Cambridge or Durham?

(85 Posts)
whichuni95 Tue 08-Jan-13 19:01:42

I have been offered places at both Cambridge and Durham to study history (both of which I am thrilled about) and cannot decide between the two. This is obviously a lovely dilemma to have and I feel very privileged but it is still a very important decision which will affect the rest of my life.

I just found out about Cambridge and am still in a slight state of euphoric shock (but I have to decide within the next 48 hours because of other complicated reasons) so I am worried that I may feel flattered and excited into a potentially rash decision.

I first fell in love with Durham when I visited a year and a half ago at the beginning of 6th form and so feel a long term connection with it. I was dead set against oxbridge for years seeing it as elitist and only decided to apply at the last possible minute. I also honestly didn't think I stood a chance of getting in. So although I now really do love Cambridge as well, my attachment to it is of a different nature. I therefore can't help feeling, on one level, that I should go with my initial gut instinct and choose Durham.

I am someone who loves school and responds well to a challenge and so I think I would defiantly enjoy the intellectual rigor of Cambridge. I love the history course on offer there a ridiculous amount and was literally jumping out my seat with excitement at the prospect of taking some of the modules. But at the same time, the thought of working even harder than I am now for another 3 years is quite daunting for me. I can't help but feel that I am wasting my one chance at being young by locking myself in my room and (attempting to) write essays the vast majority of the time. I feel like with interviews and January and summer exams this whole year has been a constant stress which is fine (I know how privileged I am to even still be in education and to have all these opportunities) but I want to feel like all the work is in aid of letting the rest of my life begin, not in spending another three years doing an even more intense version of the same thing. I don't mind working hard, very hard even, at university as long as whilst I am there I also have more opportunities to see my friends and have fun! How much less work will Durham be than Cambridge? Is Cambridge as much hard work as I am anticipating? How do students at Cambridge manage to balance work with being young and having a good time?

I have this fantasy of being at university and waking up in the morning and all my friends are just there, watching E4 and eating beans on toast and we can all sit around together and have a laugh and be spontaneous. I have been told that being at Cambridge will be like a 9-5 job; you'll either be in lectures or you'll be in the library all day except for a couple of hours in the evening when you can sit in the bar for a bit and then you'll go to bed. Does anyone know if this is true and how realistic my fantasy is at either Cambridge or Durham?

I am not a massive night-club person but I am also definitely not a hermit. I am very sociable and do also want to have fun at uni. I am an only child and so am greatly looking forward to living with other young people. I am not sure whether this makes me more suited to Durham or Cambridge?

At the end of the day, despite all the work I do really love Cambridge. As already mentioned, I love the course, I love the style of learning there, I love the idea of having supervisions. The college I have applied to is perfect for me and I think it will be filled with like-minded people. It is also considerably bigger than the college I have applied to at Durham so there may well be more social events on offer and it had a really nice student bar/ JCR. I am really into acting and at Cambridge I would potentially have the chance of getting involved with footlights which would be amazing. I also feel that Durham is quite 'private school' (certainly more so than the college I have applied to at Cambridge). Does anyone know if this is true? Finally, if my life post-university doesn't go according to plan I don't want to live with a constant feeling of 'what if', if I turn the amazing opportunity of a place at Cambridge down.

I really don't know what to do. I am sorry this is basically an epic monologue but I am truly stuck. Any advice or experience would be much appreciated.

MordionAgenos Tue 08-Jan-13 19:05:26

Go to Cambridge. You said yourself that the course was making you jump out of your seat with excitement. Being at Cambridge is not at all like a 9-5 job.

StuffezLaBouche Tue 08-Jan-13 19:06:53

I can't speak at all for Cambridge, but as a Durham graduate and current resident, can I be the first to suggest you come here? smile
It's a lovely city, and an outstanding university. I know anything mI say can be countered with by a "but Cambridge has got..." etc. but this place is just wonderful and I won't be leaving any time soon.
I a not a clubby person either, but Durham has enough friendly pubs and bars to keep anyone going - with a handful of old man pubs which I, tragically, feel most at home.
COME TO DURHAM!

Isabeller Tue 08-Jan-13 19:11:22

Friend's sister went to Durham and loved it (25yrs ago) she is v private school also v lovely.

DD was lucky enough to go to Cambridge and to stay for PhD now working at Anglia Ruskin. She had a great time, did work hard but also masses of good social life, college choir and lifelong friends. It's a great place, which college?

milktraylady Tue 08-Jan-13 19:12:59

I went to Edin uni- and its good reputation still looks good on my cv: ie
uni is only 3 (or 4) years but it will affect your employment opportunities for your whole future life.

