If you’re thinking about applying to Cambridge or want to find out more about what it’s like, you’re in the right place! You’ll find a lot of helpful information on this site, and if you have any questions or need anything else, please do get in touch and we’ll do our best to help you!
To help you get a flavour for what the different courses are like at Cambridge, we’ve written up some subject guides, giving some information about what the timetable is like and what advice current students have
The college system at Cambridge has many benefits but the question on your mind before applying may be: “Which college?” Accommodation, location and facilities are amongst some of the factors that students often consider before making their choice.
Here at ISoc, one of the more frequent questions from applicants is what the difference between colleges is – which ones serve halaal food, which ones are close to the Prayer Room, which have lots of en suite rooms…much of the information can be found on the university or college websites, but with the help of our lovely college reps, we’ve put together a brief guide with a bit more detail. Feel free to contact the college reps for more information!
Please note this information is based on the experiences of current ISoc students and can change.
Halal food provision – Fresh chicken served in Hall is always halal, can request for halal food when booking on to a formal
Pros – Sports pitches are on site, good sized gym, large number of ensuite rooms, and a pretty large muslim community. Located close to the West Cambridge site. Ramadan Provisions provided in the buttery (cafeteria) charging same prices as in hall
Cons – No ovens in kitchens, quite far from centre of town
Halal food provision – For normal meals double check with the staff but the chicken and lamb is usually halal. Halal food available at every formal
Pros – In town, first year accommodation is next to University Library and very close to Sidgwick Site (ISoc Prayer Room, Humanities lectures)
Cons – There will be a lot of renovation work going on in Old Court for the next few years
Halal food provision – Halal sandwiches and other food available in the cafe, can get halal version of food at hall but have to request the day before you want the meal. Halal food available at formal upon request
Pros – Good central location: not too many tourists, close to coach and train station, next to Downing Site, close to shops. Fair number of nice ensuite rooms – can cite religious reasons for requiring an ensuite room
Cons – Not as close as other colleges to the ISoc prayer room. Doesn’t provide food currently for Ramadan but this maybe could be changed as catering are very accommodating
Halal food provision – Halal food not available in hall, can request specifically when booking formal but usually they just give you the vegetarian option
Pros – Central and close to everything but not overcrowded by tourists. Close to Downing Site (Medicine, Natural Sciences lectures), Grand Arcade and Grafton (both are shopping centres), all the shops and banks plus it’s literally opposite numerous food places. Also we have ducks!
Cons – No halal food and limited cooking facilities in first year Old South accommodation kitchens (but New South and North court all have decent kitchens, as do rooms in subsequent years). Very few en suite rooms. 15-20 min walk from Sidgwick Site (and ISoc prayer room)
Halal food provision – Generally, only the chicken is halal. You must ask the staff though as the chicken is not always halal
Pros – It is close to Aldi and the West Cambridge Site. The other hill colleges are nearby (e.g. Churchill) and consequently, there is hill college community where people have brunches/dinner at each other’s colleges, play sports together, socialise etc. The library is 24/7 at Fitzwilliam and the college itself is close to the Betty and Gordon Moore maths library which you can register access to and is also 24/7. The gym has free weights, 1 squat rack, 1 cables, a few machines, treadmills, rowing machines, cycling machines. There are 2 squash courts you can book for free. Your card gives you a discount for renting a punt. Kitchens have ovens and are nice.
Cons – Location is not central so you may find yourself cycling to a lot of places
Halal food provision – They say that they do halal meals every Monday and Wednesday but as a general rule you have to call ahead (up to a few hours before dinner on the day) and ask
Pros – The people. We currently have a strong Muslim community and a strong BME culture in general
Cons – Location – far from the town centre. People will make jokes about you having to get flights in but it isn’t as bad as it seems. Cycling in the morning is nice and takes roughly 15 mins but cycling back after a long day and uphill can get tiring
Halal food provision – Should always ask waiters, however, chicken is usually halal and lamb is sometimes halal
Pros – Central location of college and accommodation for second and third year. First year accommodation at Harvey Court/ Stephen Hawking Building is all en suite, near the Sidgwick site (ISoc Prayer Room, humanities lectures). Ramadan take away meals are available. You can get a mini fridge in your room from college upon request
Cons – You have to pay a minimum dining requirement on top of bill every term. Kitchens don’t have ovens or freezers (sometimes one shelf). Very few ensuite rooms in second and third year since the central buildings are quite old but generally you’re only sharing with a couple others
Halal food provision – None at the moment
Pros – All first year and most of the second and third year accommodation is en suite. You have the option to live in an all girls or alcohol free corridor in first year. Closest college to the new Central Mosque, Mill lane (where most of the halal shops are) and the train station.
