Turns out Cambridge is hard.

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sprazcrumbler
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#1
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#1
Sup. I went to a pretty average state school where all of my friends were the smartest kids there. I came to assume that this would hold true wherever I went, and that I would easily bond with other intelligent people at uni. I had done pretty well at school, all high A*'s and whatever, and thought that I could manage pretty well wherever I ended up.

So I went to Cam this year not really knowing much about it, I applied to Trinity to do phys natsci and got in. At the time I had no idea about Trinity's reputation, but since arriving I've discovered that it is hard working (top of the Tompkins table), full of geniuses (5 of 6 British Fields medals, 32 Nobel prizes), formal, conservative, and filled with private school kids (These last 3 points I think are related, Trinity has the highest private school percentage of any oxbridge college). And I happen to be lazy, untalented, not comfortable with formality, generally liberal, and state schooled.

My subject is possibly one of the unfriendliest at the college, Natscis are naturally unsociable, and Trinity natscis more so. The sciences are overwhelmingly populated with private schoolers, as years of high quality teaching is pretty much needed to get in, and private school is where you get that, and I feel that i can't really relate to them that well, they have grown up in some entirely different universe to me and we generally don't have a lot in common. Also a lot of fellow natscis have come from places like eastern europe, russia, china, etc, and while that isn't an issue in itself, these kids frequently hang out in their own country specific groups, and lack the level of fluent english needed for a chat type conversation, rather than a scientific discussion. Both of these factors make me feel pretty lonely within my subject, and I have no one to turn to when I need help with my work.

Needing help with my work happens frequently, I cannot keep up with lectures, cannot understand problem sheets, and barely know what is going on in my supervisions. I think that the education I received at school was inferior to that of pretty much everyone I meet, I think that somehow everyone else is both naturally smarter than me and more motivated than me (I sat next to some natsics at lunch one day and they were discussing whether there was a concise geometrical proof for divergence. I did not know what was going on). I feel like I lost a part of my personality when I went from "smartest kid at school" to "dumbest Natsci at Cambridge"

I think I get on better with people outside of my subject. But when I socialise with these people I still have problems:
1. A lot are posh, don't care about money. Think £10 for a meal is "cheap", have never had to deal with the violence and drugs and anti intellectual sentiment so rife at state schools, don't realise how different the real world is to their comfortable "prep school to public school to Cambridge" life. They don't know either, how hard it was for normal people to get to Cambridge.
2. My subject still gets in the way. I have lectures at 9.00 six days a week, I don't really get a weekend, my longest day stretches from 9.00 AM to 9.00 PM, and then on top of this, I have questions sheets to do which take me twice as long as others because of my stupidity. Due to these factors, I never really get to stay up late and hang out, never get to drink too much, Never get to do anything during the day.
3. I don't fit in. The people here are nothing like my friends back at school.

I think I am going to see how the exams go this year, and if I do too badly I will drop out and reapply for somewhere else. I visit my friends at Bristol when my term ends and it just seems so much more friendly there than here.

All in all, I am alone. I am failing. I am unhappy.

Thoughts?
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Cinnamon_Twist
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#2
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#2
You are unhappy, you feel isolated. All of these things make me say transfer. Being unhappy and unmoticated cannot be good for your work. If you are happier I genuinely think it shows in all aspects- work, social life etc. You shouldn't stick it out because it's Cambridge (IMO) getting a better grade at a uni you are happy at will be far better than getting a 2:2 or lower at Cambridge.
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laura130490
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#3
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#3
If you are not happy and have tried your best and are still failing then I would say leave. Contrary to what a lot of people believe on here a 3rd class degree from Cambridge is not worth more than a 1st or a 2.1 from a lower ranking uni. The most important things at university are doing well and being happy, if you aren't either of those then you should leave.
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AK0001
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#4
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#4
It's worrying that things haven't got any better for you. Have you spoken to your tutors about how you feel?
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Chumbaniya
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#5
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#5
The fact that it's a very different environment to what you're used to isn't necessarily a bad thing. I was in the same position, going from having the best GCSE results my school had ever seen and getting great marks in my A levels in a sixth form college taking a big intake from inner city Birmingham, to being pretty shoddy at my subject. But if an academically talented individual doesn't find a place where that talent is celebrated rather than looked down on, they'll never be able to capitalise on it and will end up with a big chip on their shoulder. I screwed up my degree, but even that was worth it in the long run because unless you appreciate your talents relative to other talented people (rather than just in comparison to most people coming from backgrounds which are apathetic or even disparaging towards academic ambition) you'll have a warped view of what you are capable of.

