The Law programme in the University of Cambridge is famed to be one of the best law programmes offered globally, ranking second internationally. Renowned for their academic excellence, cutting-edge teaching pedagogy, and vibrant student life, the university is a popular choice for students looking for undergraduate programmes to apply to.
Today, we welcome one of our Quintessential university admission mentors to share with us how it was for him as a Law undergraduate in Cambridge. From academics to recreation, he will share about his full experience, leaving no stones unturned.
What subjects did you do at high school (e.g:IB/A Level/AP etc) and what did you score?
I studied IB and took HL History, English Language and Literature, and Economics. For my SL subjects, I studied Math, Chinese, and Physics. I scored 44 Points
What were your CCAs and Leadership positions in high school?
Football Captain, Student Council Head, Newsletter Head
How does the workload of university compare with IB?
I juggled fewer tasks and subjects at a time in university, but the work was more difficult as essays required sI think this will vary greatly. First, it will vary from University to university, and second it will vary from course to course. Personally, law at Cambridge was definitely more rigorous in terms of the expectations and the quality of work (usually 1-2 essays due per week with 2-3 supervisions to prepare for on top of that). Due to the short term times and the small supervision group sizes, this amounts to a lot of consistent work. Last, the exams in Cambridge are definitely more rigorous than the IB, since many of the topics are self-taught to a large extent.
How did you decide on your final university? Did you get offers elsewhere?
I decided relatively early on that I wanted to study in the UK, and I wanted to focus on Cambridge applications in my first year of NS (compared to London unis). This was strategic decision because I had two chances to apply due to NS, and if I had gotten into the London universities in my first application year and not Cambridge, I would likely have had to reject them in order to attempt applying to Oxbridge again in my second year. Generally, schools tend not to look favourably upon students who have rejected them previously. Hence, I focussed on the Cambridge law test (CLT) and the interview, rather than the LNATs that year- although I did study for it and did the test once.
Very fortunately, the gamble paid off and I was accepted in to Cambridge and Warwick (both did not need LNATs) in my first year, and I did not apply to any other local universities after that. Although I did have a place in SMU law at the time, which I eventually gave up.
What is the cost of Living and cost of school fees for the entire duration of the undergraduate degree?
This very much depends on a yearly basis. The tuition fee costs vary according to the years, it will be best to check the university websites for this: https://www.undergraduate.study.cam.ac.uk/international-students/international-fees-and-costs
On top of tuition fees, the next large expense is accommodation fees, which varies according to the college you are at- best to search the individual college websites for details.
Other expenses such as food and entertainment will then vary according to your standard of living, cooking is a good way to bring down the cost of living. Most colleges will provide for cooking / kitchen facilities.
How is the teaching and learning work in your school? Are the faculty accessible?
Teaching comprises of two parts- lectures and supervisions. Lectures run throughout the year and involve the whole cohort- usually 200 students (or the number of students who have elected to take that subject in that year). In first year, you take 4 compulsory subjects. In second and third year you will take two compulsory and three elective subjects- they all run throughout the year.
Supervisions (or tutorials in other universities), are small sized group discussions with the professors- usually 1 professor to 3-4 students. These occur fortnightly and are very intense, you will have 2-3 of them per week and each supervision will usually involve about 10 hours of preparation time (minimum). During the supervision, depending on the style of the supervisor, students will usually be grilled on that week’s topics, and asked for their views. This can lead to very awkward silences and stressful situations if one is not properly prepared.
How large is the cohort for your courses? How many Singaporeans are there?
Usually 200 students total, and about 15-20 Singaporeans per year.
Are people very competitive academically? How many exams are there in a year? What happens if one fails the year?
Generally yes, due to the rigorous admission process, the students are generally very motivated and driven to do well. However, people are often kind enough to help each other, and seniors’ help can be a life saver- generally people are individually competitive, but not at the expense of helping others, which is great. There is 1 exam at the end of each year which will comprise of 100% of that years grade, there are no submissions during the course of the year which are graded. Although there are essays which need to be written for supervisions. Failing means getting below a ‘Third’, most students will obtain a 2:1. If one fails, there is an option to intermit (take a year’s break off), but this will unlikely be the case apart from extenuating circumstance (e.g. mental health or family issues). But this very much the exception rather than the norm, so there is nothing to worry about!
How would you describe the school culture?
