George - Medicine
George is from Tytherleigh, a village in Devon, in the South West of England, and wrote this after completing his sixth and final year studying Medicine here at Christ’s College, Cambridge. At school, George sat A-Levels in Biology, Chemistry, Maths, and Physics.
Why did you choose Medicine at Cambridge?
I won’t go into too much detail on Medicine in general, as I imagine prospective medics have heard all the tips a thousand times and they’re pretty much identical for all universities. The exception at Cambridge is the course is very clearly divided into the first three years of preclinical (lots of science, few patients) and years four to six of clinical (almost exclusively hospital placements) medicine. This suits some people more than others, but you don’t have to be an aspiring academic to enjoy it - understanding the intricacies of various systems can be very satisfying.
And why Christ’s?
I chose Christ’s after doing a tour of Cambridge Colleges before applying, because Christ’s just seemed the friendliest. The students seemed to be really involved with others at the College and it had a lovely group spirit about it, which I can confirm is definitely true once you get here.
The College system is easily one of the best elements of the Cambridge degree because you get to socialise with people outside of your course – when friends live next door there’s no reason not to go say hi when you have a free moment! A quick chat is surprisingly helpful when you’re feeling a little stressed. Also, College-level societies can be a great place to try something new without the competitiveness of a university-wide team, and to make friends you’ll actually see around day to day.
My relationship with Christ’s has changed as the years progressed, as older medics generally live in private rentals closer to the hospital. Now, when I go back to Christ’s to pick up post, I find myself missing the intimacy of living with all my friends so nearby.
"Christ’s just seemed the friendliest - the students seemed to be really involved with others at the College and it had a lovely group spirit about it."
How did you find the application process?
The Medicine application process is largely the same across universities, and it’s been a while since I wrote my personal statement so I might be a little outdated! Although some of the content can be a little prescriptive, my advice would be to focus at least partially on what sets you apart from other applicants, and to get across your enthusiasm. Studying a course for six years requires a good amount of dedication and you need to enjoy it! You don’t need to know what you want to specialise in (I’d even say that’s quite premature), but if you’ve read, seen or done something that really resonated with you, talk about it. Lots of different people excel in Medicine in different ways, but prepare to work hard and learn a lot. A bonus tip: think out loud in the interviews, explain what’s going through your mind as you approach the questions, and try to enjoy it!
What was it like coming to Christ’s?
Although it can feel like everyone is from London when you arrive, there is a real mix from across the UK and abroad and everyone is very keen to make new connections. It can even be quite useful in fresher’s week to have something a bit different on tap for when you need to introduce yourself a hundred times! I love going back to Devon during the term holidays because it’s such a different atmosphere to Cambridge and makes for an excellent break. When I arrived, I thought Cambridge was a big city (to the entertainment of Londoners), and it’s been so nice having everything on my doorstep in stark contrast to my family home!
What’s it like being in your final year now?
Being in the final year is a little strange for a couple of reasons. One, it’s all gone so fast! I remember moving in so vividly, and a lot has changed in what seems like no time at all. Secondly, due to the nature of Medicine at Cambridge, I already had a “final” year in third year (during which you can do a lab- or dissertation-based project) and received a degree after that. I wrote a dissertation on computer modelling of neurons based on the lectures I was enjoying the most at the time. This is one of the other main advantages of the Cambridge Medicine course, as not only do I now have an additional degree but it also allowed me time to focus in detail on an academic area of my choice before expanding out into clinical medicine. I’m glad to have had the chance to try both before qualifying and I think you gain a much better appreciation for academia and evidence having analysed some yourself, even if I prefer the clinical aspects personally. Coming up to my final written papers in a few months, I have noticed that over the years my approach to finals has slowly become more sustained and less intense - do yourself a favour and don’t leave everything to the last few weeks!
