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Cambridge Engineering , which college?

(23 Posts)
kua Mon 31-Aug-15 21:17:32

I have absolutely no idea about the process of applying to Cambridge, though tomorrow evening I'll should get an inkling while attending an Oxbridge info evening.

For those in the know; what questions would you ask and which college would you apply to with engineering in mind?

pomBearPooPouffe Tue 01-Sep-15 01:23:59

Admissions process should be fairly transparent.

Your child (? or you?) will spend much more time with the other Eng students in lectures and labs, than in college. There will be other engineers in all the colleges, probably. So, to pick a college it probably depends more on what your child likes in terms of social life and extracurricular activities. Also be aware that your child may not get the college they pick - they may get "pooled", i.e. assigned to a college that has space for undergrad engineers. To be honest, most people in cambridge have a university-wide circle of friends, so choice of college isn't massively important unless your child has extremely strong views about something.

Trinity is "the best", is huge, is very competitive, is very high-achieving. If your kid has been to a greater public school, Trinity will be much like a continuation of school. I've always found the place intimidating. Extracurricular: good at everything.

King's likes its red lefty reputation, and is quite good on access for less posh students, but to be honest, retains its overtly blue-blooded legacy (they didn't let undergrads in from anywhere other than Eton until the 1920s - not completely like that now but certainly that element is still there). It's very nice though. Extracurricular: generally crap at sport, superb at music.

St John's, Queens', Peterhouse: like Trinity but with more richness and less coruscating excellence.

Caius, Christ's: reputation for nerdiness and academic excellence, not always upheld. Caius is well-known for having terrible food.

Pembroke/ Jesus/ Clare/ Corpus/ St Catherine's/ Emmanuel/ Sidney Sussex/Downing: less well known, nice, good music & sport, quite rich, no particularly strong reputation. Pembroke is also good on access for less rich students. Clare has great music. Jesus is quite sporty.

Girton is like these but bloody miles away & quite boaty (i.e. hearty).

Magdalene: probably fine, but every time I've been there, it's been quite ridiculously poncey, posh, and filled with the kinds of stereotypes that turn people off Oxbridge. Beautiful though.

Churchill, Fitz: quite boaty. Churchill is also techy, partly because it's way out of town out by the physics/CS labs. Chch might be a good one for engineers?

Newnham: rich girls.
Murray Edwards: less rich girls
Lucy Cavendish: mature girls (over 21)
St Ed's, Hughes Hall, Wolfson: mature undergrad students, mostly graduate

Homerton: poor, recent, long way out of town.

(Darwin - graduate, not relevant)

pomBearPooPouffe Tue 01-Sep-15 01:29:11

N.B. Homerton, while somewhat on the periphery for most things, *is very good for education. It was a teachers' college in London from the 1600s and moved up to Cambridge when another college (Cavendish) went bust in the 1890s ish. It only became a constituent college of the university and started offering undergraduate subjects other than education in about 2004.

disquisitiones Tue 01-Sep-15 08:51:42

I think the classifications of colleges above are very subjective and they seem rather dated. For example, Pembroke and Emmanuel have been riding high in the league tables for academic achievement consistently over the last few years. I also wouldn't say that Pembroke is particularly good for access - amongst that group it feels more private school than the others. Both Pembroke and Emma have been outperforming Caius and Christs. Peterhouse is absolutely tiny so why would one put it in the same group as Johns which is very large?

Any prospective student should try and look at a number of colleges to see which one feels right to them. Academically all are OK at engineering, although the ones which top the Tompkins Table may be a bit harder to get into, have a bit more academic pressure.

YonicScrewdriver Tue 01-Sep-15 09:03:39

Visit any you are interested in and use that to help decide.

AlmaMartyr Tue 01-Sep-15 09:34:40

I'd suggest visiting and see what feels right. I wanted to apply to an old college until I went to an open day and Robinson felt like home. Went there and loved it. DH did engineering at Sidney Sussex but that was quite hard to get into at that stage.

PetraDelphiki Tue 01-Sep-15 09:41:13

Some simple questions to think about...

Big , medium or small college
Old or new
On the backs, in town or more distant
Single sex (only applicable to women)
All years in college or some out

Answer those and you will pretty much narrow it down

VeryPunny Tue 01-Sep-15 09:43:28

Athene Donald (Master of Churchill) wrote an excellent blog post about colleges here:

cathyandclaire Tue 01-Sep-15 09:43:59

DD (arts subject, not engineering) shortlisted colleges where the Director of Studies had interests that tied in with hers, then visited those and picked the one that felt right. I'm sure interests may change with time but she felt it helped in the interview, we'll see how it goes in October!

