Clare College Cambridge


Samya Kelly


I chose to apply to Clare College for a number of reasons, some well thought out and others more a matter of random impulse. Clare is well known for being a particularly friendly college, as well as for having lovely gardens, and its central location is pretty ideal for nipping to my lectures and subject library (though in fact nothing is really that far from anywhere in Cambridge). Clare is also particularly good for those wanting to study politics, thanks to Clare Politics society and the excellent range of speakers it hosts. The University Library also looms over the college if being close to more books than you’ve probably ever had reason to imagine before really excites you.

The application process can differ between colleges for HSPS, some requiring a test and others not, but I liked that the Clare process was relatively simple. I had two interviews, each with different fellows of the college who specialise in the subjects of the HSPS Tripos. My particular interest is in social anthropology, and a large part of my first interview focused on teasing out what I had written in my personal statement about my reading and my thoughts on the subject, and then challenging me to put those ideas into new and unfamiliar contexts. Interviews are to see how you think more than anything, and it’s not a terrible disaster if you don’t know every relevant fact - your approach to problems can be valuable in itself. Although obviously nerve-wracking, it can be really enjoyable to get to talk in depth about a subject you really care about with highly knowledgeable academics for the first time.

First term at Cambridge can leave you slightly shell-shocked, with new independence, new people and new location all taking some adjusting to before you even consider the workload. Cambridge expects a lot from you and work begins pretty much from the get-go. Getting into the rhythm of studying and essay writing might take some time, but you will inevitably manage it, and find yourself participating in (and even, heaven forbid, enjoying) college life in no time. It is incredibly easy to meet people in college, and there are always a million and one things going on to get involved with. If you find yourself struggling, there is an extensive support network available to you, from the student welfare team, to your tutor, college nurse or even university wide services.

HSPS is a really great course. Its breadth is definitely its strength for me. As a chronically indecisive person who is just really interested in and excited about all things to do with people - their lives and motivations, social movements for change, the way power works in society - being able to study multiple complementary social science disciplines at once was always going to be ideal. HSPS excels in that respect. Taking a range of subjects in first year doesn’t prevent specialisation later either, though it may mean you surprise yourself when it comes to deciding what to study in second year; from decrying any possibility of doing a politics degree, I suspect I will be found studying social anthropology with politics next year, after thoroughly enjoying the political theory covered this term.