It is very much a ‘work hard play hard’ culture. The short 8-week terms are very intense, since a lot of content is crammed within a very short period of time, and the expectations are very very high. That said, Cambridge has many interest groups which accommodate most, whether it be sports or academics, the standard of both are very high.
However, once exams and term is over, the parties (known as “Balls”) are the best parties I’ve ever been to, different colleges will hold Balls and they run through the night from 7pm to 7am the following day, with free flow alcohol, and entertainment such as bumper cars, ferris wheels and fireworks (right above where you are standing), all brought in and installed in college!
Is there an established Singaporean presence at your university? How many Singaporeans are there per batch?
Yes, there is definitely a strong Singaporean presence. The number varies from year to year but I would guess around 50 a year (not including post-grads). This may seem like a small number compared to other universities, but it is very large as a proportion of the cohort size.
How are freshmen/freshers welcomed to your university?
There will generally be a Cambridge University Malaysian and Singapore Association (CUMSA) Freshers’ Camp held each year in Singapore during the summer before your first year. I would definitely recommend going to that to make some friends before flying up and starting your first year!
Is your school “cliquey”? Do people tend to hang among people of their own major/course/social class/race/nationality only, or is there a high degree of integration?
Integration is very much dependent on how adventurous you would like to be. There are many avenues to make friends, you have course mates (e.g. Law), you then have college mates (e.g. Johns, Trinity College), and then you will have society mates (e.g. CUMSA or Rowing). So there are many ways to make friends and generally in first year everyone is open to meeting anyone!
How would you rate the following “scenes” in your college and its surroundings: shopping, drinking, clubbing, fine arts, and sports?
Cambridge is a very scenic and beautiful place, Colleges such as Trinity and Johns are literally tourist attractions (outsiders pay to enter and take pictures in the places you will be walking and living in everyday), and the scenes by the river Cam hardly grow old. However, it is not so much a bustling city like London where you will be able to find most modern franchises and activities. Cambridge is a quaint and quiet town compared to London and Singapore, which is a nice change of scenery.
The main clientele of clubs are students, and so they tend to be smaller, compared to cities like London. Sports are very competitive in Cambridge- you can play either at college level or if you are exceptional- at Uni level. There are freshers’ fares you can attend in first year to find any group / society that would interest you.
How’s the accommodation? Do most people stay in college dorms/halls, or independently? How should one look for accommodation?
Accommodation in college is compulsory (generally speaking), and so you will not have to find outside accommodation, you will live in college all 3 / 4 years you are there. The standard of accommodation varies from college to college. Prices of accommodation also vary within the college and generally you can opt for cheaper / more expensive accommodations. Some colleges operate on a ballot system, some operate on a point based one. It would be best to ask seniors / look at the college websites if this is a big consideration for you.
How is the transport like? Does one need a car? If so, how should one go about getting a car?
Cambridge is a small town, and most people usually walk / cycle. If you live in a college in the centre of town then walking is usually the norm, otherwise cycling is a popular choice, most students (especially those in colleges slightly further from town) will own a bike.
Is Asian food readily available? If one is to cook, where can we get the Asian food from?
Yes, there is a large asian population in Cambridge. Although do not expect Singapore / London standard Asian food. That said, London is only a 50 minute train ride away!
Do most people cook, eat at a catered facility or cafeteria, or eat out? How’s the catered food?
Most college have cafeteria (aka ‘Buttery’) catered food, which is heavily subsidised, but sometimes of questionable quality- again depending on your college and the daily menu.
What are the laundry arrangements like?
Usually the college has a laundry room, where you do your own laundry. Emmanuel college- due to a large donation from an alumni apparently has a free laundry service though!
What’s the best experience you’ve had so far in college?
May Balls! They are definitely unforgettable experiences. Walking around in suits and partying with friends for the entire night with the college turned into an amusement park of sorts, is one of the most fun experiences of Cambridge life. Especially since this happens a week or two after the very stressful end of year examinations. It is truly an indescribable experience.
Any final things you’d like to tell juniors about your school?
It is a beautiful place to live and study, and you will feel very close to historical giants from people like Newton, to Stephen Hawking, to Lee Kuan Yew. Studying and going well is important, but three years goes by in a flash, so remember to take a break from the books and take in the sights of Cambridge, you’ll definitely miss it once it’s over
Want to hear more from our Cambridge mentors? Check out this interview we had with our university admission advisor who graduated from the university with a Masters in Physics.