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Cambridge colleges

(49 Posts)
olympicfan Fri 22-Jul-16 18:59:25

DD is in Year 11 and is thinking of applying Cambridge. She likes the look of Human, Social and Political course. Can anyone recommend a good college for this course.

She is going to take Maths, Further Maths, Geography and RS or Politics for A level.

RobinsAreTerritorialFuckers Sat 23-Jul-16 22:20:28

She will mostly be taught in lectures, which are not college based anyway. Her supervisions (one or two to one) will often, but not always, be college based. She can look at the interests of the fellows at each college, and see how they match up to hers - there isn't really much else to it: colleges aren't really different enough for them to develop particular reputations in particular subjects, IMO.

Sadik Sun 24-Jul-16 17:57:58

My experience is from a long time ago (!), but I'd suggest researching colleges and visiting. Although on the whole colleges don't have a reputation for being 'best' for a subject (leaving aside a few exceptions like Trinity for maths), they still have a very different 'feel' and it can still be quite a different experience.

I studied economics, and I'm quite certain that studying the subject at my college (Director of Studies who had been a mature student himself, lots of mature students from Ruskin with a union background, not particularly results oriented) was very different from eg those studying at Kings (at that time pushed heavily towards maths-heavy optional papers, lots of 1sts). I should imagine HSPS would similarly be quite influenced by the DoS and the pool of students.

Just out of interest, has she considered economics? Her A levels sound ideal, and it's a great subject to study smile

olympicfan Sun 24-Jul-16 19:33:43

She is seriously into humanitarian aid projects and is part of the UK Youth Parliament. I'm not sure economics is her vocation. She is determined to make life better for those who are displaced, living in poverty or in an emergency crisis situation.

A visit to the UN on a family trip to New York sparked the interest in her aged 13. Since then she has fund-raised tirelessly for refugees. Last year persuaded her school to buy 2 caravans to send out to the jungle so unaccompanied minors did not have to sleep under canvas.

Making money is not for her, raising money is. I wonder if this will change as she enters adulthood?

SkyLucy Sun 24-Jul-16 19:51:40

I would definitely advise visiting a few colleges. I read languages and specialised in German for the last two years - there were no Germanists at my college but it didn't matter a jot - I had a lovely time cycling to other colleges and having supervisions with various specialists there. Cambridge is fabulous for that - you just get sent to the specialist in whichever area you're interested in. It's worth noting that all lectures and any 'lessons' (e.g. translation class in my case) are university-wide and take place 'centrally'.

Also, you can apply to a particular college but get placed somewhere else - this happened to me. I had a (gruelling!) interview at one college, who basically said 'you're not right for us, but you'd be okay for someone else!' My application was placed in the 'pool' and picked up by another college, so I had a second set of interviews. Turns out, it was the perfect college for me, and when I came to understand more about each college's culture/personality, I thanked my lucky stars that they obviously recognised where I would be best suited, and therefore happiest!

Best of luck to your DC.

MangoIsTheNewApple Sun 24-Jul-16 20:13:19

Finances make a difference - the older, richer colleges are able to be more generous with book grants, paying for meals, hardship grants etc. Trinity was, in my day, incredibly generous to all, though pretty much all the colleges (then, may be less try now) had enough money to help out a student in genuine need without it being an issue.

homebythesea Mon 25-Jul-16 08:10:13

The way I chose my College was to look at typical offers for my subject and go for the lowest! That was in the 80's - don't know if offers are more standardised now? But in any event College was just where I ate and slept and played sport, I had no supervisions in my own College and lectures were for everyone across the university. So it might be that College choice is less important than course choice

RobinsAreTerritorialFuckers Mon 25-Jul-16 11:14:41

Offers are more standardised. Choice of college should not affect how likely you are to get into Cambridge (so, if you apply to a college that happened to get very able applicants that year, and you are the 11th candidate out of 10, you should be pooled and found a place elsewhere; if you apply to a college that happened to get less able applicants and are the 9th candidate out of 10, they might fish a few people out of the pool who are stronger candidates and bump you off the list).