More things to consider: at Cambridge the people you meet will be an amazing network in the future, the nightlife in Cambridge is rubbish, the college system & tutor time is unique & fantastic.

As a manager I would look more favourably at a CV where they went to Cambridge than Durham, sorry!

What a lovely dilemma to have OP, I think you are clearly clever and thoughtful, and you will have a great social life where ever you go.
Good luck!

VivaLeBeaver Tue 08-Jan-13 19:14:28

I know someone who went to Cambridge and she definitely had fun. Ys she worked hard but she's the sort of person who would have worked hard anywhere so I don't know how much was down to Cambridge itself. But she had time for concerts, etc.

Also if you really love the course on offer at Cambridge it will be less of a chore than perhaps fewer hours on a course at Durham.

People say that putting Cambridge on your cv opens more doors job wise. Not sure how true it is.

I've heard that some Durham halls are very private school in their atmosphere. There was a thread on here last year from a parent who's child was hating their halls due to this.

notnowImreading Tue 08-Jan-13 19:15:33

Go to Cambridge. Just being able to say you went on your CV will make a difference to you for the whole of your adult life. Take a big jumper - it gets really cold there. Probably not as cold as Durham.

LadyPeterWimsey Tue 08-Jan-13 19:19:02

From my student days and from knowing various students at both now: Durham is more private school; Cambridge is more mixed, and being bigger you can avoid any types you don't like and just hang out with the ones you do. Cambridge's system of learning, if it suits you, is amazing and I treasure the time I had studying there. It was incredibly challenging and stimulating. My brother loved Durham, and being a big fish in a small pond; I loved having both a college circle of friends and a whole university to mix in. And I know Durham is beautiful but so is Cambridge. And very few people I know spent all their time working - they wouldn't have offered you a place if they thought you were going to struggle so much you would have to work all the time to keep up.

Go to Cambridge! (which college?)

whichuni95 Tue 08-Jan-13 19:19:56

Thanks so much everyone. Really helpful so far. So amazing to have so many replies so quickly!!! If anyone else has any opinions or advice it would also be much appreciated. I need all the advice I can get!

Also just to clarify, not sure if I made this clear, I would prefer the uni that was less 'private school' (don't mean to offend anyone by this comment, just wasn't sure if i'd made it clear in my original post)

Cambridge is not at all like working 9-5. The historians I knew spent a lot of time mooching about. Durham is a very academic university, the workload is likely to be similar (but I haven't been to both). If you enjoyed the rigour of the interviews (if you take out the make or break element) then you will enjoy supervisions. Cambridge terms are very short compared to some universities, so you do have to cram a lot in at times, but can relax or get a job in the holidays. I don't know if this is true for Durham.

StuffezLaBouche Tue 08-Jan-13 19:25:06

Durham CAN be very "rah" but it wholly depends on what college you end up in. Mine was extremely "normal" and I enjoyed it hugely.

MordionAgenos Tue 08-Jan-13 19:25:16

It is absolutely true that having Cambridge on your CV is like playing the joker. Or even better. My experience of Cambridge was that is was very very egalitarian. The only people I know who went to Durham, were from posh schools. The historians I knew (one of them was a close friend from school) had a whale of a time there - one of them is now an impossibly glam showbiz type and he spent his entire life, as far as I could tell, directing, writing and performing in plays and shows.

StuffezLaBouche Tue 08-Jan-13 19:26:28

Yes, breathe, the Durham terms are also short. Also, should you need to get a PT job while studying, you are permitted at Durham. I DID hear you aren't at Oxbridge, but am willing to be correct on that one.

Milliways Tue 08-Jan-13 19:26:28

My DD had offers from both. See chose Cambridge and graduated last Summer. Yes, it was extremely tough going at times, but she also had an amazing time, went to Theatre, concerts, debates, garden parties and balls. Captained a college sports team, became an Access Officer, met her husband and made many many friends for life.

Applying for jobs from Cambridge is easier than from many other institutions too, and having her degree from there should continue to help in her future.

