It’ll be your home-from-home for three years – make the right choice!
Don’t worry. This isn’t one of those meaningless online quizzes. Whilst the old adage is probably true that whichever college you end up at, you’ll end up loving it, there are definitely pros and cons to each. It’s important that you identify the things that matter to you in a college in order to optimise the choice you make.
Whilst all colleges will provide you with accommodation throughout your undergrad, it’s worth looking at where exactly this is. Just because you pick a central college doesn’t mean its rooms are all in the middle of town. A lot of second-year accommodation is a bit further out, so if location matters to you or if you’re not planning on cycling, this is worth investigating. Cambridge is a small place and pretty much everything is within walking distance, but a twenty-minute walk compared to a five-minute saunter can get annoying. You should also look at how your chosen college ballots its rooms. Some colleges give priority to students who do well in exams, whereas others just use a random ballot system. Not all colleges price their rooms via the same system either – some offer more high-end options whereas others charge the same rate regardless of the quality of room.
Emmanuel does your laundry for you. Girton has a pool. Clare has some of the prettiest grounds in Cambridge (I may be slightly biased on that one). The point is, you should think about what’s important to you in terms of your living experience. Not all colleges have a gym, and the ones that do vary a lot in quality, for example, so if that’s something you care a lot about then you should make sure you know what to expect from the college you choose. Similarly, the self-catering facilities vary a lot from college to college, from “just a toaster and a kettle” to ovens. If you’re an aspiring Great British Bake Off candidate, or just don’t really see yourself eating in halls much, you want to make sure you’re not going to be disappointed.
Passionate about music, or a certain kind of sport? Whilst most colleges will cover most bases, they do so with varying degrees of success. Some colleges are more musical whilst others are more sporty. It’s worth checking league tables and past results if you see yourself as being competitive at the college level in your sport, and similarly if you want to do things like sing in your college choir, you should look up what the required standard is (though it is possible to join a college choir other than your own).
Some colleges are much richer than others, and whilst this doesn’t really impact on your day-to-day experience at Cambridge, it can make a difference if you find your funds are running low. Academic prizes, sporting prizes and bursaries vary hugely between colleges. I’ve certainly had moments where I’ve been jealous of the awards my friends at other colleges have received!
As you can see, whilst it’s true that the colleges are more similar than they are different, there are factors that are worth considering when you pick. The good news is that you will be happy wherever you end up – the better news is that if you make an informed decision, you can be even happier!