Clare College Cambridge


Shona Gibson

Independent School, Glasgow


Clare’s reputation as a friendly college was the main reason I chose to apply here. The idea of an old college with beautiful surroundings and tradition appealed and Clare seemed to fit this bill whilst moving with the times. The accommodation is also particularly good, all first years living together in staircases of 10-20 people - ideal for getting to know each other. Many of my best friends now are those from my staircase in 1st year.

Why study maths at Clare? The college is more where you live and play as most academic concerns are organised on a university basis. However, one thing I have appreciated very much has been the friendship between mathematicians in my year. Clare takes about 9 students each year: small enough to get to know each other but large enough that there’s always someone who understands the work.

The Cambridge course is challenging, especially in the first few weeks, but so worthwhile if you have a real passion for maths. There are 12 lectures and 2 supervisions per week where you discuss examples from the lectures in pairs with an academic. It’s an amazing chance to talk to someone who is extremely knowledgeable in that area. This leaves much of the working week as personal study time, easily filled understanding lecture notes and doing example sheets. In first year you receive an introduction to all areas of maths and then in later years you select the ones which interest you.

The interviews are to sound out if you have a real spark for maths, to see what you can do aside from just rote learning for school exams. Normally you will have two in which you are given mathematical problems to talk through and solve. You are not necessarily expected to complete everything alone; it should be a bit like a supervision where the interviewer will help along the way. Obviously you are expected to do Mathematics A-level or equivalent and the more mathematical experience (e.g. Further Maths, Physics) you can get the better. Not doing Further Maths meant that I felt a bit behind to start with, making some things in first year initially a little tricky.

However there is more to life than maths. Clare is a very musical college and there’s always loads going on: amazing orchestral concerts, Open Mic nights in the bar and lots more. I play in the orchestra as well as being President of and singing in Clare Voices, the college non-audition choir. I’m also in the university Concert Band and Christian Union. Whatever your tastes, there will be suitable societies in Clare or the university. Clare Bar is student-run and has a great reputation throughout the university, holding regular event nights. However, my friends and I, when work is finished, are more likely to be found in someone’s room chatting over tea and biscuits.

So if you really do have a passion to study maths at the highest level in a friendly, inclusive and varied environment then do apply to Clare. I have enjoyed my time here immensely and definitely picked the right college for me.