MordionAgenos Tue 08-Jan-13 19:36:27

I always worked when I was at Cambridge. I don't know if they have banned it since.

rotavirusrita Tue 08-Jan-13 19:52:28

Cambridge. I didnt work during term but did during the very long holidays to make up for it. It wasnt a problem to work during holidays iirc but terms are only up to 8 weeks long so not a problem.

rotavirusrita Tue 08-Jan-13 19:56:05

Which college btw <just nosey>

alreadytaken Tue 08-Jan-13 20:35:41

why not ask on the Student Room website rather than a parenting site when any experience is likely to be years out of date? Can't see why you'd need to decide within 48 hours so the whole thing sounds fake.

FWIW someone who went to Durham a few years ago claimed to be the only one without an estate but had a great time. Cambridge would not have so many societies if it was all work and no play.

OpheliasWeepingWillow Tue 08-Jan-13 20:37:58

Cambridge. Flexibility, intellectual rigour, no way 9-5 but if turns out that way is no worse than a job, The Backs, punts, willows...

Am biased as I went to Cambridge and have never been to Durham but would not have missed for the world.

whichuni95 Tue 08-Jan-13 21:06:23

Thanks again everyone. I have applied to Kings College at Cambridge.

OpheliasWeepingWillow Tue 08-Jan-13 21:11:51

Oooh. Kings v egalitarian, good bar, on the river.

VivaLeBeaver Tue 08-Jan-13 21:13:16

My friend went to kings.

Trills Tue 08-Jan-13 21:13:58

Go to Cambridge.

Trills Tue 08-Jan-13 21:14:09

(too late I see smile )

BlackandGold Tue 08-Jan-13 21:17:50

Cambridge - it will always impress employers on your CV and open a lot of doors in the future.

Mind you, DS had places at both Durham and Cambridge and turned them both down for UCL..........he never regretted it though.

DoodlesNoodles Tue 08-Jan-13 21:18:53

Well done! (do you already have your grades?)

JoanByers Tue 08-Jan-13 21:19:11

Cambridge takes more private school pupils than Durham as a %.

Although Kings is one of the most state school colleges at Cambridge.

I went next door, to Clare.

k75 Tue 08-Jan-13 21:20:56

Cambridge all the way, better social mix, great life and CV+++. Durham is not Cambridge.

Congratulations!

Yellowtip Tue 08-Jan-13 21:35:49

Go to Cambridge, no question. You're a Historian so of course it won't be 9 to 5, that's for scientists. It might be 12 to 8 but that still leaves masses of time to be with friends and still sleep in every morning. Believe me, if you ever let drop at Durham that you got a Cambridge offer (especially somewhere like King's!) you'll be shunned. Possibly dunked in the Weir. Or worse. They'll hate you, honestly. For your own safety you must go to King's. You'd be very likely indeed to regret it later. Far less work at Durham and far easier to slip under the radar (seminars as opposed to supervisions). But that won't compensate for giving up a more taxing but ultimately more rewarding option that you appear to have laid at your feet.

Struggling to think of why you might need to firm within twenty four hours mind you. And interested in how you might 'defiantly enjoy the rigor' at Cambridge. Sounds quite sassy to me. Go for it smile.

Jinsei Tue 08-Jan-13 21:37:54

Go to Cambridge, you won't regret it.

I faced a similar dilemma years ago - in my case, it was Cambridge or York. I'd set my heart on York because of a very enjoyable visit and more "normal" peopke at interview. Teacher (state comp) told me I would be mad to give up the opportunities that Cambridge would offer and that I had better not bloody turn them down. He was right, it was fantastic, and as an employer, I can now see that an Oxbridge degree on your CV does truly open doors that might otherwise be closed. It might not be right, but it's reality.

Kings is very state school dominated anyway, so you won't feel out of place there, and you'll have loads of opportunities for fun in Cambridge too. In my experience, the students there tend to work hard and play hard.

Durham is lovely too, I visited a couple of friends who were students there, but I did think it was very "rah" compared to cambridge (surprisingly), and I thought the Oxbridge reject societies were all a bit sad, even if they were supposed to be a bit tongue in cheek. But it's a very pretty place with lots going on, and the friends I had who went there all loved it.

But I still don't think it compares to Cambridge. And yes, I am utterly biased!

JourneyThroughLife Tue 08-Jan-13 21:38:50

My daughter applied for and had interviews at both Cambridge and Durham, she ended up in Durham and regretted it. Although she liked the city itself she felt the University was very "rah" and was unhappy at times. She had a part-time job but it was a struggle and Durham is FULL of students trying to get jobs, and being a "northern" town it was harder to get work, though a bit cheaper to live. She made plenty of friends but regretted not going to Cambridge.

