Whether it's been one, two, four, or twenty years since they received their results, all those to whom we posed this question had something to say. Below is a collection of the responses we received when we asked former and current Cambridge students alike: "What do you wish you’d known on your results day?"
That they weren’t lying when they said uni years are the best of your life.
That you might go weeks living on the same corridor as your future best friend without realising that she is not terrifying but is actually the best.
How to cook something that isn’t scrambled egg or macaroni.
That walking on the grass is never okay. Even when drunk. And alone.
How to dance.
My alcohol limits.
That I wouldn’t make my friends through clubbing, which turned out to be an expensive, messy waste of time.
That once I had the right friends, clubbing would be the best use of my Sunday nights.
That sometimes it was going to be really, really hard.
That some people were actually planning to do the pre-term work, and the test on it at the start of term was not just a scare tactic but a real thing.
That the reading list nobody has bothered sending you yet doesn’t actually matter anyway.
This is the number of books you have to read. Daily. For the next three years.
That you don’t have to get the best results ever to count as a valid human.
That Cambridge is not, in fact, south of London.
That Cambridge is not ‘one of the cheapest cities’ in which to be a student, and accommodation costs are not ‘relatively low’.
That when they say ‘it’s fun to get involved with student societies’, it’s not some great conspiracy designed to make you feel like a loser. They really are fun.
That uni is so much better than freshers’ week would have you believe.
That pugs are an incredibly important and valid coping mechanism.
That most people won’t make real friends until second or third term, or even second year.
That a lot of people at Cambridge might seem crazy, but don’t judge anyone until you truly know them. They usually turn out to be brilliant / entertaining / inspiring.
That you shouldn’t eat yellow snow.
That this year won’t be as utterly terrifying as you thought, and you might even make it out the other side with some of the best friends you’ve ever made.
That eating three large bags of Doritos after a night out makes you want to die the next morning.
That no one will think any the less of you if you don’t drink, smoke, take drugs, or have sex. Well, I haven’t met anyone who has, anyway.
That you need more than one ‘posh dress’.
Do dungarees count as 'posh dress'?
That vomiting in the Porters’ Lodge in Freshers’ Week is the sure-fire way to be ‘that guy’ for at least a term.
That gowns are simultaneously empowering and very embarrassing.
That there are many ways of acquiring alcohol without ID.
That it doesn't matter that everyone you're going to meet has done a fancy gap year / study programme / knows Latin. You're all in the same boat now.
That you shouldn’t even think about pretending to be an adult once you get here – your time as an adult is still a distant fantasy.
That some people still take their childhood teddy to bed with them when they feel sad, and that is okay.
That you will make friends that are so good that you can tell them you still take your childhood teddy to bed with you when you feel sad and they will not judge you.
How important it is to call home regularly so that when you get back in the vacation they can vaguely understand half of what you’re saying about your shiny new life.
That when I rolled my eyes at people telling me I needed to ‘remember my roots’, they were right and I was wrong.
Roots aren't that great… right?
That in a year’s time, nobody will care about your A-Level results except your grandma and even then only if she can brag or lament at how you went astray.
That in a few months time, having got into Cambridge will be the norm, not the super-special-omg-wow exception, and it will feel weird.
That your results don’t define you or the path you’ll end up on.
That this coming September you’ll experience more FOMO than you thought possible as you watch friends at other unis start freshers' week while you wait for October.
To enjoy the last few weeks of Summer, because there won’t be that much opportunity for guilt-free relaxation in the next few years.
That in the end, everything would actually be OK.
That it’s OK to be homesick. Most people are. Secretly.
That homesickness very quickly turns to Cambridge-sickness when term ends.
That going to university in my hometown would present some very weird and unique challenges. Like bumping into your old teachers in Sainsbury’s, or having to go out to the clubs that witnessed all your awkward sixth form debauchery.
That you do not need to put yourself through hell to get a good grade.
That your friends at home will have no idea what you’re talking about when you tell them the kind of things you get up to here.
That Cindies is the best awful night out you’ll ever go on.
That pennying will mess you up until you learn how to do it properly.
Who knew pennies could be so deadly?
That university, despite what social media and student bravado would have you believe, is not principally about alcohol and sex. Food and friendship would be a more accurate summary.
That my diet would regress to that of my 10-year-old self, and I would live off Coco Pops, Marmite on toast and eggy bread.
That just because Cambridge is full of traditions that look terrifying and eternal and glamorous, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t reflect on whether or not they’re a bit ridiculous and unnecessary – and fight them if you can.
How to tie a bow tie.
The difference between port and sherry.
The difference between Marxism and socialism.
How to pronounce Cholmondely, that Petrograd and St. Petersburg are the same place, and that not knowing either of those things at age 18 is totally fine and understandable.
Not to be embarrassed by things I didn’t know. We’re here to learn, after all.
That people who seem to know more than you often don’t.
That just because people sound posh doesn’t mean they aren’t talking rubbish and shouldn’t be challenged.
That people who appear to be more privileged that you haven’t always had an easier time. Privilege is about more than accent.
That if something makes you unbearably uncomfortable, it’s okay to stand up against it.
That there’s a fine line between getting out of your comfort zone, and not being true to yourself. And sometimes you can find yourself on the wrong side of it without realising.
I wish I’d known that amazing quote, ‘I’ve learned so much from my mistakes, I’m thinking of making a few more’.
Congratulations to all those who found out today that they would be joining the Cambridge student body in Michaelmas 2015! We encourage you to make all the same mistakes that we did, and to recognise that it’s okay to feel bewildered and exhausted in the coming months. But we hope the above nuggets have brought a few wry smiles to your faces, and assured you that – though it’s easy to forget it – we were all there once too.
Images: CollegeDegrees360; Gareth Senior; Steve Garry; Martin Cooper