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Postgraduate Admissions


Which College?

All the Colleges provide excellent facilities, accommodation, and educational and pastoral support. The differences between the Colleges lie in the detail of their accommodation, 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 take the following steps:

  • Look at the key facts and figures and the acceptance statistics for each College, and shortlist preferred Colleges.
  • Look at different College 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).
  • Consider accommodation provision but remember it is not guaranteed.

Some suggested factors to consider include:

  • Your age – currently four Colleges are exclusively for mature students (aged 21 or over), and two Colleges are for postgraduates only.
  • Your gender – currently two 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.

How not to choose a College

Alongside the suggestions above, you should be aware of some misconceptions:

  • Travelling time – Cambridge is a compact and fairly flat 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, is organised by, and usually takes place in, departments and faculties, and is attended by a mix of students from all Colleges. Guests (of all genders) are welcome in the women's Colleges at all times.
  • Age of the College – Cambridge Colleges range in age from over 700 to 40 years. No matter how old or young a College is, it will have its own traditions and history and they all provide high-quality facilities and pastoral support.
  • University teaching and supervision – University teaching and supervision is organised 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.

Selecting a College preference

In your application to Cambridge you can indicate two College preferences. While we cannot guarantee you will receive membership from one of your preferred colleges, over 65 per cent of applicants are offered membership from one of their College preferences. If neither of your preferred College’s accept you, your application will be passed in sequence to a further three Colleges if needed.

If you have a mobility or sensory impairment, or need specific advice, then it is advisable to indicate a specific College preference having sought their advice about your circumstances at an early stage, rather than make an open application.

Making an open application

If, having looked at the different Colleges, you don't mind which you attend, you can make an open application rather than choosing two College preferences.

Open applications are passed in sequence to up to three Colleges for consideration. We guarantee that if you are made an academic offer of admission your application will be accepted by one of these three 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. Remember that Colleges have many more similarities than differences and most students quickly settle in and really enjoy their College, wherever they end up.

Can I change my College preferences?

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 Postgraduate Admissions Office. Please continue to check this webpage regularly for updates. 
If another College has offered you a full scholarship, or substantial funding, you should contact the Senior Tutor or Graduate Tutor of the College that originally accepted you, to discuss your options. Please do not contact other Colleges directly.

Transferring College mid-course is normally not possible except 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 a master's and a 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 for you.

If you wish to apply to another College for a new course, you should do so independently through the Postgraduate 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.

I really enjoyed College life as a postgraduate student. I made good friends at College and I appreciated the vast variety of social events.

Judit, PhD in Geography