Applying to St. Catharine's College, Cambridge University

Founded in 1473, St Catharine's College is a welcoming community of students, staff and Fellows in the heart of Cambridge. As a College of the University of Cambridge, we are dedicated to academic excellence and to recruiting the most able students, whatever their backgrounds, to join our teaching and research community.

St Catharine's is committed to academic excellence and success, while maintaining a relaxed and sociable atmosphere. We are fortunate to be located in the centre of Cambridge - within short walking distance of most University departments and numerous historic buildings and collections.

Click here for more information about St Catharine's vast number of clubs and societies.

How did you decide between Oxford and Cambridge?

Only Cambridge offered straight economics and all economics people in the past from my school had applied to Cambridge. Furthermore, I had visited Cambridge a few times and really liked it (Profile 255)

I was attracted to the individual teaching provided through the supervision system, and I think that the average intelligence and enthusiasm among both lecturers and students there will be greater than other universities. I wanted to study natural sciences rather than pure physics. (Profile 984)

I really liked the atmosphere of the university and the town when I looked around. The Cambridge Nat Sci course offers an unusual amount of flexibility and I liked the idea of the college system (Profile 246)

Why did you apply to St. Catharine’s College?

Because I knew someone who went there, it was really friendly and pleasant to visit, and its close to the engineering department! (Profile 395)

It was a bit random really. It's middle sized, mixed, in the centre of town, did not ask for 'Step' papers, had an even balance of state/private school boys/girls. It also has nice old buildings! Although I still think I have made a good choice, with hindsight, I would have looked around a few more colleges, found out about accommodation and eating arrangements. Catz also has a really cool prospectus. (Profile 246)

Great location - right in the centre of town. Friendly atmosphere and nice building. Also knew someone there already who was doing Economics and had formerly been at my school. (Profile 255)

It's got a good reputation for music, it's medium-sized, on the riverbank and in the centre. Mainly though, I looked up the directors of studies for ASNaC and matched my interests with the director at St Catz (Profile 107)

Location - central cambridge; Size - Small, community feel; Specifics - Very good for Economics (Profile 637)

I had visited the college and met my potential tutor and liked him. I also thought it had an informal atmosphere and it is opposite the English faculty. (Profile 451)

What was your general impression of St. Catharine’s College and any other colleges you visited?

It was small but friendly, just what I was looking for (Profile 395)

I didn't actually go into Catz before I applied, but i really liked it when I went up for the interview. I looked around Corpus Christi, which was a bit too small and antique. I thought that Kings was too big and austere. Clare looked really nice, but i was told that it's a popular college. St.Catz has a very small site which makes the college seem really cozy, and it is very pretty from the front. The road that it is on looks lovely in the dark with all the colleges lit up. (Profile 246)

St. Catharine's was not too big and was very nice overall. I had also visited Selwyn but I thought that it was too far away from the centre of the city. (Profile 255)

It seemed very friendly and the students were lovely. It was also really clean in the rooms that I saw. It is overshadowed a bit by Kings, Queens etc but in some ways I think that's a good thing! (Profile 277)

From what I saw of St. Catharines (I didn't go to an open day there) it seemed really friendly and welcoming - not at all intimidating. Everyone, including the other applicants seemed really nice. I also went to an open day at Peterhouse which I didn't really like - it seemed really traditional and the other people there at the open day didn't seem as friendly. (Profile 234)

Friendly, slightly old-fashioned, but I'm used to that! (Profile 620)

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: Saw one room on open day, it was above average and looked more cosy than some other student rooms I'd been in.

- Food: Edible but not great. Both times I visited I was given the same meal - Chicken with new potatoes and gravy! (Profile 395)

- Accommodation: A lot of the rooms in the main St. Catharine's building have en suite bathrooms. The rooms themselves are not that big and probably measure about 4 x 4 metres. (Profile 255)

- Accommodation: I have a very small room at home, so even though I was allocated the one of the smallest rooms in the college, it was still comfortable to me.

- Food: Fairly standard although not amazing. (Profile 546)

- Accommodation: Didn't see any unfortunately. I would advise all applicants to stay in college accommodation if it is offered - I didn't and I wish I had. (Profile 234)

- Accommodation: I stayed in modern accommodation. Ugly but en-suite and good facilities.

- Food: Edible but not great. Curious and fairly unidentifiable. Apparently they recycle the same stuff day after day. (Profile 259)

Any thoughts on the tutors/students at St. Catharine’s College?

- Tutors: they were friendly and made me feel relaxed - mostly.

