All the Colleges provide excellent facilities, accommodation, and educational and pastoral support. The differences between the Colleges lie in the detail of that accommodation, their size, age, social mix, ambience, and the composition and research interests of their Fellows. These are the factors you should consider when making a College preference.
When choosing a College preference, we suggest that you:
- look at the Cambridge College Guide, the key facts and figures, and the acceptence statistics for each College and shortlist around six preferred College
- look at their websites to get more detailed information about the features, facilities and aspects that you feel are most important to you. If you have any questions, get in touch with College Admissions Offices - the staff will be happy to answer your queries and advise you
- If you have a prospective supervisor in mind, ask for their advice (but bear in mind that you do not need to be at the same College as them)
Some suggested factors to consider include:
- Your age - four Colleges are exclusively for mature students (aged 21 or over), and some Colleges are for graduates only
- Your gender - three Colleges only consider applications from students identifying as female. Female applicants may apply to any College but the women's Colleges are able to provide an environment focused entirely on the needs and expectations of female students.
- College size (number of students)
- Particular facilities such as libraries, sports pitches etc.
The College System Explained - Video
A group of Cambridge graduate students talk about the Cambridge College system - how to apply, types of Colleges, things to consider when applying, and life in a College.
Alongside the suggestions above, you should be aware of some misconceptions
- Travelling time - it's worth remembering that Cambridge is a very compact city so, wherever you are, getting between your College and your department - on foot, by bike or by bus - isn't difficult.
- Discounting single-sex Colleges - University teaching, such as lectures, practicals and seminars, are organised by, and usually take place in, departments and faculties and are attended by a mix of students from all Colleges. Male friends are welcome in the women's Colleges at all times.
- Age of the College - Cambridge Colleges range in age from over 700 to 30 years. No matter how old or young a College is, it will have its own traditions and history. They all provide high quality facilities and pastoral support. In other words, the age (or youth!) of a College won't affect your student experience.
- University and Teaching and Supervision - University teaching and supervision is organized by and normally takes place in departments and faculties, and is open to students from all Colleges so you do not need to apply to your supervisor's College. Teaching is a level playing field across the University and is not determined by the College you attend - the differences between the Colleges lie in the ambience, not the educational opportunities.
If, having looked at the different Colleges, you don't mind which you attend, you could make an open application rather than having to choose.
Open applications are passed in sequence to up to five Colleges for consideration. We guarantee that if you are made an academic offer of admission your application will be accepted by one of these five Colleges.
The basis of the allocation is to even out the distribution of applicants across the Colleges. Once allocated to a College, your application will be treated in exactly the same way as any other application. Making an open application or choosing a specific College makes no difference to your chances of being accepted by a College.
Choosing a preferred College gives you a chance to express the kind of community you wish to be a part of. Remember that they have many more similarities than differences and most students quickly settle in and really enjoy their College, wherever they end up.
If you have a mobility and/or sensory impairment, or need specific advice, then it is advisable to apply to a specific College having sought their advice about your circumstances at an early stage, rather than make an open application.
You are able to change your choice of College preferences within 14 days of submitting your application, as long as a formal offer to study has not been made, by contacting the Graduate Admissions Office. After this period, requests for a transfer of College will be considered only on the grounds of a disability, a substantial offer of funding from another College, or other compelling circumstances.
Transferring College mid-course is not normally possible, unless in exceptional circumstances.
If you believe that you have compelling grounds to request a College transfer, you should contact your allocated College Senior Tutor or Graduate Tutor to discuss your options. Please do not contact other Colleges directly.
Changing Colleges between courses that require separate applications (such as between Masters and PhD) is not uncommon. Tutors at your existing College may offer help and information, but will not normally be involved in seeking a new College.
If you wish to apply to another College for a new course, you should do so independently through the Graduate Admissions process as a completely new application, noting any advice on the website of the College to which you intend to apply.
If you are applying to another College for any reason (eg to be eligible for College-specific funding), but would like to be considered by your original College if you are unsuccessful, you must include your original College as your second choice. If you do not, you may be allocated to another College with no grounds for requesting a transfer.
Guidance on College preferences is provided on the Applicant Portal.
Please note that without a College membership, your admission will not be confirmed, and you will not be able to take up your place at Cambridge.