Not sure what to pack when you move into your College? We’ve put together a helpful list of things you will and won’t need.
+ Set up a bank account
If you don’t currently have a bank account, it’s best to apply for one before you arrive in Cambridge. If you have one, then any student loans you have set up can be paid directly to you. Make sure to have a look around at the different deals banks provide to students (some will give you a free railcard!). If you are concerned about ethical banking, there is a branch of the Co-operative bank near the Grafton Shopping Centre in Cambridge
+ Set a budget and stick with it
The appearance of a student loan in your bank account can be overwhelming, many a student has given in to the temptation to go on a spending spree! The best piece of advice we can offer is to budget properly from the start, then it’ll become a normal part of life throughout university (and after). There are lots of apps available now that can help with weekly, monthly and termly budgeting.
- Most loans and/or grants are given to you at the start of term, so you will need to make your money last between payments.
- Check when your College bill arrives (this is normally the start of term) and what it includes. Once you know your main outgoings for each term you can allocate yourself an amount each week to spend.
- Be sure to keep an emergency fund tucked away to cover any unexpected expenditure, such as tickets to events etc.
+ Part-Time Jobs
Although students are not allowed to undertake a part-time job whilst studying, there are many ad hoc paid opportunities available within the university and colleges.
A number of faculties and departments often run paid research studies and most colleges have a bar which students are able to work behind. Working behind the college bar is a great way to meet new people!
You will learn much more about financial support on offer and paid opportunities you can get involved with when you arrive, and be sure to keep an eye on your college and department websites!
+ Things to consider when budgeting
- Food and drink costs (look out for discounts with your Totum Card powered by NUS Extra)
- Rent for your college accommodation
- Study costs (check out our studying section to find out how to save money)
- Travel to and from Cambridge
- Bike – how most people get around. The bike market at the CUSU Freshers’ Fair is the best place to try and compare all kinds of bikes
- Gown – you can hire or buy a gown from the SU Reception
- Entertainment Treats – keep some money aside to enjoy yourself! If you do find yourself getting into financial problems contact your tutor in the first instance and, if they cannot help, contact the Students’ Unions’ Advice Service.
Cambridge offers many sources of financial support that you can access:
+ University financial support
- Cambridge Bursary Scheme
- Financial support for Undergraduates
- Financial support and funding for Postgraduates
- Financial support for International Students
- Financial hardship support
- Financial assistance with medical costs
There are also college funds available for application, to help with everything from accommodation to unforeseen circumstances. Most faculties/departments offer financial prizes to support your studies, make sure to check their websites for more information – no one should ever have to leave Cambridge due to financial hardship.
Starting university can be daunting, but the Cambridge Colleges do their best throughout the year to give you a home away from home in your student city. Here are a few ways we’ve found to make the experience a little more familiar:
+ Contact current students at your college
To help you settle in, your college will assign you with college ‘parents’. These are current students that will be there to show you around and answer any questions you may have. As each Cambridge student has a college ‘parent’, this creates ‘family’ links for you throughout the college and a great way to meet more current students. Most colleges will give you the contacts for your parents ahead of time, so making contact with them as soon as possible will give you the opportunity to get to know them a little, meaning that when you arrive you’ll have someone to chat to.
+ Get familiar with your college
You won’t fully get to know or familiarise yourself with your college or surroundings until you arrive in Cambridge, but it’s always a good idea to take a look at your college website to see what facilities they have. Go to our Connect section to quickly find your college’s website and social media pages – don’t forget you can always ask your college parents for more practical information too.
CUSU also runs the Alternative Prospectus, here you can find more information about your college entirely from student testimonials.
+ Sign up to a CUSU families or mentoring scheme
Many of the CUSU Campaigns also run family or mentoring schemes where you can connect with other students with similar identities or from similar backgrounds to your own.
- CUSU BME Campaign ‘mentees’ sign up (find out more about the BME Campaign)
- CUSU Class Act ‘mentees’ sign up (find out more about Class Act)
- CUSU Disabled Students’ Campaign ‘children’ sign up (find out more about the DSC)
- CUSU LGBT+ Campaign ‘children’ sign up (find out more about the LGBT+ Campaign)
+ Organise your travel with someone
Having a family member or friend to travel to Cambridge with you on your first day is always helpful, but if this is not possible contact your College common room (known as a JCR or MCR) and they can arrange for people to meet or help you when you get into Cambridge.
+ Make yourself at home
Don’t just pack the essentials. You’ll be in Cambridge for most of your year, so bring things that will make you feel at home: posters, pictures of friends/family/pets, cushions, decorations etc.
It’s most likely that you’ll be arriving and moving into your College on the first weekend of October. If you think you’ll have a lot of luggage, the easiest way to arrive in Cambridge is to drive. Your college will let you know about parking for arrivals weekend, but if you cannot come by car, you have the following options:
Cambridge train station is located 1 mile (1.6 km) south-east of the city centre. Cambridge North train station is located 4.2 miles (6.7 km) north-east of the city centre. It is advisable if you have a lot of luggage to get a bus or taxi to your college. The only exception to this is Homerton College, which is approximately a 15 minute walk from Cambridge train station.
National coaches will take you to Drummer Street or Parkside bus stops. Both are near the city centre and you can walk with a suitcase from here to most city centre Colleges. If you are taking luggage to a west Cambridge College (Robinson, Selwyn, Wolfson or Newnham) or a hill College (Fitzwilliam, Lucy Cavendish, Churchill, Murray Edwards, St Edmunds, Girton or Homerton) you may want to get a local bus or a taxi.
Whilst you are at Cambridge, your College is where you live, work and play. There are loads of ways to get involved in College life, from joining a College sports team to running for a role on your JCR/MCR committee. Here is a quick breakdown so you know what to expect:
You will already have been assigned a room in your college; size, facilities and costs will vary. Your college will have a laundry room onsite, and you will have access to a basic kitchen near to your room. Your JCR/MCR website will tell you what cooking facilities are available (some colleges don’t have hobs for example). You will also have a canteen which will be open for meals every day, so if you don’t feel like cooking you don’t have to. Most colleges have cleaning staff called ‘bedders’ who clean rooms about once a week. It will usually be the same person cleaning every week so make sure you say hello and get to know them!
Your teaching at Cambridge is split between your college and your department. The easiest way to understand this is to think of the department being in charge of lectures, practicals and exams, and College being in charge of supervisions (small group teaching which sets your term-time work assignments). In your college you will have a Director of Studies (DoS) who organises supervisions and is there to provide help and support for any academic problems you have. They can also liaise with the department if you have any special requirements or need supervision on a specific topic not provided in your college.
As well as working, it’s vital you allow some time to enjoy yourself. Make sure you balance your work and social life, as keeping happy and healthy during your studies is essential. Cambridge is an incredibly diverse city, so take some time to investigate the numerous museums, gardens, restaurants, shows, venues, volunteering opportunities and much more! It is also no secret that clubs and societies are the lifeblood of the student experience, so be sure to check out the 500+ societies available to join either on the CUSU Clubs and Societies Directory – the place to see them at their best is the CUSU Freshers’ Fair!