PREP – not just for the boarding-school teen

Isobel Boyson 10 October 2007

New mature students are now all set for the academic year thanks to a specially tailored course to help them get in the swing of Cambridge life.

Coping with supervisions, living on a shoestring and the ins-and-outs of unfamiliar college life were just some of the topics covered on the programme – known as the PREP course – which was hosted at Selwyn and Lucy Cavendish.

Lucy Cavendish admissions tutor Jane McLarty has championed the course from the start and said: “If you’re admitting students to come and study here you can’t just fling them into the deep end of Cambridge and expect them to swim.

“The new course has equipped mature students to hit the ground running, with help such as explaining Cambridge jargon and what to expect from lectures.”

Some sixth form students – coming from schools which send relatively few applicants to Cambridge – were also invited to the course, which ran over two weekends in the run-up to the new term.

Traditionally mature student centres such as Hughes Hall, St Edmund’s and Wolfson prop up the Tompkins Table, which ranks colleges by performance in tripos examinations.

It is hoped the course will help bolster exam results for mature students, who must often juggle the challenge of studying with various other commitments which younger undergraduates do not face.

Mike Hawes, who has just started reading maths at St Edmund’s after a forty-year break from education, was one of the 35 PREP participants.

He said: “I had retired but felt much too young to do nothing. So I signed up to retake maths A-level then went on to prepare for the STEP papers required by Cambridge.

“I believe that anyone who wants to go to Cambridge should give it a go. From the moment I first contacted St Edmund’s to ask about entry requirements, right up until I was offered a place, everyone was extremely helpful – and this course has been excellent.”

Isobel Boyson