The Best Cambridge College for Engineering

October 24, 2023
5 min read
Cress Warnell

It's natural that you want to find the best Cambridge College for your engineering degree. By choosing to apply to Cambridge University you're aiming to be a student in one of the world's top institutions for education. So it makes sense that you'll also aim to spend those undergraduate years in one of the top colleges for your chosen course.

There are 31 colleges in the University of Cambridge and as a student, you must be in one of them. The choice narrows a little for undergraduates, as two aren't open to you. A further three only take students aged 21 or over, so if you're younger, your options are now reduced to 26 colleges. That becomes 24 colleges if you're male, because two colleges only admit women.

Choosing the best college of engineering out of 24 is still a challenge, particularly if you don't know very much about Cambridge and its colleges.

However, be assured that every one of those colleges accepts engineering undergraduates. Every college is equipped to support engineering students through their degree. And every college is part of the University of Cambridge, giving you access to the labs and facilities in one of the most prestigious centres of learning in the world.

Your choice of college should take many different factors into account. Many of these are less about academic ranking and more to do with your personal preferences. We've put together this short guide to help you make a well-informed choice.

What it means to choose a Cambridge college 

You may be surprised when, as part of your application to the University of Cambridge, you're asked to select a specific college. How will this choice make a difference to your time at the university? Is this a decision that could make a significant difference to the outcome of your studies?

When you select a college, you're not choosing between different versions of your engineering degree. The curriculum, the core teaching, the exams and the awarding of degrees are all handled centrally, by the university. These are the same, whichever college you are part of.

What's different, on a college-by-college basis, are things like:

  • Your accommodation, as your college is responsible for this.
  • How far you have to travel to get to lectures, labs and libraries.
  • The level of formality around aspects of college life.
  • The pastoral and educational support available to you.
  • The range of sporting facilities, teams, clubs and other extracurricular activities.

The university and college, between them, take responsibility for all aspects of your life as a student at Cambridge. The education is split between the two. You'll attend lectures and seminars in the university, and supervisions in the college.

A supervision is a small-group tutorial, where you typically meet once a week with one or two other students and a fellow of the college. Supervisions are intensive, interactive and designed to push you towards applying the knowledge you're gaining through study.

Your choice of college will affect your experience as a Cambridge student. If you're really unsure which college to choose, you can make an open application to the university - meaning they will select the college you're applying to.

You decide what makes a Cambridge college the 'best' for you

Every college has an outstanding reputation for scholarship. They're all part of a university that ranks alongside Oxford, Harvard and Stamford. While your application to the university will be handled by the college you choose, every college has the same high requirements of entry.

Here are some of the colleges with their distinguishing features - which could influence your choice:

Christ's College - top of the Tompkins Table, which ranks colleges by exam performance.

King's College - has a chapel choir that performs all over the world.

Girton College - boasts the best on-site sports facilities among Cambridge colleges.

Clare College - has a reputation of having the best college bar.

Magdalen College - one of the colleges that hosts formal candlelit dinners every night.

Homerton College - accepts the largest number of engineering students each year.

Churchill College - has the largest number of engineers on Fellowship (post-graduate studies).

Peterhouse College - next door to the Engineering faculty, making it the closest of the colleges.

Trinity College - home to the largest college library, with over 300,000 volumes.

Location, culture, sports teams and facilities, along with the range of clubs and societies, are all features that help distinguish one college from another.

A great way to get a sense of the different colleges is to research them via their websites and to pay a visit to some of them.

In summary: How to find the best Cambridge college for engineering

You've decided to study engineering at Cambridge. Now you need to think about what you want from your time at university, besides the teaching and tutoring that comes with your degree.

Finding the 'best' college for you is about knowing what you're looking for from your student experience, and finding the college most likely to deliver it. This could include:

  • How easy it will be for you to get around the city of Cambridge.
  • Whether there are particular clubs or teams you want to be part of.
  • The degree of formality and tradition you'd like for studying and socialising.

No matter which college you choose, a degree in engineering from the University of Cambridge opens the door to an exciting future career.

Learn more about studying engineering at Cambridge with Summer Schools

The courses available through Summer Schools equip you to choose the most appropriate college for your degree. Whether you're seeking to study at Cambridge or one of the other top universities, our courses give you a strong flavour of what it's like to be an undergraduate in one of these institutions.

You'll get to experience being taught by experts, in the lecture halls and seminar rooms used by full-time students. You'll live in student accommodation, eat in their dining halls and get a real taste of what it's like to live on campus. At the same time, you'll explore local cultural sites, enjoy organised trips and experiences, and have time to socialise with others like yourself.

Attending a Summer Schools course can help you to make important choices about what to study and where. It also looks great on your university application, as it demonstrates your commitment to learning and self-development.

We have an extensive selection of courses and locations on our website. Take the time to explore what's available - there's something for everyone.

Cress Warnell

Cress is a skilled copywriter who transforms ideas into captivating content. With a passion for words and a keen eye for detail, she crafts compelling copy for Summer Schools, helping students explore their options in education.

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