- Students: only met 2, but they were both lovely. (Profile 395)

- Students: I know one person there already so I can't really comment on them but I did meet another student there. He seemed pretty normal - just a run-of-the-mill guy. St. Catharine's doesn't tend to have many snobby students apparently. (Profile 255)

- Tutors: I found my first tutor very talkative, charming and likeable. The second was a bit shy and didn't talk much (however that could have been deliberate).

- Students: Casual, friendly and helpful. (Profile 451)

- Tutors: Distracted but like they could be nice. They seemed really interested in their subject and in thinking deeply into things.

- Students: Really nice and a bit less geeky than those I've met in other colleges. (Profile 277)

- Tutors: The ones that I spoke to were very friendly, although my second interviewer was really tired!

- Students: Nice, friendly, normal people. They didn't have 'I'm a genius' writen all over them and made me feel at home. (Profile 246)

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

[Anglo-Saxon, Norse & Celtic] The form: Write as much as you can in the extra information box - it makes them feel special.

The interview: Try and relax, it is an enjoyable experience, particularly for such an obscure subject, as it's hard to find someone who is interested in and knows what your talking about, but these people do. Also they're really encouraging and not out to get you. Know your personal statement back to front and be prepared to discuss any books you mention in depth. Get the booklist and read as many as you can. Show enthusiasm, as its the main thing they're looking for. Oh and go to an ASNaC open day. (Profile 107)

[Economics] Definitely read The Economist as often as you can and a daily newspaper. Try to read one, two or three books about an area in Economics you are interested in and be sure they know about this so they ask you about it and you can show off some of your knowledge. (Profile 255)

[Engineering] The forms: Try to have something different from everyone else, especially when writing about why you chose the university/course.

The interview(s): There's not much preparation you can do, but mathematically you need to be on the ball, so make sure you are well awake and ready to think! (Profile 395)

[Anglo-Saxon, Norse & Celtic] Don't underestimate the importance of the interview, if your grades aren't all As it's still worth applying. Also go to an open day (did I mention that already?) (Profile 107)

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

[Anglo-Saxon, Norse & Celtic] I had two 20 minute interviews. In the general one I got all the obvious ones like why my subject, why cambridge etc etc. Also a basic review of everything i'd written in my personal statement, such as detaield discussion of a book which i had studied at AS level English lit. Current affairs came up (the firefighter's strike) as well as questions about my hobbies, like what do you think you've gained from being n an orchestra and what's better about classical music than the charts?! In the academic interview I had 2 professors who were both really nice and encouraging. They asked me so much, about how French and German relate to the subject and why dead languages are relevant today. Also discussions about books I'd read, like Beowulf and icelandic sagas and something about archaeology. (Profile 107)

[Economics] How do interest rates affect exchange rates? Is globalisation a good thing? Apply game theory to an economic context? (I brought this up) (Profile 637)

[Economics] In the general one I was asked about various things on my personal statement such as my extra curricular activities. Was also asked about rail privatisation, tackling Cambridge's traffic problems and, strange as it may seem, how water boiled! That last one caught me off guard and there was no way I could have prepared for it. In the economics interview, I was asked various questions about globalisation (such as a definition for it and the issues surrounding it - I had said I was interested in globalisation in my PS). I was also asked: why are rich countries rich and poor countries poor, would more doctors or more lawyers be better in the world, how do you measure happiness, what role should the state play in the economy, what is the political stance of The Economist and what are the arguments for and against the minimum wage? In neither interview was I asked why I wanted to go to Cambridge. Also, in the economics interview, no questions were asked about current affairs (which I thought was quite strange) or about the books I had read (again strange considering one was on his desk at the time and another on a reading list the tutor usually gives out to his undergraduate students). Oh yeah, I was also given a passage to read right before the interview but wasn't asked a thing about that either! (Profile 255)

[Engineering] I was given an article beforehand on telescopes, and asked some questions on the article, mostly mathematical things. Was also asked some questions about my school, my A-levels and the Engineering Education Scheme (which I did in year 12) (Profile 395)

[Natural Sciences, Physical] The 'general' interview was actually completely subject based. I was asked mostly mathematical questions. In the second interview, I was asked to choose an area of maths to talk about. (Profile 984)

[Natural Sciences, Biological] In my general interview I was asked about novels that I had read, and the historical background to the books. I was also questioned on scientific articles that I had read. A few general questions about, why Cambridge, why Catz etc. My second interview really surprised me as it was so short, but my interviewer seemed really happy with it. I was asked about evolution and various causes and results. We didn't really get on to anything very difficult, and I felt that I wasn't really given the opportunity to show what I could do. (Profile 246)