JeanneDeMontbaston Tue 01-Sep-15 10:13:59

Trinity is "the best", is huge, is very competitive, is very high-achieving.

No, it isn't.

There are league tables for academic performance, but they are all much of a muchness and it'd be better to look at how competitive the applications are (the prospectus tells you by college/subject). Though, again, there isn't that much in it. If you can visit, it might help.

cathyandclaire Tue 01-Sep-15 11:15:49

Ooops her's
No Oxbridge education here blush

Lancelottie Tue 01-Sep-15 11:22:22

Umm, Cathy, you were right first time with 'hers'!

I started to read Pombear's list with interest, then I got to 'Newnham: rich girls' and decided it just might be a load of tosh.

cathyandclaire Tue 01-Sep-15 11:26:13


2rebecca Tue 01-Sep-15 13:31:26

When my son was looking at Cambridge colleges he found a table somewhere on the uni website that listed the requirements of the different colleges. He'd done technology advanced higher not applied /further maths AH so that ruled out certain colleges. Being 17 ruled some out as well. He wasn't keen on old stuffy ones with silly rules either.
If he gets to go tp the experience engineering cambridge day they discuss the colleges a bit.

PetraDelphiki Tue 01-Sep-15 14:34:22

Just randomly these are the colleges I would point my dd at in the future:

Newnham (everyone I know who went there loved it)
CHurchill if she is doing a STEM subject

Johns and Queens but they are VERY popular!

But who's to say she won't prefer one of the others (if the question comes up)

cathyandclaire Tue 01-Sep-15 17:21:21

Interesting stats on applications/acceptances etc at all the colleges.
whizzy graph tool

homebythesea Tue 01-Sep-15 17:52:39

Peterhouse is closest to the Engineering labs IIRC so may suit late sleepers grin

I chose by looking at entrance requirements for my subject- a good enough place to start?

GiddyGiddyGoat Tue 01-Sep-15 18:33:07

Find out which colleges do your subject / with your qualifications

Look at what entrance requirements are - some Cambridge colleges make offers which include 'STEP" papers now (maths exam taken at same time as A levels), some don't. Some have extra tests. Think what will play to your strengths.

Think about whether you want old / new, big / small, in city centre / off the main drag

Go to an open day and see as many as possible on your shortlist. See what feels right / appeals to you.


If you can't choose make an open application (and you will be allocated to a college).

Be aware that at Cambridge the pool system operates so that in theory at least all applicants of equal merit have the same chance of an offer, regardless of where they applied.

Good luck! Went through all this with ds1. He's off to Fitzwilliam next month.

PotteringAlong Tue 01-Sep-15 18:42:02

I went to peterhouse and I adored it (but I didn't do engineering).

Go for the day, have a mooch around the colleges and see.

PotteringAlong Tue 01-Sep-15 18:43:38

Meant to add - my boyfriend at the time did. He reckoned he could go from asleep to in a lecture in 3 mins from peterhouse grin

Pico2 Tue 01-Sep-15 19:01:59

I'd consider the applications per place and how strong/confident a candidate they are.

Possibly not an issue for engineering, but the number of students in the college for that subject, as I can be nice to be one of a decent size group.

Proximity to Engineering Department.

Quality of student accommodation and location of it - some colleges have lots of accommodation out of the college. I'm not sure if it is still an issue, but some didn't offer accommodation for all 4 years of the course.

Whether they ask for STEP.

What bursaries they offer (if you might qualify). Richer colleges may be able to offer more.

I probably wouldn't make an open application as there are plenty of reasons to prefer one college over another and I'd be concerned about ending up at one I really didn't want.

JanetBlyton Tue 01-Sep-15 19:31:13

I agree it depends on your chances. If you are so brilliant you would get in anywhere then it may not matter but for lesser mortals picking somewhere which is easier than another college or subject might be is often a good way to go.

kua Tue 01-Sep-15 21:36:55

Thanks all, very interesting reading. We are at the start of looking at what is "out there", (S5 year in Scotland)

DS really enjoyed the presentation. He is an academic/ sporty mix.

But it is all academic until he achieves the right results.

Thanks again

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