Cambridge MBA and Cambridge Colleges — A decision aid

I wanted to write a quick guide to Cambridge Colleges, aimed at people accepted into the Cambridge MBA.

The MBA program works a little differently than any other Cambridge degree, in that you’re first accepted into the MBA, and then you’re accepted into a college. (Traditionally you’re apply to your program through a college, and then are accepted into both.)

On an MBA program, your college can be part of your core MBA experience or virtually irrelevant. If you want to participate in sports, everything is done through your college. (Unless you’re good enough to start out playing at a high level for the University.) Housing is all done through your college, and a significant part of the admin you have to do with your program is done through a college. But while it’s a fairly significant choice, it certainly doesn’t “break” your MBA, though it can help “make” it.

I’m at Jesus College, which is quite an old college in the north part of central Cambridge. It’s a big, fairly wealthy college with lots of space on the grounds for sports. Arnoud De Meyer, the Director of Judge Business School, is a Fellow at Jesus and it’s been great to meet him from time to time at the college.

I would say the biggest things to think of when picking a college:

  • Housing — Do you intend to stay in college housing? Do you have a partner and/or children? If you want something other than a single room for one person the availability can be dramatically different between colleges.
  • Location — This is tied into housing, too. If you do plan on living in college, how close to Judge do you want to be? (If you want to be close to the boathouses for rowing, pick Jesus.)
  • Sports — If you’re really interested in a particular sport, check to see which colleges are the best. (That’s how I got to Jesus, to be honest.)
  • Old vs. New — Do you want to be in one of the older colleges, one of the newer colleges, or do you just not care?
  • Grad/Mature/Women — Some colleges restrict admission to mature students, grad students, women or some combination thereof. Is that something you care about?

Finally, remember to have a few different choices that you’d be happy with when you talk to the MBA office. (They have much more information than I have about colleges other than Jesus.) Each college can be very quirky and they may very well not accept you, though you are guaranteed a place in one of the colleges. The MBA office will help guide you through all that. But I’d also recommend taking a look at the various colleges on Wikipedia for some basic comparative information and links to much more detail.

But without further ado, here’s my guide to Cambridge Colleges for the Cambridge MBA:

Ancient Colleges (founded before 1600)

The ancient colleges tend to be more popular, and thus a bit harder to get into. People like them because there’s much more tradition, the dining halls and chapels are old and beautiful, and they’ve got quirky histories (and world-famous alumni) to impress family and friends. Unfortunately, many of these colleges rarely seem to accept MBA’s. But there are some (like Jesus) that are a bit more enlightened!

Virtually none

Unless you’re an alumni of the college already or have family connections, it’s unlikely that you will get a spot at these colleges.

Peterhouse
Clare
Gonville and Caius
Trinity Hall
Corpus Christi
King’s
St. John’s
Trinity

Handful or more

These colleges certainly take MBA’s, and are all great choices.

Queens’ -Quite popular, >10 MBA’s/year

Queens’ is quite close to Judge, and was quite a popular choice this year.

Pembroke

Pembroke is one of the closest colleges to Judge, and is a great choice. We often go to the cafeteria there for lunch because it’s convenient. I think if you register early enough with them you may be able to get a room in the main college grounds, which are beautiful.

St. Catharine’s

St. Catherine’s is also convenient to Judge, and I believe has a small number of scholarships for MBA’s. [UPDATE]- I have since been informed that St. Catharine’s only accepts MBA’s that are Benavitch Scholars.

Jesus

Clearly the best college for MBA’s, bar none. Fantastic rowing club, and convenient housing. It’s a little further away from Judge (~15 minute walk), but you get to see the heart of Cambridge every day because of it!

Emmanuel

Another good college with a handful of MBA’s this year.

Sidney Sussex

The Master of Sidney Sussex is Professor Dame Sandra Dawson, who was formerly the Director of Judge Business School, and is also on the Board of Directors of Barclays Bank and Oxfam International. (She was one of our professors for Organisational Behaviour last term.) It’s a very nice college, right by Jesus.

Small number

I’m not sure if these colleges fall under the “Virtually None” category or not, but they accepted MBA’s this year:

Christ’s

Very beautiful college about 10–15 minutes’ walk from Judge.

Magdalene

Magdalene is on the banks of the Cam, just over the bridge from central Cambridge. Very quaint. Apparently their May Ball every year is white-tie, which is interesting.

Old Colleges (founded between 1800 and 1900)

I don’t know much about many of these colleges, so I’ll write what I do know.

Hughes Hall [mature only] -Most popular, about 30/year

Hughes Hall is very popular amongst MBA’s, with about 20% of the class there. Having so many of your classmates at the same college is great for people that like that.

St. Edmund’s [mature only]
Downing

Downing is the other college that’s very close to Judge. Very beautiful grounds, and it feels more like one of the “ancient” colleges.

Girton
Homerton
Newnham
[women only]
Selwyn

Modern Colleges (founded since 1950)

Wolfson [mature only] -Very popular, about 20 MBA’s

Another popular college for MBA’s. A surprisingly strong rowing club, too.

Darwin [grads only]

Darwin is fairly convenient to Judge, and is just past Queens’ on the other side of the Cam.

Fitzwilliam
Clare Hall [grads only]
Murray Edwards (aka New Hall) [women only]
Churchill
Robinson
Lucy Cavendish [mature women only]

[UPDATE] — The post from James Barker of the Judge Admissions Office is an absolute must-read on this topic!