i‑Learner Education Centre

Steps to Success » Preparation for Top UK Universities

My Cambridge Experience

Get a real-life taste of UK student life on i-Learner’s Oxford study tour. Take a look at the brochure and video for more details of the 2024 tour.

I studied Natural Sciences at Selwyn College, Cambridge, having previously considered taking medicine. A short summer camp for students contemplating medicine before I applied convinced me I wasn’t sure enough about the subject. Choosing Natural Sciences meant I could easily switch to medicine after that first degree if I decided I wanted a career in the medical field, but I wasn’t limited to it from age eighteen.

My Cambridge experience started with a visit to a friend who was studying there. Nobody in my family or school had been to Oxford or Cambridge, so I was uncertain what it would be like. However, someone I’d known from Girl Guides went to Cambridge a couple of years before me and was able to introduce me to it. I’m glad I had that experience before applying, and I’d recommend everyone undertake something like a visit to a friend, going on a school trip, or travelling as part of a summer tour to the university. When I went to for my interviews, I felt much more confident because I knew how to get around the town and what to expect.

The interviews themselves were a little intimidating, but I’d read lots of advice about being myself, and I managed to talk about my favourite subject: books. For more on interview preparation, check out this article. The other thing I had to do to prepare after getting a place was to complete my own little self-led summer school, going through a reading list and completing some challenging maths problems.

When I finally got to Cambridge, it felt like the end of a long journey, but it was just the beginning. The work there was far harder than anything I’d done at school, and the hours were much longer. As a science student, I had a particularly high work-load, with lectures and labs taking up full days, and additional classes on Saturday mornings. On top of this, I had to write four thoroughly researched essays each week, so my desk was always groaning under piles of books and scattered with journal articles.

Part of the reason for the work being so intense is the short length of the terms. Each of the three terms is only 8 weeks long, with a week either side without classes. This meant I had plenty of time to recover from the end-of-year exams with fun summer activities – my favourite was spending a month travelling around Italy alone between my second and third year – but it was a tiring experience that required me to be very self-motivated.

Many tutors at i-Learner studied at top UK universities and can give you further insight into their experiences. Some of them will even be accompanying students coming to the UK on our Oxford Study Tour, which includes trips to Cambridge and universities in London, and they can take you to visit their alma maters in person!


For more about my experience and the Oxbridge application process, take a look at this guide from Seven Springs Education, our partner organisation in the UK.