Cons – Location – quite far from lectures and the ISoc prayer room. Never seen a Halal option.
Halal food provision – Should always ask waiters, however, chicken is usually halal and lamb is sometimes halal
Pros – Central location but still quiet. Next to Jesus green (public park). Nearly all student accommodation has ensuite. Library has 3 floors and 24 hour access and laundry and dryer machines are free. Sports grounds are within the college grounds
Cons – No breakfast served in Michaelmas and Lent, only Easter term. Quite far from Sidgwick Site (ISoc Prayer Room, Humanities lectures)
Halal food provision – Halal food available upon request for formals. For normal meals no halal food is provided so you have to stick with fish/veggie options.
Pros – Central location. About 5 mins away from Sainsburys and 8 mins from Market Square. Many ensuite rooms available. Almost all rooms come with a mini fridge so everyone can store their food personally. Much of the college is bordered by the river where you will frequently see and hear ducks (this may also be a con). Punts can be booked from the porters lodge for free. 24 hour library and two gyms; weights gym and cardio gym.
Cons – About 20 mins walk to the prayer room or 7 mins cycle. 25-30 mins walk to get to Mill Road (where most of the halal restaurants are and the eco mosque). Meal times are not compatible with Ramadan so you’ll need to prepare for your iftar/suhoor.
Entry – Women’s college
Halal food provision – Halal chicken is available in the buttery (cafeteria) and at formal dinners even though it’s not always advertised. Would double check as sometimes they cook with alcohol. You can also request Halal at formals so they know not to give you alcohol too
Pros – Opposite the ISoc prayer room so perfect for Ramadan. There’s also a relatively high proportion of Muslim sisters at Newnham so it’s a really nice and close-knit community. Kitchens are great (we have ovens!) so cooking your own food is very easy. You can also request a sink in your room for religious reasons or an en suite room
Cons – The Buttery hours are very short and specific which isn’t great for Ramadan timings so you’ll need to make your own food/buy from elsewhere
Halal food provision – Chicken is halal v.rarely, however if you plan on cooking/bringing food from home, it is easy to get a fridge in your room, and you can refuse to pay the Kitchen Fixed Charge if you do not plan on eating in hall (saves £450+/year)
Pros – Amazing brunch on weekends. Very central location and close to most lectures and shops whilst still not being crowded with tourists
Cons – Lack of halal food
Halal food provision – Can request halal food for formals and when being served in hall but you have to tell them in advance
Pros – Everything is on site, including a gym. We also have a prayer room in St Peters terrace which is where most of the freshers stay. We have formals everyday. College is also a 10 minute walk from Sidgwick Site so the ISoc prayer room is also near. Not too many tourists and good central location
Cons – Kitchens don’t have ovens or hobs for first years therefore really difficult to cook. Does not provide food for Ramadan.
Halal food provision – College provides 1 halal meal a day, mainly during lunch and is mainly chicken. No halal option at formals but can choose no alcohol.