It's true what other posters have said on here that Cambridge opens doors in a way Durham never will. You will take it with you for the rest of your life - there's a lot of life left after just a few years at University! The teaching, tutor groups, seminars etc. are second to none at Cambridge.

I'd say, if you have the chance to go to Cambridge, I'd take it without question, not everyone gets such a chance - go for it!

Nosleeptillgodknowswhen Tue 08-Jan-13 21:39:04

Go to Cambridge! i went to neither (Edinburgh) but i work at Cambridge and through that have seen some of the power from the Cambridge network. Not just because the connection exists, but also because ex-cambridge people seem to happy to help other cambridge people even if they don't know them. Will stand you in good stead.

NanoNinja Tue 08-Jan-13 21:39:33

I went to Durham, albeit ten years ago. Was okay, but tbh I wouldn't make the same choice again (my alternative was LSE). I found it very insular, very private school (and I went to a private school!), and not terrifically stretching from an academic viewpoint. Although obviously, lots of people have a great time there.

I'd say Cambridge.

Jinsei Tue 08-Jan-13 21:39:56

Joan, Clare rules! smile Can I ask when you were there?

bevelino Tue 08-Jan-13 21:42:32

OP congratulations on your offer. If you decide on Cambridge I think you will find that they allow plenty of time for acceptance, so take your time. There is no rush in terms of accepting the actual offer at this stage.

Caladria Tue 08-Jan-13 21:43:22

Go to King's. Really. It's always had a lefty tradition, admits a solid majority from state schools and is wonderful. I am biased as hell, but I'd say that even if I wasn't.

neolara Tue 08-Jan-13 21:45:29

As someone up thread has already said, Kings has a good bar.

There is a massive advantage of having Cambridge on your CV. It really does open doors.

You will meet some extraordinarily interesting people in Cambridge. I'm old and live in south Cambridge, but the demographic here is very unusual. Lots and lots of bright, interested, quirky, academically minded people many of whom are literally world leaders in their fields. It's because of the university. And its very different to other places I have lived. It makes for a very interesting social life.

mirpuppet Tue 08-Jan-13 21:46:04

Go to Cambridge.

Foggles Tue 08-Jan-13 21:46:33

DS1 was offered a place at Kings College, Cambridge. He really, really struggled with the decision as to whether to go there but, unlike your situation, the course at Cambridge was not as exciting as the one he took at Brunel.

If it had been - he would have picked Cambridge.

Good luck smile

TheOriginalSteamingNit Tue 08-Jan-13 21:46:54

I'd be inclined to say Cambridge, though I do know people who weren't happy there. Not king's though but a very small college, which perhaps makes a difference.

Although I don't think anyone would really hate you at Durham if they knew you'd turned down Cambridge: I should think some might admire that actually!

The workload will doubtless be more than you'd choose wherever you go, as is it for all students wink

But I assume the offers are both conditional anyway?

Caladria Tue 08-Jan-13 21:49:11

Oh, and one of the main reasons Oxbridge doesn't have enough state school or working class students is that they don't apply, and they don't apply because people (journalists, teachers, etc) scare them with stories of weird posh people. If you're dead set against elitism then bloody well go there and change things.

emsyj Tue 08-Jan-13 21:49:56

Go to Cambridge.

I went to Durham and hated it. I would never recommend it to anyone unless they were very 'rah' public school, pink rugby shirt with collar turned up and puffa gilet-types. Horribly cliquey and unpleasant place, I still have nightmares about it and I graduated 11 years ago. Years ago there was one of those 'airline reality' TV shows on and a young man (pink rugby shirt with collar turned up and deck shoes, chinos and puffa gilet) was obnoxiously shouting at the check-in assistant. I said to DH, 'I bet he went to Durham' - and bingo! He was a Durham student!

Over the summer I went to meet up with my old room mate (we shared a room for first year then shared a house in second year) and was really shocked that she had been back to visit with her mum a few weeks earlier - I couldn't believe she'd been able to bring herself to return! grin I feel she has let me down... Although to be fair she went out of term time, so no/not many students around.

I was rejected from Cambridge <cue violins> and rightly so, I think I would have drowned in the workload, but back in my day it was much cheaper in terms of college bills (was about half the cost for room & board back in my day, but that is a long time ago now...) One of my tutors in first year told us that the workload at Cambridge (he had been there and also taught there himself) was about double what ours was at Durham.