A work-life balance is the holy grail of Cambridge studying (yes, it’s more important than a First), and a lot of students struggle with tipping the scales one way or another. There’s no secret formula to cheat the system (trust me), but if you put in consistent work it will make revision season and deadlines a lot less scary. If things are getting on top of you, make sure to reach out to friends, JCR Welfare or the College tutors. Try and make time for things you love, whether that’s time with friends, societies or sports, and you’ll find having a distraction can put everything else in perspective. My tip is to make the most of Christ’s Fellows' Garden (which despite its name is open to students), which is a beautiful space to relax or read and even has an unheated pool for the brave. I would recommend it highly for an invigorating revision break during the summer!
"Try and make time for things you love, whether that’s time with friends, societies or sports, and you’ll find having a distraction can put everything else in perspective. "
What do you do when you’re not working?
University offers so much that is difficult or impossible to do beforehand, whether it’s niche sports, unusual appreciation societies, debating, theatre, music, or just a chance to socialise with people from drastically different backgrounds and interests. Cambridge is no exception and I’ve tried goalball, ultimate frisbee, squash and pole dancing, and fallen in love with rock climbing whilst here (just off the top of my head). A hidden benefit to Christ’s is its proximity to the clubs in Cambridge, which whilst a little cheesy are still a lot of fun with good friends and high spirits. Whatever your interest, there will be other people in College or the wider uni who want to try it with you! There are freshers’ fairs at College and Uni level, but if you miss them in the first few busy weeks don’t worry, as clubs are always keen to have new members and you can often try a few sessions for free.
Cambridge has many unusual traditions, chief of which is undoubtedly May Week (held, of course, in June), during which many Colleges hold May Balls, all-night events with included drinks, food, music and general extravagance whilst in black tie dress. It’s great to have something to look forward to through exam season, and there’s plenty of other events such as society garden parties or enjoying the sun on a punt with friends. Celebrating with friends finishing their final exams is very cathartic, and the different traditions within Colleges helps to flesh out their individual identities. There’s something satisfying about explaining some particular peculiarity to your parents that makes you really feel you belong. Some of the older traditions have a real weight to them, for example the graduation ceremony, and there’s a lasting impression that you will always be welcome as an alumnus and part of the university family. They can a little daunting at first, but as with many things here, you’ll end up seeing it as part of the charm. That being said, I’ve seen lots of campaigns make real change on a College and university level to access, welfare and environmental issues so if there are topics you are passionate about, the traditionalism won’t necessarily hold anyone back.
Looking back, what do you think you’ve most enjoyed about your time at Christ’s?
There’s a lot of memories! I know for sure that I’ve grown as a person since coming to university, no matter how mature I thought I was then. It’s a great opportunity to learn to manage life yourself, support and be supported by your friends, explore your opinions and be challenged in areas you hadn’t even thought of before. My fondest memories are definitely of times spent with friends, and the intensity of the place really forges strong bonds. Whilst there can be undeniably stressful times, the highs are unparalleled as a result. It’s definitely a work hard-play hard kind of place and you’ll have some amazing times here. I think there’s probably lots I’d have done differently in retrospect, but then I wouldn’t be who I am today and I’m pretty happy with how it all turned out! I remember looking up to the sixth year medics when I joined and thinking they all seemed infinitely more mature and generally had it together. I imagine they felt much as I do now, though. Don’t worry too much about what everyone else is doing- just focus on what you want to get out of the experience and make the most of every weekend and evening off if you can!
"My fondest memories are definitely of times spent with friends, and the intensity of the place really forges strong bonds."
What are your plans for after graduation?
As a medic, my plans are pretty predictable: work in the NHS as a junior doctor, rotating around different departments to find areas of special interest and eventually specialise. My personal leaning at the moment is A&E or hospital medicine, but who knows where I’ll be in a few years.
Please be aware if you're considering an application that our student writers describe their experiences. Although the majority of the information stays the same, some details may change from year to year. Do read the student profiles in combination with our undergraduate admissions pages for full information.