We asked freshers their preconceptions of Cambridge Colleges

If you’re looking for helpful information about what Cambridge Colleges are actually like, you’re in the wrong place


Alongside desperately begging for a Wednesday Cindies ticket on Ticketbridge, an almost universal experience of a Cambridge student is the process of whittling down the thirty or so colleges to find the perfect one. More than 5 minutes away from lectures? No way! And what do you mean, you don’t provide free laundry?

Ignore the people that tell you the colleges are pretty much the same; If my year at Cambridge has taught me anything, it’s that every college has a reputation and boy, looks matter. Maybe you think your medium-sized, aesthetically pleasing, central college is uncontroversial and universally adored, but the Tab Cambridge have spoken to this years’ freshers and their cutting remarks prove otherwise. 

For freshers: take the below statements with a pinch of salt, college rivalry is a running (half-jokey) tradition and people tend to love their college no matter how “posh”, “ugly” or “far away” they’re considered by others. For returning students, prepare to be humbled:

Christs’ 

Kicking off with Christs’, famously top of the Tompkins’ table, but not so much top of people’s opinions. With responses ranging from “rich and full of smart people”, to “basic old college” and a cutting “literally who?” it seems this year’s freshers don’t care about you as much as you care about tripos exams. 

Churchill 

Everyone loves to hate Churchill, and this year’s freshers are no exception. From digs at its students (apparently all “socially awkward boys”, despite this year’s intake having a 50/50 gender split) to jokes about the architecture, lovingly described as “her majesty’s prison”. My personal favourite response describes the college as “Name says tory frat, architecture says soviet retirement home”. I can only assume the response describing it as “so friendly! Really nice community” was written by a loyal fresher, with an eye for brutalist architecture. 

not a socially awkward boy in sight, just brutalism | Photo credits: Constance Bearman

Clare college 

Clare has escaped the brutal commentary on its looks, receiving a nonchalant “looks nice” but is apparently seen to attract a very specific brand of people. Its’ inhabitants are described as “FLOATY nymph people, walls draping in floral Pinterest collages and tickets from the Florence machine gigs they spend all of their generous trust fund on. Fiercely Lib Dem and ready to address someone simply as ‘Babes’ at any given moment”. 

Corpus Christi 

The general consensus: a beautiful building “looks like Buckingham palace” but austere, being described as “strict af” and one respondent reporting that they “heard they have showers in a separate building”. Very 1930s boarding school vibes. Corpus students are described as being “very into class appropriation and wearing puffer jackets from JD despite doing a law degree at literal Cambridge”. 

Downing college 

Respondents lived up to the college’s marmite reputation, ranging from those who have apparently swallowed Downing’s prospectus: “The best, closest to my department building, ensuite, double bed, furnished kitchens, grass, “oldest of the new, newest of the old””  to those distinctly unimpressed, describing it as “basically an average college is nearly every way”. One fresher has clearly ignored all advice about not judging a book by its cover, commenting that Downing’s “Scary exterior can only mean scary people, big future PM vibes from the outset, definitely a secret underground elite circle where they all wear pig masks and control the economy”. Let’s hope the pig masks stop the spread of miss rona. 

Not a pig mask in sight | Photo credits: Xanthe Robertson

Emmanuel 

Aside from classic comments about “apparently they do your laundry which is cool” (challenge Emma students to have more than one topic of conversation!), their students are described as being “Sheltered man babies who without the generosity of on-site catering would wither away after months of toast and Alpen bars”, which seems to be an accurate description of about 90% of the men I’ve encountered in Cambridge. One fresher gushes that the “clock is cool” and I’m unsure whether they’re confused with the Corpus clock, or talking about the (present, but not overwhelmingly cool) clock above the Chapel. 

spy the “cool” clock | Photo credits: Genevieve Holl-Allen

Fitzwilliam college

Fitz comments range from the unoriginal “where even is Fitz?” (answer: off Huntingdon road, a five-minute cycle from town) and “everyone who applied here did so because of offer rates” to the specific: “Teeming with people who own way too many walking boots and will not stop talking about their staycation in the Lake District. Big Kirstie from location location location vibes”. England’s national parks were not bought up at the one (1) pres I’ve attended with people from Fitz, but I’ll keep an eye out for questionable footwear when clubs reopen. One confused fresher got in a muddle on an open day when they “thought the guy who showed me around was called Fitz. Put me off”, perhaps providing some constructive criticism for future access events. 

