Which Cambridge College Should I Apply To for Medicine?

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If you are looking to apply to Cambridge for Medicine, one of the most important decisions to make is choosing a college. Many students will spend far too long on this decision, or base their decision on something they ought not to. Here we will take a quick look at how to choose a Cambridge college, and what to base your decision on – or not base it on.

Should I worry about Choosing for Medicine Specifically?

In general, you shouldn’t worry too much about the reputation of the college for a specific subject (even if it is a bigger subject like Medicine). Some colleges will have a particular reputation for certain courses, and for Medicine you will find that St John’s, Trinity, and Gonville and Caius are normally the three most popular colleges. However, this perhaps shouldn’t have too much bearing on your decision, unless you are looking to be in a college with lots of other medics. Therefore, you will want to base your decision on much the same factors as applicants to other courses.

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What Factors Should I Consider When Choosing a Cambridge College?

Firstly, check the Colleges fact files on the Cambridge website. These will provide you with a great overview of each college. All colleges at Cambridge offer Medicine. You will then want to consider your age, as some colleges will only accept students over the age of 21. You should also consider your gender, as there are two colleges that will only accept applications from female students. Bear in mind that this does not mean you will have a greater chance of a successful application if you are female and apply to a female-only college, and they are not an ‘easy’ route into the university. You should consider the size of the college, the atmosphere and design of the college – whether it is a newer building or older building, for example. You might also want to research which facilities are available at which colleges.

Colleges that are for mature (over 21) students only are Lucy Cavendish, Wolfson, Hughes Hall, and St Edmunds. Female only undergraduate colleges are Newnham and Murray Edwards – Lucy Cavendish is female only as well.

Cambridge University actively encourages students to not base their decision on location of college, explaining that all colleges are well located in what is a very small city. However, in practice many students will make their decision based on location, and this is understandable. With that in mind, the colleges located outside the city centre are Churchill, Fitzwilliam, Murray Edwards, Selwyn, and Girton. Girton is notably further out of the city centre than any other college – however, it is nonetheless an excellent college and in reality easily reached from anywhere else. Students at Cambridge are famously reliant on their bikes, which will make distances seem much less than they otherwise would.

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What Factors Should I Not Consider when Choosing a Cambridge College?

Do not look into application statistics too much. Many students will be advised to apply to a specific college in the mistaken belief that they are more likely to receive an offer from that college than anywhere else. In fact, Cambridge runs constant analysis of admission to all its colleges, and equally-qualified applicants would stand the same chance of receiving admission whether they chose to make an open application to the university as a whole or chose a specific college. All applicants for all subjects across the university are compared prior to selection being finalised, with the pool system ensuring that strong applicants to oversubscribed colleges are re-processed – and as Cambridge points out, any college would rather a strong pool candidate over a weaker direct candidate.

You should also avoid basing your decision on the age or traditions of the college. Don’t look into the specialisms of teaching staff at a given college too much either, as you will be able to attend supervisions wherever a particular specialist is based, and for Medicine much of the teaching is centralised between colleges.

Try to avoid basing the decision on any internal league tables as well, as these are no longer endorsed by the University and unlikely to be accurate. Remember also that any data you do find on the success of various colleges is unlikely to still be the case in five or six years’ time. For Medicine in particular, with centralised teaching, your choice of college should be made more on where you believe you will feel comfortable and at home than on a perceived ranking of the college or its teaching staff.

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