Swirlingasong Mon 25-Jul-16 11:45:31

I chose my college primarily because of the Director of studies in my subject. However, it's equally important to consider that you will be living in the college - mine offered guaranteed accommodation in college for all three years if you wanted it which was good, also an extremely well-stocked college library in my subject so I could easily get hold of pretty much anything without having to wait. We also had large gardens that could actually be used rather than just looked at and were slightly out of the centre so not bothered by tourists and these things I think made a big difference to me. As others have said, the colleges do differ so I'd really encourage her to go an look around and go to a few open days if she can - and not to automatically discount the all-female colleges.

homebythesea Mon 25-Jul-16 13:35:44

robins that's interesting. Back in the day each college set out their offers in the prospectus and I went through noting all those that didn't need AAA (those really were the days!) and in the end got in with way less than that! I think it helped that the College had only recently gone co-ed 😀

RobinsAreTerritorialFuckers Mon 25-Jul-16 13:45:57

Yes, they did that when I applied, which (judging by references to colleges going co-ed) may be longer ago still.

Tftpoo Mon 25-Jul-16 14:02:12

I was interested in how many students for my subject the college took each year. I didn't want to be the only one or one of just a couple of students doing the subject, I preferred a college with a bigger intake for my subject. However, as PPs have said, lectures are delivered centrally by the departments and supervisions (tutorials) are with whichever academic is most appropriate, whichever college they are affiliated to. It did mean lots of cycling to other colleges but that's part of the Cambridge experience. Overall, the college which your DD feels most comfortable with (they do have different cultures e.g. some are sportier than others) is probably the best one to apply to.

Oh and distance to the department was a factor...5 min walk to lectures rather than 20 min cycle!

tinymeteor Mon 25-Jul-16 14:49:35

King's College is strong in that subject area and has historically been a bastion of lefty politics which may suit your DD. Has a relatively high state school intake compared to some others, if that's relevant. Good luck to her.

esornep Mon 25-Jul-16 17:57:46

King's also tends to be oversubscribed for HSPS for these reasons.

MrsHathaway Mon 25-Jul-16 18:19:06

Finances make a difference - the older, richer colleges are able to be more generous with book grants, paying for meals, hardship grants etc. Trinity was, in my day, incredibly generous to all, though pretty much all the colleges (then, may be less try now) had enough money to help out a student in genuine need without it being an issue.

Money is more of an issue than that.

Teaching is partly university (lectures) and partly college (supervisions). Poor colleges don't necessarily fund as many supervisions as rich colleges. Rich colleges have libraries with all the latest books as soon as someone suggests them - two or three copies if it looks popular. Rich colleges have travel bursaries for vacations.

Poor colleges have higher rents, too. They're supposed to be standardised but what you get for your money varies widely.

I went to a poor college and really noticed the difference. I may have ended up a more resilient, self-reliant human being as a result, but it's hard not to wonder "what if".

King's is lovely though. Been very drunk there.

DiscoVolante1 Tue 26-Jul-16 15:20:28

If you use this link you can see how many prospective students applied to College X for Subject Y in a given year and how many were accepted. May be useful.

www.undergraduate.study.cam.ac.uk/apply/statistics

I would second the advantages of a rich college; more accommodation in college buildings; lower rents and charges; better book and travel grants etc etc. I got very lucky when I applied and was accepted to a beautiful, big, rich college but knew almost nothing about any of that when I was applying. Forinformed is forarmed!"

SkyLucy Tue 26-Jul-16 20:17:16

I went to a poor college and really noticed the difference. I may have ended up a more resilient, self-reliant human being as a result, but it's hard not to wonder "what if".

I assume that's meant lightly? I went to a poor(er) college and, years on, am still so very grateful that I received such a fabulous education and university experience. It's all relative - I know many people who went to other unis and didn't have half the luxuries I enjoyed. Living in halls every year; many hours of contact teaching time, often 1-1; bedder to clean my room and our kitchen; daily, close exposure to world-leading experts; access to University
Library; watching actors perform in the college theatre, who would become household names; receiving bursaries; taking port from the college cellars home for my dad; eating choux pastry swans at lunch in the buttery...!

