Applying to Downing

When one is coming to Cambridge it is important to realise that the Colleges mean everything here. Depending on your faculty or field of study you may spend either a vast amount of time with your colleagues in the lab (for instance if you are a geneticist) or perhaps very little at all (like historians). Unless you choose to involve yourself with university student government, or if you get involved in a university sports team (a blues team) you will have virtually nothing to do, in your day-to-day life, with the ‘University’. The College Means Everything.

The College

Having said that, lets be more specific about the things that the college provides you: Almost all of your administration will be done within your College. The ‘Tutorial Office’ is where all the main ‘paper shuffling’ happens, with your money going to the ‘Bursary’. The importance of the college, however, transcends administration. The College provides you with your allegiance for sports, and your closest grouping of friends. The Middle Combination Room (or MCR, to which all graduates in a College belong) is the primary college organisation with which you will have contact with. This is a student body that represents the interests of the graduates within the college. Confusingly, the MCR is also a room or rooms tucked somewhere into your college, which is your living room and a social focus for your day.

What do you need to find in a college? What this boils down to is a personal choice: Why are you coming to Cambridge? If it is to be a bookish recluse, hiding in your chambers, turning pasty white, choose a college that doesn’t care about your social life. If you want to come to Cambridge to do some serious work, as well as to have some serious fun, then pick a college that best fits your personality.


Some MCRs are quite timid, some are very big and loud. Some MCRs are very formally organised, some quite political. Others are primarily social in nature, and some can be quite sporty. Look carefully at the website of the MCR at various colleges, and see how they represent themselves. The College itself is just architecture and administration: the MCR is the group of people that you will associate with the most. These are the people that plan your social events, the people with whom you will eat your lunch and the people with whom you will live. They are also the people (in the case of your MCR committee) who will determine your rent increases and, depending on the college, what room you will live in during subsequent years. They are, in short, important.

Why Downing?

So this begs the question: why pick a particular college? We have some reasons why you should pick our college:

Great things about DowningFile:Downing College, Cambridge - Chapel (2).JPG

  • Full of friendly, non-prententious, intelligent people
  • The location – underestimated by all (people thinking its too far from the centre) but actually very nice because of this, calm tranquil etc – no tourists trying to take your photo!!
  • The accommodation that is available is very well furnished
  • Active MCR, welcoming, great opportunities to get involved, work hard AND play hard people! Lots of social events.
  • It’s full of scientists! The arts-types, however, make up a noisy minority that enjoys its slightly privileged position.
  • Boat Club! Its very active in Downing, excellent May/Lent bumps positions, lots of rowers, great way to feel like you’re definitely part of the college, plus you get to meet lots of different Downing people, including undergrads (also lessens the grad-undergrad divide which, in my opinion, is a good thing)
  • Lots of brand new graduate accommodation!!

Useful links…