We asked students at other UK unis to describe the Cambridge Uni stereotype
You’ve just met your offer, and found out you’ll be going to Cambridge in October. Your fate as a Cambridge student has been sealed. Here’s what people will think about you:
“Posh, and posh” – Aditya, University College London
The number one stereotype people have about Cambridge is that it is full of posh snobs. To an extent, this is definitely true. 30% of applicants are from private schools, and an average of 23% of acceptances are privately educated students, despite forming only 7% of school children.
“Probably a bit pretentious. Very old” – Anna, University of Manchester
Gowns and formals inside 800 year old buildings and chapels make it difficult to argue that Cambridge is not ‘posh’, and at times outdated. The collegiate system itself is something confined to very few universities, an old concept that has lived through since the establishment of the university in 1209. Nonetheless, cutting edge technology in labs and newer colleges mean that you’ll be sure to get the ‘best of both worlds’!
However, Cambridge is also more ‘normal’ than you may think. You’ll soon get into the groove of going to your lectures, doing your work, going out to the pub/club with your friends a few too many times a week, and maybe getting involved with college sport/theatre too. Just like in any other university. I’d argue that overall one student, Sachin from Imperial, who said Cambridge was “Posh, but chill” put it best, but maybe I’m just biased!
“The most insane academic town” – Raj, Southampton
Without a doubt there is high pressure at Cambridge, and an expectation to do well. After all, it is one of the best academic institutions in the world, and you’d be wasting a huge opportunity by not trying your damndest to get a Double First with Distinction, at least 27 internship offers and 12 postgrad scholarships, right? Well, that depends who you ask. Whilst some students may be like that, the majority that I’ve seen have had a far more relaxed attitude, and many wish to just enjoy the ‘university experience’ and leave with a respectable 2.1.
“People must be motivated” – Joseph, Bristol
Some people definitely are, and good for them. Others, though, still want to try and live the university experience. Others will also struggle on the academic side, or may fall behind. All of these are completely ok, and there are many resources to help you, not least your Tutor and Director of Studies (DoS), who are there to help you when you’re struggling.
“School continued” – Aryan, University of Birmingham
Despite the reputation that Cambridge has with its unique ‘supervision’ system, there is infinitely less structure compared to school. However, some do manage to build their own structure, with lectures and supervisions throughout the day, followed by sports in the evenings and a few beers with friends.
Everyone is different, though. Whilst some revel in the freedom, others struggle to adjust to the sudden change. The most important thing is to pick which events to go to – whether you’re conforming to the stereotype of being busy all day, or whether you’re struggling to put yourself out there – make sure you go to events that you’ll really enjoy! If you find yourself struggling, and/or need someone to talk to outside of your college, there are resources such as the University Counselling Service, Nightline, and many others.
“Alcoholics” – Nathan, Birmingham City University
Without a shadow of doubt there is a huge drinking culture at Cambridge. Every college will have at least one drinking society, and if you’re not in a constant state of hangover during freshers’ week, what are you doing? This stereotype is probably quite true, but to what extent this is Cambridge specific I’m less sure. The UK has a big drinking culture, as does student life!
However, there are certainly options for non-drinkers, and all JCR events have non-drinking alternatives; most societies will make an effort to have non-drinking events too, and some may even be alcohol free.
“They all seem to think having a big ‘spoons’ is far more impressive than it actually is” – Viviana, UCL
To be fair, did you know that Cambridge has (unofficially, and only according to people in Cambridge) the second biggest WetherSpoons in the UK? It’s a great place to meet up with friends from other colleges, or to go to from your college – make sure you get there early on Wednesday and Thursday nights though, as it will be packed with people pregaming the club! Although we’re cost of living crisis, 3 shots for £5.25 will forever be irresistable to me.
“Sh*t. Good punting though” – Gaurav, University of Oxf*rd
People tend to think that the Oxford-Cambridge rivalry is more significant than it is – it’s just a bit of fun, and it’s always nice to beat them in rowing, cricket, boxing, shooting, running, hockey, karate, climbing, and powerlifting, to name a few that we won this year.
“Pretty similar to Oxford” – Andres, Durham University
Jokes aside, Oxford is by far the most similar experience one could get to Cambridge, which is probably where the competition arises from. However, as historical universities, they share many ties, which you could take advantage of in your time here, perhaps for summer research jobs and the like. See if you can find out which is your Oxbridge sister college! (Long day for Lucy Cav)
5. WHO CARES?
“Full of snobby Englishmen that think people care about them a lot more than they do” – Grant, University of St. Andrews
If anything, this stereotype isn’t just limited to Englishmen! Over 40 per cent of students in Cambridge are international, dispelling any potential stereotypes of a lack of diversity. However, in my opinion, certain aspects are still relatively undiverse, with only three per cent of students of black origin, and just five black professors.
Nonetheless, as the first point discussed, there are certainly people filled with entitlement and a self-righteousness at this university, but there are also plenty of down-to-earth and fun people to surround yourself with for the next three to six years! (Long day for the medics)
“I simply do not think of Cambridge” – Giorgio, London School of Economics
Perhaps more gently put by Giorgio than Grant, it is obvious that people let the reputation of Cambridge get to their head. People joke that wearing your college puffer outside of Cambridge is a big no-no, but there’s only really a problem when you feel a need to tell everyone you see that you go to Cambridge. Don’t be that guy.
Overall, whilst some stereotypes about Cambridge might be more true than others, there is something for everyone here, and the main thing is to have a good time and make sure you’re enjoying yourself, not worrying about other people’s opinions!
Featured image credits: Kirsty Falconer
Other articles recommended by this author:
- Top 10 biggest Cambridge icks
- The best things about Cambridge, according to Cambridge students
- Celebrating a year of sporting success at Cambridge