Girton college 

For people who love to bang on about their Gap Yah to Thailand and interrailing trips, Cambridge students *really* seem to hate travelling, as evidenced by the numerous comments about how Girton is on the “other side of the country” and “irrelevant because they live so far away”. Some freshers have taken sympathy, describing it as “surprisingly really amazing to look at” and possessing “really lovely people who you will see once and then never again until they appear in their own Guardian column”. I guess the long cycle ride provides lots of time to plan future career plans. 

Gonville and Caius 

Not much love for Gonville and Caius amongst this year’s freshers: it’s written off as “yet another old college, has a difficult to pronounce name” and “full of medics who are super competitive”. Apparently there are “HUGE tory vibes here, almost sinister”. Vibe check: failed. 

Homerton 

To be honest with you, I could have saved time here by just plucking random quotes about Homerton out of thin air, opposed to spamming various freshers’ chats. It will come as no surprise to people that Homerton was described as being “way too far away and boring” and full of “pooled applicants”. Apparently “the diagonal entrance is by far the most beautiful thing Cambridge has to offer” but as it’s not even mentioned on Tripadvisor and we’re helpfully reminded that Homerton is so “far away” I might have to give that a miss. Someone also describes it as “Very homely-looking, can imagine everyone being really good at badminton and crying at everything”. Apparently Homerton does have a Badminton team, so perhaps not far off. 

Hughes hall

Apparently Hughes’ Hall needs to rethink their publicity campaign, as our answers were limited to “Hughes what?” and “didn’t know this existed”. 

Jesus college

A lot of love for Jesus college,  with answers noting it’s “nice sport facilities” and “strong Black community!”, although one respondent claims that they “feel like the people here are annoying”. The other thing to come out of this article is that PaigeY needs a pay-rise as “at least half of people who applied here did so because of PaigeY”. 

King’s college

Freshers have *a lot* of opinions about King’s students: it’s “filled with posh or very aspirational people”, “everyone here is extroverted” and all students are either “private school or super arrogant”. Opinions are summarised by it being the “most eye-roll worthy college” and apparently “this IS the House of Lords warm-up room”; I always knew something sus was happening at King’s bunker. 

two wannabe peers | Photo credits: Katie Thacker

Lucy cavendish 

 A college apparently “full of 5’3 girls called Margaret who call their dog a fur baby and spent lockdown rewatching friends”. People are confused about the college’s admissions policy: “only female? Or mixed? Or what? No-one knows”. I would hazard a guess that it’s definitely one of those three options. 

Magdalene college 

Opinions are centered on the college’s name which is described as “strange” and “unpronounceable” and it’s “awful, disgusting, putrid food”. I’m not quite sure what the food has done to deserve this reputation but I’m not in a rush to find out. 

Murray Edwards 

It’s impossible to have a discussion about Medwards without bringing up its architecture. Descriptions of it here range from “very weird looking” to “a little bizarre, accidentally ended up on an open day tour and it felt like a dystopian future thing” and “Cambridge’s very own nuclear power centre”. However, it receives points for being “very nice actually” and having “nice art and gardens”, although personally I’m still gutted you’re not allowed to swim in the fountain. 

Newnham 

In a role reversal, Newnham gets points for its looks, being described as “actually pretty cute” but is unfortunately described as “not the most welcoming” (probably justified considering the number of humanities students invading their cafe every lunchtime) . Conspiracy theories float around that “Charles Xavier is in there somewhere, you cannot convince me he isn’t”. I can neither confirm nor deny this information, but since the Iris cafe objectively makes the best lattes in Cambridge, I wouldn’t put it past Newnham. 

