On Arrival page title

On Arrival

Explore cambridge SU

Cambridge SU exists to fight for, advocate and represent the interests and needs of all students at Cambridge University. So no matter your level of study, background or the marginalisation you may experience, Cambridge SU is a union that fights for you. We’re a registered charity who are independent from the University of Cambridge (although we do work in close partnership with them) so once you've explored your college, be sure to come and visit us! You'll find Cambridge SU on the top floor of the University Centre and we have a dedicated SU Lounge (with amazing views) for students to relax and study in. You'll also find your Cambridge SU sabbatical officers based here and they represent you to the University and campaign on issues you believe in throughout the year. Officers are elected from within the student body in Lent Term of every year and begin working full-time in July.  They ran for these roles in order to make change and support students in the university, which they understand well having studied here, but they need to hear from you!



Get to know your college

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 but there's plenty of time for that. When you first arrive, you'll be wanting to refresh your memory about your College surroundings. Exploring your surroundings will help you feel more confident in the day to day and you'll also meet other new and returning students. If you're unsure where to begin, head to your Porters' Lodge (at the college entrance) who will signpost you to key buildings and help you get your bearings.



Manage your Finances

Managing your money is an essential part of the University experience and for some this begins before you even arrive in Cambridge. Setting up a bank account should be first on your agenda as some banks can take a few weeks to open new accounts. Be sure to check these items off your to do list to help you keep money worries at bay!

Coins on a table

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.


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
  • A Bike – how most people get around.
  • Your Gown – Postgraduate students can 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 Student Advice Service


Topping up your income

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!



Feeling overwhelmed?

Starting University can be an overwhelming experience so chances are you're not alone in this feeling. If you have questions or concerns, be sure to reach out to people who can help put your mind at ease. The Student Advice Service are always on hand to help with any queries you might have or you might want to reach out to the following people based on your specific worries or concerns.


Cambridge offers many sources of financial support that you can access:

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.


Studying & Accessibility 


College families

Your College J/MCR will usually assign you with college “parents” and/or “subject siblings”. This is basically a buddy system, and your parents are there to answer any questions and help you settle in. You’ll also normally have college siblings who have the same parents as you. Often your parents will be studying the same subjects as you and can answer any questions about your course, and if not then they’ll be able to point you in the right direction. If you have any specific questions, concerns or any special requirements then send your DoS an email ahead of arriving at Cambridge. They will be in charge of coordinating all of your teaching and educational experience while you are here, so they will be your first point of call for all things academic.


The majority of colleges will also assign you a tutor, who is there to provide non-academic support. They are also an academic, so if you have an academic concern that you are not happy talking to your DoS about, you can always take it to them instead. You will most likely get an email inviting you to meet your tutor once you arrive.

Disability Resource Centre

If you are worried about provisions for a disability or learning difficulty, be sure to contact the Disability Resource Centre as soon as possible. They are there to provide resources and information on getting assistive technology. If you think you may have an undiagnosed learning difficulty, pay them a visit when you arrive – it’s best to find out and find out what provisions you can get as early as possible.


General Advice 


You can come to the Student Advice Service with any questions or issues you might have, and they will be happy to see how they can help you. They support students in offering specialist guidance and advice in a wide range of areas, from exams and intermission to welfare concerns, financial concerns and loneliness.

If you are unsure who to speak to or would like independent advice, the Advice team is here to help.