Applying to Queens' College at Cambridge University

Queens’ College is a lively community of students, fellows and staff located at the heart of the city of Cambridge (for over five centuries!), with good access to University departments and to the town. It is famous for its ancient buildings and riverside site and the Patroness of the College is Her Majesty The Queen.  

The spacious, centrally-located site enables the college to accommodate all undergraduates for three years, creating an active and supportive community. Their academics teach in all the major subjects offered by the University. The graduate student body is a large, lively, international group. Those who join Queens' make life-long friendships and many choose to be actively involved with the College after graduation.

Why did you apply to Queens’ College?

I wanted to go to a college with lots of history and impressive buildings - the thought of actually living in Queens' still fills me with disbelief! - so i looked at the older colleges. I found Kings slightly too formidable, and so looked more at the colleges still in the centre of town, but slightly less imposing. In the end, my shortlist was Caius, Sidney and Queens' and the strong theatre at Queens' settled the decision. (Profile 156)

Mainly because my biggest extra-curricular love is dance, and queens' is where most of the dance is at, they have studio space and stuff! also, it's really, really pretty and picturesque! plus, it's central and not far from the architecture department (Profile 355)

I really liked it when I went to the open day as everyone was so friendly. Also, it is one of the largest colleges, and I knew that I wanted to go to quite a big college. (Profile 260)

Process of elimination: colleges in good location, fairly large, tennis team, music facilities. Also Queens' is renowned for its parties. Perfect! (Profile 1042)

A family friend who had been there (in the '70s) suggested that I would fit in. It has a good academic reputation, but lacks the pretensions of other colleges. I liked the English DoS, whom I met on the Open Day, and decided that I would like to spend three years studying there with him - I think for Arts subjects the people that you'll work with will probably be more important than the college itself. (Profile 541)

What was your general impression of Queens’ College and any other colleges you visited?

It was really beautiful and just a lovely environment to live in. it has a theatre (the rows of seats move back making it into a dance studio!), nice big dining hall, and my favourite bit was the tutor-styley court, it's so lovely! (Profile 355)

I found the atmosphere to be relaxed and friendly, and all the students I met seemed very enthusiastic about being there. I had visited another college previously which nearly put me off Oxbridge totally as it was far more traditional and quite intimidating. (Profile 260)

Very friendly people. Large college but really warm environment. Nice bar! (Profile 1042)

It was lovely, very pretty, even though it was cold and grey. They were undergoing building works so the staff kept reminding us that it wasn't "at its best", but it was still nice. Everyone was friendly but purposeful, which I liked. (Profile 607)

Describe the day-to-day aspects of living in the college. If you stayed in college, how was the accommodation? How about the food?

- Accommodation: The room I stayed in was huge and in the older group of buildings in Queens'. There was a living room and a bedroom with a bathroom shared with the room next to it. The bedroom had a sink and the living room had desks, chairs and closets (but i dunno how much of that belonged to the person occupying).

- Food: Edible but not great (Profile 156)

- Accommodation: Most of [the rooms] are arranged up and down staircases, the rooms are a good size (quite big), they have basins, but loos and showers are shared. (Profile 355)

- Accommodation: Rooms were a reasonable size and standard, but not as luxurious as those that friends of mine had in different colleges. Bathrooms were shared rather than en suite. (Profile 260)

- Accommodation: Only had a brief look at rooms. Seemed, er, 'functional'.

- Food: Edible but not great (Profile 541)

Any thoughts on the tutors/students at Queens’ College?

- Tutors: Very friendly and forthcoming - there was no evasiveness and straight before the interviews, they helpfully reassured us by telling us that most of us wouldn't get in.

- Students: Most of the applicants i met were from state schools which surprised me - i expected more public school people. All very friendly and seemed to be as nervous as i was. (Profile 156)

- Tutors: really lovely! the non-academic tutor at my interview was a bio-chemistry tutor from queens, she was really encouraging and motherly! queens' architecture tutor is Dr James Campbell. he can seem abit sharp at first (i was kinda thrown back when i first spoke to him at the open day), but afterwards he's more encouraging and actually he's really friendly i felt more used to him at the interview after speaking to him at the open day, so maybe that's a good idea, even if only briefly

- Students: the ones I met were all really friendly...(and understanding!..since all us interviewees were white with fear at breakfast!) (Profile 355)

- Tutors: They put me at my ease during the interview and were much more normal than I had expected.