Trills Tue 08-Jan-13 21:50:51

King's hasn't aaaaaaaalways had a lefty tradition (founded by Henry VI just after founding Eton, no prizes for guessing the plan) but yes it was nicknamed "the Commie College" during the Cold War.

timidviper Tue 08-Jan-13 21:52:05

I have relatives in Cambridge and it is lovely, if a bit rarified. I don't know about the workload at Cambridge but have a friend with a son at Oxford, he is struggling from the stress/workload/etc. but that may be just him.

DS went to Durham and absolutely loved it. The colleges vary dramatically in terms of how "rah" they are, the bailey colleges are richer and posher than the hill colleges.

I think you can be very happy at both, they are both excellent unis.
Good luck with your decision

emsyj Tue 08-Jan-13 21:52:58

I went to a hill college and found it horribly 'rah'... Just saying! smile

Jinsei Tue 08-Jan-13 21:57:13

Oh, am pissing myself laughing at the idea of a Cambridge history degree being like a 9-5 job. Good friend of mine did history and was rarely up before lunchtimes! That said, you are expected to work very hard - nothing like the pressure of a 1:1 supervision to challenge the mind! The best intellectual experience you could ever hope for, I reckon!

evilgiraffe Tue 08-Jan-13 21:57:32

Cambridge is wonderful. I have a good friend who loved her time at Durham, but DH went to Cambridge and loved it - and we still spend lots of time with his college friends even though they all graduated several years ago.

Cambridge is by no means all work and no play either. I always came up to stay with DH for May week - lots of barbecues on Jesus Green and general fun times. I was never there duing term time but judging from the photographic record, they all had a good time!

The state/private thing is no big deal either, DH never had a problem with it - we have friends from both backgrounds and you'd never know unless you asked. I never met anyone from a fancypants public school like Eton at all. I was a bit shocked, to be honest, as before DH went I'd thought Oxbridge was full of insufferable posh types, but I could not have been more wrong. It's very friendly, very accepting, and if you have the chance definitely go.

Kings has (or had, anyway) a lovely coffee shop, by the way, we went in there all the time until our student cards expired...

I went to Cambridge as a mature student, and graduated in the summer.

A number of my friends who are now in their final year are historians. They certainly do not suffer from a lack of social life!

In your position I'd consider the practicalities:

-. Finances - are you eligible for the Newton Trust if you go to Cambridge, and if so, would you be in a sinilar financial position if you went to Durham

- Course content - which degree has the most options/modules that you will find interesting and/or will be useful for future aspirations? (Bearing in mind that these are subject to change).

As someone has already said upthread, TSR is also a good forum to visot wither to ask for advice, or to read existing threads.

There was a 'day in the life of a X student' thread stickied at the top of the Cambridge forum which gave accounta of weekly workloads//activitiesof students in a number of different years & subjects. I suspect that the durham forum would have similar.

I'm a little confused that you have offers for both, as I thought that the UCAS system made you place first/second choice options. Is this no longer the case?

TheOriginalSteamingNit Tue 08-Jan-13 22:02:02

Dp has always said that the most awkward students were the grammar school or bog standard private day school students: comprehensive and public school seemed more at ease. Anecdotal, but then so is everything else on here.

Trills Tue 08-Jan-13 22:02:39

am pissing myself laughing at the idea of a Cambridge history degree being like a 9-5 job.

If you wanted to you could do your essays and reading before your afternoon lectures instead of at 1am smile

Yellowtip Tue 08-Jan-13 22:06:45

All my DDs have had Durham offers as well as Oxford and none have hesitated about which to accept. One is reading History. Their Dad did History at Durham and they loved the city when I took them to visit. But still, no contest in their minds. I was last in Durham a few weeks ago taking the girls' younger brothers to visit and it really is utterly beautiful (mind you we had a particularly fabulous autumnal weekend). But given a choice, it doesn't compare.

Jinsei Tue 08-Jan-13 22:11:22

grin Well yes, Trills, in theory you could do that. But I don't know anyone who did. However, my friend did pretty much move into the University Library in his third year, as did I. I was seduced by the wonderful tea room... <sigh>

Choccyjules Tue 08-Jan-13 22:20:19

I went to a Hill College in Durham and didn't find it 'public schooly' at all. (I came from a huge comp). History students back then (1990) did 3 hours of lectures a week. I know this because they were pipped only by the archeologists for downtime!

However, much as I loved Durham and still do, Cambridge has the kudos. You seem to be leaning that way. Kings must be a fab place to get into!

Trills Tue 08-Jan-13 22:22:18

But I don't know anyone who did.