I guess it's all relative though. I came from a rough state school, and felt blessed every day to be at Cambridge. I had a friend in college from Eton, and he felt terribly hard done by, for not being at Trinity. He must have developed some of that 'resilience' you mention. It's a tough life, innit...

MrsHathaway Tue 26-Jul-16 20:30:33

I don't know how lightly I mean it, tbh.

In second year I had an entire subject (around 1/4 of my PtI) unsupervised because my college didn't fund supervisions. Am I allowed to feel embittered that I genuinely didn't get the same experience as other students on the "same" course?

I nearly dropped out in my Finals year because I couldn't pay the rent and my parents wouldn't couldn't sub me and my vacation wages had run out. A rich college could have helped me; my tutor said he was very sorry but there was nothing available. Now-DH (coincidentally at a very old, very rich college) subbed me. Am I allowed to worry that other students in a similar position would have dropped out?

MrsHathaway Tue 26-Jul-16 20:32:15

Although the reference to choux swans makes me wonder if you were at the same college ... mine was obsessed with choux swans for formal occasions and there were always slightly wilted leftovers available the next day. Claret and silver?

haybott Tue 26-Jul-16 20:55:39

Poor colleges don't necessarily fund as many supervisions as rich colleges.

I don't these issues are as extreme these days. There is more money transferred from the rich to poor colleges; most colleges have successfully raised funds from alumni (for New Hall aka Murray Edwards this has made a big difference) and more accommodation has been built (using money made from conferences etc).

It is still true that the richer colleges have more luxuries like travel grants and free formal dinners. The libraries may also be better stocked (although this is increasingly less of an issue as resources move online). But there are not usually huge differences in essentials like supervision numbers, availability of fairly reasonably priced college accommodation. BTW even in the most expensive colleges (with the highest buttery charges) accommodation will be cheaper than other UK universities.

Re supervisions: there is also the important issue of quality of supervisions. The big rich colleges have lots of PhD students/JRFs and pass (in STEM subjects at least) quite a lot of supervisions to PhD students and junior research fellows - since they are so junior the quality of the supervisions can be rather poor. At smaller colleges there is often a smaller pool of young people, so supervisions may well be given by more senior staff, who have much more experience. So it is by no means clear that you will always do worse at a smaller/poorer college.

The advice about looking around colleges and seeing what feels right is very sensible.

alreadytaken Tue 26-Jul-16 21:05:47

asked my kid - they say read this and visit any that appeal www.applytocambridge.com/

olympicfan Tue 26-Jul-16 21:47:19

Thank you, alreadytaken- it looks like a great website to research.

RobinsAreTerritorialFuckers Wed 27-Jul-16 09:10:08

Poor colleges don't necessarily fund as many supervisions as rich colleges.

In theory, there are now rules in place about numbers of supervisions a student should expect, so colleges aren't allowed to fund different amounts.

haybott Wed 27-Jul-16 09:38:25

In theory, there are now rules in place about numbers of supervisions a student should expect, so colleges aren't allowed to fund different amounts.

Yes, indeed. There are some small exemptions to this rule (e.g. in fourth years of MSci courses) but I don't believe there are variations for HSPS.

NotCitrus Wed 27-Jul-16 10:11:12

There were rules about how many supervisions we should have (Nat Sci, 90s), but while my fairly poor college managed to supply a warm body for them, the lack of experts or teaching skills was a problem for a number of subjects and in my 3rd year all the lecturers were from other cities or the CRC and you were meant to arrange your own supervisions, impossible if the person wasn't there and the CRC didn't permit outside employment so they weren't meant to supervise us - several did in the end do it for free. I was hugely jealous in my 2nd year when I found out how much exam prep and spoon-feeding friends at certain other colleges had been getting, Christ's in particular.
On the other hand my college did pass its funds to the students more than many, so cheap rent and decent book grants (used for photocopying in my third year after a bit of negotiation).
Mostly, though, Cambridge colleges are glorified halls of residence with some social societies - I'd pick one with handily-located accommodation for all three years, good WiFi and near lectures.

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