Pros – Ensuite rooms that you can request & get priority for for religious reasons. 5 min walk away from Sidgwick Site (ISoc Prayer Room, Humanities lectures). Cafe hours are good which helps with iftars during Ramadan
Cons – Kitchens are very cramped and there aren’t any microwaves so it is hard to cook your own meals
Halal food provision – None except occasionally at formals
Pros – Quite a lot of en suite rooms, many with mini fridges. Good central location – close to town and to the ISoc Prayer Room. 2nd year accommodation is in flats which have ovens and freezers
Cons – Kitchens aren’t great so cooking can be difficult
Entry – Mature students
Halal food provision – Around once or twice a week
Pros – Location – not far from where lectures take place (depending on your course) and the town centre but out of the way too
Cons – Library is often packed out. Not many ensuite rooms
Halal food provision – Buttery is open for 3 meals a day, 7 days a week. Always has a vegetarian option, and can almost always ask for halal version of the meat option. Halal also available for formals, can be requested when booking.
Pros – Central location (very close to sainsburys). 24 hour access to laundry and gym (both free). Multifaith room on site, with prayer mats. Library open 24/7. Good number of ensuite rooms generally. Wealthy college, enables quite easy access to learning and travel grants. Playing fields just at the back of college. Large green spaces, nice place to relax (or even study) during exam term
Cons – No ovens unless living in a house outside college. Freezers tend to be very small (although depends on the room). Lots of tourists
Halal food provision – Usually at least once a day, more frequently than most colleges. In past years have also given out food during Ramadan
Pros – Lots of ensuite rooms: all 1st years and a lot of 2nd and 3rd years get en suite rooms. Next to Sidgwick site (ISoc Prayer Room, Humanities lectures) which is useful in Ramadan. Library usually not packed even during exams
Cons – Slightly further away from town centre and medicine/science lectures. No close-by food or supermarket other than hall. New library construction begins next year so might be loud. No sports grounds inside college. No ovens or freezers (but you can ask for mini fridge with freezer if you need one)
Halal food provision – Chicken served in hall is halal but worth checking that the food doesn’t contain alcohol or other ingredients. Can request halal food at formals
Pros – Very central and opposite Sainsburys. Pretty gardens that can be used at anytime. Lots of benches and tables out in the gardens so you can study/ eat outside. Fridges in every room within college Well equipped kitchens with ovens. En suite accommodation available in second and third year, if the room isn’t ensuite there is usually a sink within it. Some very nice accommodation options with sets. Library open 24/7. Onsite gym (also has women’s only hours)
Cons – Lots of construction work taking place over the next few years. Noise from nearby clubs
Halal food provision – Halal food available if ordered beforehand for regular meals in hall and for formals. Usually only chicken is halal.
Pros – Central college so very close to Sainsbury’s, the market and city centre shops/restaurants. Variety of grants and funding opportunities available for extracurricular projects ( e.g. learning a language, going on holiday, doing an internship). Lots of en suite rooms available and can request them for religious reasons. Some kitchens (mainly First Year accomodation in The Wolfson Building or Blue Boar) have ovens. Can request a fridge in your room for religious reasons. There is a prayer room with prayer mats and a sink to do wudhu. The back of the college is on the river, where Trinity students can hire punts for £6/hour.
Cons – A 20-min walk from the main ISoc prayer room, but not far if you cycle. A 30-min walk from Mill road, where all the halal restaurants, shops and the Eco Mosque is.
Halal food provision – Never seen halal meat on the menu or after enquiring, could change in the future
Pros – Central location, on the river. First year accommodation is almost all on central site, some can go to WYNG Garden which is next to St John’s. WYNG Gardens has ovens and en-suites
Cons – Central site rooms don’t have ovens or en-suites. No halal food provision
Please note – this page is still under development so not all colleges have been listed
Check out a day in the life of a current Muslim student, Zainab, who discusses the role of ISoc in her university life.
Essential to check out! Gives information on the specifics of the course, entry requirements, resources to prepare for tests/interviews/departmental contacts
A student run project that is tracking down lots of resources across the internet and from students to help you apply to Cambridge. You can direct student interview insights and subject-specific preparation advice as well as finding out about free support schemes, mentoring, financial information.
Subject guides produced by Cambridge postgraduate students and academics. The topics provide guided activities, questions to think about and suggestions for further reading. Great for interview preparation and can give you some ideas for your Personal Statement.
Very informative, containing informal guides written by students on things like how to choose a college, subject guides and example personal statements.
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