Pembroke college

Apparently this year’s freshers are not subscribers to the Pembroke fan club: dismissing myths of their legendary Brunch, the college is dismissed as being “overrated” and berated for a student who “burnt a £20 note in front of a homeless man”. The closest we get to a compliment is from a fresher who claims they “would leave a nice comment but they rejected me and so I will say nothing”. 

Peterhouse

Impressions of this college are that it is dry and dreary: described as “very old”, “very small” and an “old college with zero spice”. Apparently they are the “only college that doesn’t offer geography”, with the respondent conspiring that this is “because they hate the environment”. Who’s going to tell Extinction Rebellion?

ft. some environment hating Peterhouse students | Photo credits: Izzy Dignum

Queens

Lukewarm responses here: it is credited for having “a nice bridge” but is emphatically described as “eh”. Someone comments that it is “poor but beautiful”, a sentiment which I feel on a spiritual level. 

Robinson

This years’ freshers are apparently not a fan of red bricks, balconies and proximity to the UL. Robinson is described as “extremely ugly” and “very weird”, and is also unable to avoid the  conspiracy theories, with one fresher questioning “is this even a real college?” I can confirm that it is, in fact, real and that their main claim to fame is having Nick Clegg as an alumnus. 

Selwyn 

Selwyn’s high state school intake has given it a reputation that it “hates private school kids” (don’t you just hate state school privilege!), a position which has split freshers between the opinion that it is either “soulless” or “underrated”. I strongly approve of the sentiment that it is “a little secret wonderland”, which was my thought completely in Lent term when I discovered how amazing their lunches were when you can’t be bothered to cycle back to college for lunch. 

Sidney Sussex

I’m sensing freshers are getting tired of coming up with assumptions about students at different colleges based on architecture style, as the general sentiment for Sidney Sussex is merely that it “looks pretty” and is “near Sainsbury’s”. Revolutionary stuff lads. 

St catz 

A college I know very little about but has been described as “kinda ugly” and “for normies”, a phrase which makes me feel that Catz is the home to all Fiat 500 girls. Sources tell me that “every Natsci here applied here because of Wothers”, a sentence which I don’t understand as a humanities student but I’ll imagine there’s some Catz Natscis reading this article, nodding their hands and saying “lool so true”. 

St Catz students probably have Chinese takeaways and tango ice blasts for Matriculation dinner

St Edmunds 

Ageism means that once again freshers lack opinions on this mature college but apparently it has a “cool name”. 

St Johns 

Ahhh the opinions are back and if freshers were picking colleges for their Netball team, suffice to say Johns would be picked last.  The *less* insulting comments describe St Johns as “posh and pompous”, “famous, rich and hard to get into”, and this general sentiment is reflected by the fact that it apparently  “would be better if it were less itself”. It appears the “rather be at Oxford than St Johns” chant isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. 

Trinity 

St John’s partner in being disliked for their wealth is, of course, Trinity, who have won the title of being “the poshest and snobbiest”. An anonymous respondent tells us that “the mathematicians are scary” (worry not, you’ll probably never even meet one), whilst another poster admits that it “looks nice, but has a super intense atmosphere and the people are just boring because they’re too intelligent for their own good”. To add further insult to the bruised egos of any Trinity students, a final commenter’s message for Trinity students: “Yes mate you’ve gone into trinity that is fucking amazing I wish I were the grain of dirt on your left pinky toe.”

They may have strange gowns, but I promise you not all Trinity students are scary, posh, or snobby | Photo credit: James Xu

Trinity hall

If people have strong opinions on Trinity, its neighbour Trinity Hall does not attract the same attention, with responses ranging from “who is she?” to “the other Trinity one”, whilst another respondent believes the college to have “cottagecore” vibes.  The classic response “Tit Hall” has big *year five boy who has just discovered how to type boobies on a calculator* energy. 

Wolfson 

Judging from responses, Wolfson is known for one thing and one thing only: “the one Ibz Mo goes to”, “Ibz mo” and “Ibzzzzz moooo”. You know he’s not going to be there this year right freshers?

 

Freshers, you might be baffled by all this now, but one week into term when you’re wearing your college stash (and mask!) and aggressively slating other colleges simply because they aren’t yours, you can use this article for points of argument.