Things to consider before applying to Corpus Christi College, Cambridge

Caution: this document written in 2003

Having made the decision to apply to Cambridge (the promise of a T3 line in your room was a big part of that, yes?), you're going to need to pick a college. You're not allowed to apply to more than one college, so doubtless you'll be putting a lot of stock in the decision. Don't worry; the colleges are more alike than they are different, so you can't really go wrong. But even so, you're going to have to make your decision somehow, and there is the ever-present interview question, "Why did you apply to this college?"

If Corpus Christi is on your list of possibles, then you'll want to know more than what it says in the prospectus. I've been studying at Corpus for a term and a half, so here're some things that I think you'll find useful in making your decision.

Corpus Christi is one of the smallest colleges in Cambridge, with only around 250 undergrads around the place at any one time. We take about 75 new students (Corpuscles?) a year, and that's both men and women (the split is about 60% men / 40% women, as near as I can make out). Compare this with Trinity College, which has about 700 undergraduates, and we really are a close-knit community. After about one term you'll recognise pretty much every face in College, even if you don't know too many of their names. Corpus is also physically pretty small. We have just two courts, Old and New, and some undergraduate accomodation the other side of the road. You can walk all the way around College in five minutes; learning your way around, or at least the vital routes between your room, the dining hall, and the bar, will take a day at most. I consider the close-community thing to be a point in Corpus' favour, but some may find it claustrophobic.

Despite also being one of Cambridge's oldest colleges (Old Court was built in the 1350s), the accomodation is good. You're guaranteed accomodation for three years (unless you manage to fail one of your papers, in which case you may well be told to find your own accomodation), and all accomodation is inside College itself or just across the road as indicated above. Depending on how much money you spend, you'll get a smallish/medium/large room, with a fifty percent chance of a wash basin. In the second and third years, students who get firsts on their Tripos papers get a larger "prize room", which is a good incentive to work harder. Rent is roughly £500 a term but varies widely between £400 and £600. In general, Corpus rent compares very favourably with other Cambridge colleges.

Probably the best aspect of studying at Corpus is that it's about as centrally-located in Cambridge as it's possible to get. The nearest non-college bar is fifteen feet away, cash machines are twenty feet, the market square in the centre of town is three and a half minutes' walk. Unless your lectures are far away and you don't fancy walking both ways every day, you might be able to get away without owning a bike.*

If you plan to bring a computer to college with you then you will find that Corpus' Computing Officer is among the most lenient in Cambridge. Unlike some colleges, you will that there find no official transfer limits (though obviously you should keep an eye on the usage charts and limit yourself to avoid attracting unwanted attention) and you are also permitted to use Bittorrent. That is to say you are not PREVENTED from using Bittorrent. DO NOT ABUSE THESE PRIVILEGES. It could be much, much worse.

To be fair, not everything about Corpus is great. The College's only major failing is food. The gyp rooms (sometimes euphemistically termed "kitchens") rarely comprise more than a single hob or microwave, a kettle and a fridge. Generally kitchen facilities are pretty inadequate and you need to be really determined if you want to cook anything more complicated than cereal and milk every day.

The alternative is hall food. A few people turn up for breakfast; more for lunch; pretty much everyone for dinner. You get charged a flat rate of over £100 a term, regardless of how much you eat, so it's a bit of a waste of money not to turn up at least some of the time. Hall food is generally acceptable, but on occasion it can be downright dire. If you're a vegetarian, it's even worse. It's not the worst in Cambridge, though, that dubious honour goes to Caius (pronounced "Keys"). And because the college is small the queues are generally very short, which may not sound like much, but it's the little things that make a difference.

In summary

Pros

  • Close-knit community
  • Centrally located
  • Good accomodation
  • Cheap rent
  • Lenient Computing Service

Cons

  • Close-knit community
  • Sub-standard hall food
  • Lousy kitchens

Those are the chief general points (that you won't find in the prospectus) that you should consider if Corpus is on your consideration list. There are other, lesser pros and cons, but to list them all would confuse the issue. There are also subject considerations, which I'm afraid I can't advise on, since I only study one subject.

*The maths lecture halls (for the first two years, anyway) are just behind college, so if, like me, you study mathematics, it's possible to get from your room to the lecture theatre in as little as ninety seconds. This was actually the main deciding factor in my applying to Corpus. It may sound incredibly lazy, but when you have lectures six mornings a week for eight weeks, an extra half-hour in bed every morning can make a not-inconsiderable difference to your life.

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