No, me neither grin

But if the OPis posting on MN then maybe she has special circumstances (like a child) that will make her prefer to work to a non-standard (for students) pattern.

BeckAndCall Wed 09-Jan-13 06:59:58

First, fantastically well done on your offers.

One other thing to consider, if you are typical age, single, no children etc - all assumptions - but if you are, how far from home is each place and will you get home sick? If you're in London or the south, Durham is very very far!

That said, the answer to your question is - go to Cambridge!! If you don't, you"ll be one of only a handful of people who've ever really considered your question for more than a couple of minutes......

You can over think it at this stage and listen to people say they didn't like the teaching style, or there were too many people from different backgrounds, or they didn't make friends, or the Saturday timetable was tough (sciences only maybe). But these are all hindsight for them personally. The standard answer for this questions is - go to Cambridge!

senua Wed 09-Jan-13 08:30:08

the thought of working even harder than I am now for another 3 years is quite daunting for me. I can't help but feel that I am wasting my one chance at being young ... I feel like with interviews and January and summer exams this whole year has been a constant stress ... but I want to feel like all the work is in aid of letting the rest of my life begin, not in spending another three years doing an even more intense version of the same thing. I don't mind working hard, very hard even, at university as long as whilst I am there I also have more opportunities to see my friends and have fun!

Have you considered asking for a deferral, so you can have a year off to have fun recharge your batteries.

whichuni95 Wed 09-Jan-13 09:02:39

Thanks so much again everyone.

if you are typical age, single, no children etc

Yeah I will be 18 when I go and I don't have any children yet so am in the typical situation.

Have you considered asking for a deferral, so you can have a year off to have fun recharge your batteries.

I have thought a lot about a year out but i'm not sure what i'd do. Basically none of my friends are taking one so I wouldn't really have anyone to go travelling with and in this current economic climate I think it would be very hard for someone straight out of school and with no experience to get a job. I know people with degrees and with experience who have struggled to get the kind of job i'd be after (as a waiter, in a shop ect.)

emsyj Wed 09-Jan-13 09:58:55

As my DMum would say, 'nothing is carved in stone'. It's January. You may change your mind about deferring before term starts in October, you may feel that the summer is a good enough break (won't it be several months? It used to be in my day...) and you're raring to go again by the time you come up....

I can't work out if you've sat your exams yet, are you in a position where you would be accepting Cambridge as first choice and Durham as insurance?

I wouldn't recommend a year out if you don't have clear plans about what you want to do - just go and get on with it. Terms at Cambridge are short like Durham ones, and you will get a break in between.

Don't forget it is much easier to learn and work when you're being taught by, and you're surrounded by, experts in their field and the truly talented. It will be hard work, but you will be able to get help, ask questions, get peer support etc. I can honestly say that, having worked both at a magic circle law firm and at a small firm, despite the much longer hours and much heavier workload at the magic, working there was far far easier in many ways, because the resources are better, the people around you are more able and knowledgeable and training is seen as essential and is actively encouraged, rather than an expense that you must justify. It's just an analogy that you may find useful. You will have a lot to do at Cambridge, but you will also have every possible resource at your disposal and you'll be getting taught by the best people. The 3 years will whizz by in a heartbeat.

ancientandmodern Wed 09-Jan-13 11:17:44

OP -- my DS graduated from Cambridge last year. He has a 2.1 in History, but more to the point he certainly was not in the library all the time -- he had a wonderful social life, did lots of student journalism, went to plays, sports evens galore, college balls, college ski trip, the list goes on. Pre uni, he was worried about fitting in at Cambridge (went to state comp) but made loads of friends. I went to Durham myself, but would not advise it now -- lots of friends' children go there and report it is very, very public school-y and basically much less supportive atmosphere than Cambridge. And having seen how well the college supported my DS and its facilities, I don't think Durham colleges can compare. Enjoy Kings!

Sympathique Wed 09-Jan-13 12:13:10

SteamingNit: "Dp has always said that the most awkward students were the grammar school or bog standard private day school students: comprehensive and public school seemed more at ease. Anecdotal, but then so is everything else on here."

A balancing anecdote: DDs were grammar and selective independent respectively respectively and definitely fitted in.

whichuni95: lovely to have the choice, empathise with your problem. Each of us is biased.

Independently-educated DD didn't consider King's because it takes fewer from independent schools than other colleges (proved accurate up to a point: the only people she knew there were from state grammar/comp/sixth form college and... Eton). So in your case you chose well - you would fit in, you couldn't have picked better. Congrats to you for getting in - and them for choosing you!

