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What to Expect


Teaching sessions that are guided by an academic or PhD student. These can be one to one basis, or in groups of up to five students. You’ll usually be expected to prepare work ahead of the supervision which will be reviewed and discussed during the session.


Delivered in large groups, lectures will provide you with the main course content. Humanities students will have fewer lectures per week than science-based subjects, which will likely have lectures 9-5 most days, including Saturdays. You can find more information on your lecture times on the University's online timetable from late September. 


Depending on your subject, you may also have teaching in medium sized groups. If you do a science-based subject these are likely to be practical sessions where you solve problems or perform experiments under supervision. Humanities students may have larger group discussions or language lessons in medium sized seminars.

Independent work

You will be expected to spend a lot of time doing independent work during term, this is especially the case for humanities students who will have less lecture time. You can find study space in your College and your department, as well as at the University Library.

Your first essay/submission

Don’t put too much pressure on yourself for your first work submission; you’ve only just arrived so you’re not expected to know everything! Keep focused, use your support networks and remember to ask for feedback from your supervisor.


Who To Talk To

College parents:

Your College JCR will assign you with your college “parents”. These will be your buddies who are there to answer any questions and help you settle in. One of these students should be studying your subject, so they'll be able to answer any questions you have about your course.

Director of studies (DoS):

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.

Student Advice Service:

The Student Advice Service offers free, confidential and independent support for all University of Cambridge students. Set up by your students' unions, CUSU and the GU, their fully trained advisors are on hand to discuss any issues you may have. For more information visit their website –

Disability Resource Centre (DRC):

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.

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Face Your Reading List

Depending on your subject, you'll most likely get a reading list from your Director of Studies (DoS) before arriving at your College, and it might be very long! But don't worry - here are some tips for dealing with it:

Don't buy all the books:

It will cost a fortune, and you don’t have to. Cambridge has over 100 libraries so you will definitely be able to find what you need when you get here.

Buy second hand:

If you need to buy a book, buy it second hand. If you find it’s still too expensive, you can always post in one of the freshers groups to see if anyone else has a copy, or ask if your college parents have a copy they want to sell on.

Nobody reads it all:

Some people will arrive having read nothing and others will have read more. If you want to get going before you arrive, prioritise by identifying key texts, or focus on reading the longer books in the holidays so you only have shorter ones left to read during term.

Ask for help:

To help you prioritise what to buy and read before you arrive, ask your college parents, your subject's freshers group or your Director of Studies (DoS).

Enjoy yourself:

You're in for the most intense, incredible, academic 3+ years of your life – so don't stress and excited about it!

Find Your Faculty...

Make sure you check out your faculty’s website before you arrive. The university has a very helpful A-Z directory of departments to help you do this. Many of the websites have a newsfeed that contains interesting stories relevant to your area of study, so is a great way to keep up to date with current developments.