Monday, 28 July 2008

Opinion Post II - Choosing a college (Cambridge)

Part of coming to Cambridge is becoming a member of its collegiate system, hence a key part of the application process is choosing which college you would like to belong to. In the case of affiliated students, the choice structure is nearly identical to undergraduates, in that you select one college, or submit an open application (no college selected). The only difference is that now mature colleges will be open to you if you are 21 or above by the time you hope to come to Cambridge. Graduates are slightly different in that they are able to choose a first and second choice college from the outset. In both cases, if your first (or second) choice college is unable to offer you a place, but deems you suitable for study at Cambridge, you will be placed in the pool, where there is the chance your application can be taken on by another college.

For affiliated students, it is easy to be seduced by the better known 'prestigious' colleges when making a selection. However, one should consider not only the perceived advantages of gaining admission to one of these, but also the potential difficulties along the way. Most of the undergraduate colleges specify that you must have, or be on the path to achieving, a first (sometimes a 'good' first) in your degree to apply, or receive an offer from them. At the same time, there would only be a maximum of one or two affiliated law students at these colleges. Even the mature colleges only take on a small number of affiliated undergraduates in law (although larger amounts in total), so it stands to reason that the numbers elsewhere will be greatly decreased. One should consider what this means; is it important to you to be living amongst others who are doing the same course as yourself?

This document provides statistics of the total number of affiliates for the graduate colleges. Other things to consider are: What size college would you like? Are you in need of any bursaries/extra funding? It is fair to say that most of the mature colleges are amongst the smaller ones at Cambridge, and although all of them do have some provision for grants, they are certainly not the richest colleges.

However, at the same time, one must weigh up the 'risks' in selecting a 'popular' college. If you are not accepted there, would you be extremely disappointed? You can be consoled with the fact that if you are good enough to be admitted to Cambridge, you will be given a college, but it may not be your first choice. In choosing, think carefully about your chances, and how you would react to pooling. Ultimately, remember that studying at Cambridge itself is the goal, and colleges are mainly halls of residence.

Conclusively, if you are clear with what you desire from your college, you should be able to easily eliminate those who fall outside your wishes, and create a shortlist from those that are left. At the end of the day, if you have taken into account the factors that surround your application (offers etc), as well as the environment that the college will provide for you, then your selection is likely to be a well thought through, and educated one. Good luck!

The Mature Colleges

The graduate colleges tend to have a reputation for being a mixing-pot of international and Home students, as well as having tight-knit communities due to their smaller size.

Clare Hall - Only accepts applications for graduate qualifications.
Darwin - Only accepts applications for graduate qualifications.
Hughes Hall - Law Society.
Lucy Cavendish - Women only, Law Society.
St Edmund's

Alternative Prospectus (contains HH, LC, SE & W)


Anonymous said...

Your post contains (at least) two errors.

1. For graduate students, being "pooled" does not mean there is only a "chance" of being admitted by a College - College membership is guaranteed even if an admitted graduate student is unsuccessful in their first or second choices.

2. Clare Hall and Darwin are not "mature colleges". They are graduate colleges. St Eds, Wolfson, Hughes Hall, and Lucy Cavendish are the mature colleges - even the pdf you linked says that.

Cambridge Affiliated said...

Hi Anon

Thanks for your comment, and apologies for the time taken to publish it, (I've not had access to a computer) although of course, I'd now like to take this opportunity to respond!

1. Yes, perhaps my wording was a bit sloppy here, but as I was referring to both undergraduates and graduates (and do remember that this blog is chiefly for students who would be applying as affiliated students, i.e. 2nd undergrad.) the onus is majorly on the former. It's completely true what you said though - graduates are guaranteed a college place once they've been accepted, but the graduate applications procedure is (in any case) completely different to that of an undergraduate/affiliate!

2. Again, wording. As you can see in my last bullet point list, I do say they only admit for graduate qualifications, but as the people applying for these would be 21+ anyway, I loosely group them under 'mature' for the same reasoning.