- Students: When I went to the open day, all of the students went out of their way to talk to those of us visiting the college. They were all very friendly, and keen to persuade us to apply to their college. (Profile 260)

- Tutors: I was directed to the door of an office, from which they leapt out... Very friendly, relaxed, unpretentious. But still prepared to ask probing questions.

- Students: I only met two (English) students on the Open Day. Can't really comment in general. (Profile 541)

Do you have any advice for future applicants in terms of preparation?

[Archaeology & Anthropology] 

- The interview: Showing an interest is far more important than knowing details about the subject.

- Make sure that you can confidently and convincingly explain why you want to do a subject that you have probably never studied before.

- Show a willingness to analyse what you hear and draw conclusions from this - be confident enough to suggest what you think, even if it disagrees with the interviewer! (Profile 156)

[Architecture] I was told not to waste time praising cambridge or the course (saying stuff like 'i want to go to cambridge coz it's a best educational institution in the country!!'), they know they're good, just focus on telling them about you. also, don't feel that you need to repeat stuff just to fill up space. (Profile 355)

[Economics] Apply even if you are not sure it's what you want. You don't have to go if you don't want to. Don't be put off by parents or teachers telling you that other universities will reject you if you apply to Oxbridge. I was accepted by all my other universities even the ones that I was told would definitely reject me because I'd applied to Cambridge. (Profile 260)

What questions were you asked during your interview(s)?

[Archaeology & Anthropology] I was asked why i had chosen not to take a gap year (a standard Queens' question this year i hear). Then the conversation turned to my interest in history - i was asked why i wanted to do arch and anth and not just history. The conversation was very much dictated from this point on by the subjects i had chosen to talk about on the Cambridge Supplementary Questionnaire Form - so i would advise you to remember what you wrote and have something to say about each topic! This was mostly about kinship and religion and ritual - the first of which also brought in the admissions tutor in the room, who happened to specialise in biology. Altogether very friendly and interesting! (Profile 156)

[Architecture] I just had one, but with 2 interviewers. I was made to feel really welcome and comfortable right for the start. (It) kicked off with a nice general chat, then looked at my portfolio and discussed it. then the academic tutor showed me some architecture stuff and we talked about it. also discussed some contemporary issues (iconic architecture).There was non-academic stuff as well, they do ask you about your extra-curricular activities, but it was mainly focused on architecture. The tutors push you, but in a nice way!..(they're encouraging). the questions do get challenging, but i felt more like i was being guided through a difficult question, rather than being tested. (Profile 355)

[Economics] I was asked lots of questions about many different aspects of economics, mainly based on topics covered in the A-level economics course. Some were just testing my knowledge of the syllabus, others were more challenging and required more thinking about. They didn't ask me any questions about why I wanted to do the subject, and only a few non-academic questions. Before the interview I was asked to specify particular areas of economics that I was interested in, which helped me when I was preparing for the interview. (Profile 260)

[English] I thought it went quite badly really. One half-hour interview with the two Directors of Studies, who both seemed nice enough but were very quick to pick me up on weak points and challenge my opinions. Discussed a short poem ("Love Song" by William Carlos Williams), talked about things I'd mentioned in my personal statement and supplementary application questionnaire, asked me if I had any questions. One asked questions while the other took notes, and they alternated. The room was lovely though - it had big comfy sofas and hundreds of old books! When I came in, the younger one was bouncing on the sofa. It was a fun atmosphere. (Profile 607)

[Natural Sciences, Biological] Queens' - What are action potentials? How are they generated? How do they pass along the axon? How do synapses work? Asked detailed questions on biology coursework.. Do you want to take a gap year? Queens' are very keen on gap years. Newnham- What areas of science are you interested in? I said neuroscience, so we got talking about mental illnesses(and books I had read recently) Why not medicine?(because of my work experience at Barts') Interview 2 Got asked about my work experience in a stem cell lab, and then about genetics (which we have't done since GCSE)...what is a gene? If i gave you a test tube full of DNA, devise an experiment to show that it contains genes....Why is DNA the genetic code? Why not proteins? Then she showed me an electron micrograph (it might have been a cell from the adipose tissue...) and asked me what it was. (Profile 233)