Can you manage a visit?

Both DDs worked their socks off but wouldn't have gone everywhere else and both did lots else. It's a balancing act, and everyone's in the same boat - literally in some cases. (If you are one of those happy souls who meets deadlines without panic, you are blessed; if not, practise that before you go. It is an art that can be acquired and will stand you in good stead when the work piles in. "Just do it" became the mantra here)

PenelopePipPop Wed 09-Jan-13 13:28:48

Congratulations. Based on your post you clearly have a talent for massively over-thinking things and would (based on my experiences at Emma 15 years ago!) fit in brilliantly at Cambridge.

They are both good unis. Cannot comment on the history courses but which is more 'public school' is an irrelevant consideration. Universities are big and you will meet people you get on with either way and neither will require you to pitch up at formal hall in a gown every night (I'm assuming that about Durham colleges btw). I went from a lovely state comp, made loads of friends who had been to all sorts of different schools, wouldn't have missed it for the world. Would probably have had fun at Durham or UCL or anywhere else too.

It is what you make of it. The only thing I would say based on observing friends who row is that if you are planning to fall in a river at 6am a lot the Cam is a lot more forgiving than the Wear.

funnyperson Wed 09-Jan-13 14:16:33

Cambridge. Friends DC studied history there and had a wonderful time. Durham social life is only about the drink as far as I gather from other friends DC.

pippop1 Wed 09-Jan-13 17:10:28

If you enjoy cycling go to Cambridge. In Durham it's too hilly to do much cycling in order to get to places.

GrendelsMum Wed 09-Jan-13 17:15:44

I think it's very sensible to think of a Oxbridge degree as being a 9-5 job in terms of the amount of hours you put in during the week, although you won't necessarily do them between those hours. My supervisor suggested that to all her first year students in their first week, and its a good way to make sure that you're neither working too much nor too little.

whichuni95 Wed 09-Jan-13 20:13:28

Thanks again everyone

pippop1 Thu 10-Jan-13 12:46:39

DS2 (who studies at Durham) says that some people call it "Doxbridge".

Welovecouscous Thu 10-Jan-13 12:59:05

I think the fact that you are not just blithely taking your hard won Oxbridge offer shows a lot of maturity and independent thought. Actually thinking it through is good!

At the risk of outing myself, I did history at Cambridge at a college next door to yours, then taught in the Durham history department for several years. If you love history and want the best degree, you will get that at Cambridge - the standard of the lecturing, the supervisions, the seminars available to attend and the level of discussion among fellow students are just excellent. The Prof I used to run courses with is an Oxford grad and a few years ago said he felt Cambridge is currently the best place for history in the UK.

Kings takes a far better proportion of state school pupils than most Durham college and when I was at Cambridge although there were a lot of kids from independent schools, the overall feel was very egalitarian.

You could always go and do an MA at Durham after your Cambridge degree - the history dept at Durham is very good and they have a lot of really good staff. Then you can stroll round the bailey!

Overall, a further factor I would consider is that Durham is very claustrophobic - it is tiny and the general leisure facilities are not great. In Cambridge you are only an hour from London and there is a much more cosmopolitan feel, nice restaurants, good shopping - more of a city.

brainonastick Thu 10-Jan-13 13:04:01

Well, I went to Cambridge, and it was like a 9-5 job for about a month before finals. The rest of the time was passed in a hazy studenty blur.

You will get the best result with the course that motivates you the most. So I would go with the course you like best, which sounds like Cambridge.

A swaying factor is also that Cambridge will look brilliant on a CV. People continue to be very impressed by it, so in these days of scarce jobs, it might give you that little boost you need.

Plus Durham is cold.

brainonastick Thu 10-Jan-13 13:05:45

PS I wasn't private school. My college was very much more state school though (not Kings). Kings is one of the less stuffy colleges though, so I wouldn't worry about it on that score.

DewDr0p Thu 10-Jan-13 13:11:18

Which college have you applied to at Durham OP? They vary massively.

I went to Durham and yes there were quite a lot of rahs (some of whom were lovely people) but an awful lot of "normal" people too. It was quite a close-knit student community and there are a big group of us who are still really good friends. It's very beautiful there too.

Having said that, there is a certain kudos you get from Oxbridge that other universities just cannot compete with.

realcoalfire Thu 10-Jan-13 13:45:21

I have to say no-one I went to Cambridge as set the world alight with their careers and I'm not sure employers and Cambridge admission tutors are looking for the same things, BUT I think you should go there, it is a very different experience I think.
I know what you mean about Durham though, I loved it when DS went to visit and was gutted when he didn't apply there.

