role, so far as postgraduate students are concerned, is to look after their members’ general welfare including, so far as possible, the provision of accommodation, meals, sports and other social amenities.

Membership of a College is a requirement for beginning study at the University and is decided separately by Colleges after an offer of admission from a Faculty or Department is obtained. Therefore it is entirely normal to receive a letter accepting you into the Department which states that your College affiliation is still pending.

You are not obliged to put down a college preference on your application, but leaving the preference section blank will delay your acceptance into a College. There is no guarantee that you will be admitted into the College of your first choice.

Here are some factors previous Geography students have found useful when choosing a college:

  • Student makeup: There are women-only and postgraduate-only colleges, as well as those that admit both undergraduates and postgraduates of both genders. Some of our students don’t particularly want to be at a college that is full of younger students, others enjoy the lively atmosphere they contribute to college life.
  • Location: Living in a college that is in the centre of town (and therefore close to the department) can be an advantage, especially when the weather is cold and rainy. However the city centre can get clogged with tourists and is often noisy. Also, many of the older colleges provide accommodation in hostels some distance from the college walls, so being admitted into an older college doesn’t guarantee that you will be living in the city centre.

There is also some useful information in the Postgraduate Prospectus about choosing a college and we would encourage you to read this.