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Choosing a College
Choosing a College is something that people often agonise over, with little need. They are all very similar and the quality of your course, the people you meet and the opportunities you get will all be pretty much the same.
College choice can be personal, instinctive and doesn't need to be explained.
So, what is a College and how do you choose? Think of it like a mini-campus or halls of residence. The College is the place where you'll sleep, eat, do some of your work and a lot of your socialising. A College will have bedrooms, kitchens, a canteen, a bar, social areas with TVs and (if you're lucky) Nintendo Wiis, pool tables, quiz machines. It will have a library, a computer room, study areas. It will have music rooms, sports facilities, a gym. It will also have offices and some of the people who teach you will probably work in the College during the day. In your College, you'll find students from every year and subjects, both undergraduates and postgraduates.
It's likely that you'll join a College organisation, from sports teams to music groups, the students' union to the College charity group. Colleges cater for pretty much every activity you can think of, and they provide a relaxed environment to do what you want with your time. You can choose to join a committee and help run a College society, spend your time in the common room or the bar or simply watch DVDs with friends; Colleges make sure you can spend your free time in the way you want. Whether you choose to join these groups or not, you will more than likely start to get a pretty strong College allegiance within your first week. Nearly every student in Cambridge will insist that their College is the 'best'. As you read through the profile pages in the next section of the Alternative Prospectus, look out for the number of students who claim their College is "the friendliest", and you'll get the idea.
So, how do you choose a College? There's really no magic answer. Some people choose a College to suit a certain interest, such as whether the College has sports pitches or an orchestra. Some people choose a College because they flicked through the prospectus and liked the pictures. Some people prefer Colleges which are old and pretty, some prefer modern Colleges with new facilities. Some prefer Colleges in the centre of town, others like the quietness and space of the Colleges on the outskirts. Some prefer Colleges with lots of students, others look for small numbers, where they can know everyone. College choice can be personal, instinctive and it doesn't need to be something that you can explain.
There's a school of thought that you can play the statistics game and choose a College based on the numbers of applications : acceptances. This is a Very Bad Idea. Not only is it seriously unlikely to work (the system is set up to ensure that College choice doesn't affect your chances), it will cause you undue stress and take up time that would much better be spent on school work and (in fact) having fun. If, once you've looked through these pages, you really don't know where to start, you can also make an open application, where a central computer will allocate your application to a College. Once allocated, the application is treated as though you applied directly to that College. This is a common option, and won't advantage or disadvantage your application.
*All statistics on the following and preceding pages were as of July 2008.
Charlotte Richer, Jesus College, English, York
How did you choose your College?
I really didn't know very much about Cambridge and I only decided to apply just before the application deadline, so I didn't visit Cambridge beforehand. I decided I'd like a fairly old College near the centre of town: if I was going to get in to Cambridge, I wanted to be able to take advantage of its prettiness. I also have a tendency to be fairly lazy, so proximity to Tesco and Sainsbury's was a definite advantage. I went online, looked at a couple of websites and flicked through the University Prospectus. In the end, I chose Jesus College, largely because I wanted to be able to print writing paper saying "you've got a friend in Jesus" (there is endless potential for puns, and I'm still not quite used to people shouting "go on Jesus" at sports matches). It's a silly reason to choose a College, but I couldn't really tell them apart. Despite the fact it was a pretty arbitrary decision, I wouldn't dream of going anywhere else - but neither would any of my friends at other Colleges.
Hint: Don't worry about your decision. Colleges are pretty much the same, and everyone loves the College they end up at.
Simon Burdus, Girton College, Geography and Management, Sunderland
How did you choose your College?
I was lucky enough to take part in the CUSU Shadowing Scheme a year before I applied to Cambridge and I was even luckier to spend my time at Girton. A lot of students dismiss Girton as the College buildings are slightly removed from town, but having spent a few days there, I realised that this is what makes the College the best. Everyone knows each other and there is a family atmosphere which can be lacking in other Colleges. Just by spending a few hours with current students of the College, the community feel in the student mentality will become immediately apparent. This atmosphere was something that was really important to me. The College provides just as much support and facilities for other activities as they do on academic study, and to me university was about developing as a rounded individual. I was convinced I wanted to apply to Girton because it provided me with all the facilities I could want. All sports pitches are on site, a new pavilion is on its way and the facilities of College for all interests are second to none. All this, combined with an indoor heated swimming pool, one of the most diverse student bodies and the fact you live in a castle. Perfect!
Hint: If you want to, take a visit to Cambridge. There are regular open days, and you can walk around Colleges during most of the year.