Welovecouscous Thu 10-Jan-13 14:02:37

Some of my exact contemporaries at Cambridge now do/did the following jobs:

Aide for an ex PM (was aide when he was in office)
Senior trader in city bank (job moves covered in the financial press)
Cambridge academic x 2
TV script writer (including 2 prime time series)
Leading columnist in daily newspaper
Best selling novelist
Partner in top city law firm x 2
Award winning barrister

We are also stay at home mums, teachers, doctors, lawyers, vets.

There will be other high flying people who I don't know about, as well.

mummytime Belgium Thu 10-Jan-13 14:12:42

I worked at Cambridge and was at Oxford as a Graduate, they really really are not "all private school". Even the poshest colleges have lots of State school pupils. It is a great opportunity to shrug off any chip on your shoulder and to realise you are just as good as any polished (but bullshitting) Public school products.

Trills Thu 10-Jan-13 14:32:01

DS2 (who studies at Durham) says that some people call it "Doxbridge".

I don't mean to sounds nasty or snobby but it is really only people from Durham who say that.

Sympathique Thu 10-Jan-13 14:32:09

mummytime "It is a great opportunity to shrug off any chip on your shoulder and to realise you are just as good as any polished (but bullshitting) Public school products."

Or to learn how inaccurate - and unnecessary- the stereotypes are.

Welovecouscous Thu 10-Jan-13 14:33:43

Trills when I taught at Durham they were selling t shirts which said on the front:

Didn't get into Oxford or Cambridge?

The back said:

Just too Durham good!

MariscallRoad Thu 10-Jan-13 15:00:53

whichuni95 thank you for posting.

The times and circumstances have changed and I do not know if we one can surely predict what it will be like in 4 years time - when my DC and his friends graduate. As you have seen, the current economic climate is a problem. Even people with degrees find it difficult to get jobs now.

mummytime Belgium Thu 10-Jan-13 15:08:26

Sympathetique - if that was a criticism, sorry but I have sat next to some very "bullshitting" public school types. On the other hand I know a lot of very articulate, intelligent, thoughtful etc. public school types. By Graduate level it is irrelevant (actually looking back for several of my friends I had/have no idea what school they went to).
If you come from a not very good State school, the "polish" some Private school types have, can be off putting, however if you listen to content you learn the useful skill of differentiating "style" from "real intellect".

The big advantage of Oxbridge (other than sometimes the best course, but not always) is that often they can provide more in terms of accommodation etc. which can be very helpful.

brainonastick Thu 10-Jan-13 15:51:32

Welovecouscous - do I know you?! Those are some my friends jobs as well!

Sympathique Thu 10-Jan-13 16:20:29

mummytime: you could take it like that, but it was meant as a clarification - and an unspoken wish that people wouldn't generalise. Your subsequent post made it clear that school has less to do with it than your initial post suggested. I agree with you that it's easy to be over-awed by bullshitters, wherever they come from, and especially if, like so many freshers, you're convinced that Cambridge accepted you by mistake. On the other hand, the very brightest may also be the humblest. They can also come from any school.

Sympathique Thu 10-Jan-13 16:56:55

In the absence of any way of ‘liking’ posts, can I propose this as best post of the thread:
PenelopePipPop “Congratulations. Based on your post you clearly have a talent for massively over-thinking things and would (based on my experiences at Emma 15 years ago!) fit in brilliantly at Cambridge.” Laughed like a drain - describes members of this family to a T.

Closely followed by this:
welovecouscous “I think the fact that you are not just blithely taking your hard won Oxbridge offer shows a lot of maturity and independent thought. Actually thinking it through is good!” Aaaw, lovely.

faustina Sat 26-Jan-13 10:34:57

If you're still wondering whether to go, could I just add that DS2 is currently at Kings and although sometimes he does 9pm - 5am, shortly before exams/essay deadlines, he is most definitely able to enjoy himself thoroughly in between. He also went straight from state school. Did you decide yet?

MariscallRoad Sat 26-Jan-13 14:46:50

It might be also a good idea best to approach employers as a to find out what they think one way or another and how the market has changed. The organisations look also for suitable persons.

funnyperson Sat 26-Jan-13 15:40:32

I dont know if its still the same but the used to have a tripos system at Cambridge which meant there was a lot of flexibility in the subject studied so you could start off doing history then switch to something else if you wanted.

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