I can't really say much about the social differences you've experienced, as I was at Emmanuel which seems to be a lot more forward-looking and lacking in the worst aspects of Cambridge privilege and formality.
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A level Az
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#6
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#6
I think it may be the college choice that has let you down? They're all excellent obviously, but the more well known ones like emma, st johns and trinity probably attract more private school attention than Homerton for example (no disrespect, it's just relatively newer so not as well known).
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alexissocool
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#7
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#7
(Original post by sprazcrumbler)
Sup. I went to a pretty average state school where all of my friends were the smartest kids there. I came to assume that this would hold true wherever I went, and that I would easily bond with other intelligent people at uni. I had done pretty well at school, all high A*'s and whatever, and thought that I could manage pretty well wherever I ended up.

So I went to Cam this year not really knowing much about it, I applied to Trinity to do phys natsci and got in. At the time I had no idea about Trinity's reputation, but since arriving I've discovered that it is hard working (top of the Tompkins table), full of geniuses (5 of 6 British Fields medals, 32 Nobel prizes), formal, conservative, and filled with private school kids (These last 3 points I think are related, Trinity has the highest private school percentage of any oxbridge college). And I happen to be lazy, untalented, not comfortable with formality, generally liberal, and state schooled.

My subject is possibly one of the unfriendliest at the college, Natscis are naturally unsociable, and Trinity natscis more so. The sciences are overwhelmingly populated with private schoolers, as years of high quality teaching is pretty much needed to get in, and private school is where you get that, and I feel that i can't really relate to them that well, they have grown up in some entirely different universe to me and we generally don't have a lot in common. Also a lot of fellow natscis have come from places like eastern europe, russia, china, etc, and while that isn't an issue in itself, these kids frequently hang out in their own country specific groups, and lack the level of fluent english needed for a chat type conversation, rather than a scientific discussion. Both of these factors make me feel pretty lonely within my subject, and I have no one to turn to when I need help with my work.

Needing help with my work happens frequently, I cannot keep up with lectures, cannot understand problem sheets, and barely know what is going on in my supervisions. I think that the education I received at school was inferior to that of pretty much everyone I meet, I think that somehow everyone else is both naturally smarter than me and more motivated than me (I sat next to some natsics at lunch one day and they were discussing whether there was a concise geometrical proof for divergence. I did not know what was going on). I feel like I lost a part of my personality when I went from "smartest kid at school" to "dumbest Natsci at Cambridge"

I think I get on better with people outside of my subject. But when I socialise with these people I still have problems:
1. A lot are posh, don't care about money. Think £10 for a meal is "cheap", have never had to deal with the violence and drugs and anti intellectual sentiment so rife at state schools, don't realise how different the real world is to their comfortable "prep school to public school to Cambridge" life. They don't know either, how hard it was for normal people to get to Cambridge.
2. My subject still gets in the way. I have lectures at 9.00 six days a week, I don't really get a weekend, my longest day stretches from 9.00 AM to 9.00 PM, and then on top of this, I have questions sheets to do which take me twice as long as others because of my stupidity. Due to these factors, I never really get to stay up late and hang out, never get to drink too much, Never get to do anything during the day.
3. I don't fit in. The people here are nothing like my friends back at school.

I think I am going to see how the exams go this year, and if I do too badly I will drop out and reapply for somewhere else. I visit my friends at Bristol when my term ends and it just seems so much more friendly there than here.

All in all, I am alone. I am failing. I am unhappy.

Thoughts?
First off, you should be very proud of yourself; I always merit students from state schools who get into top colleges. You are most evidently intelligent and shouldn't put yourself down comparing yourself to others. Sorry you're unhappy it's not nice to hear that. As you said see how you do in these exams. It would be a shame for you to drop out but perhaps you would get a much better experience at maybe another Russell Group uni such as Bristol where people are a bit more human. After all if you're not happy that needs to be addressed.
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Cake Faced Kid.
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#8
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#8
(Original post by slappyhours)
i'd love to feel sorry for you but working my absolute hardest only saw disappointment on results day and i'm very intelligent. i think you need to realise just where you are and stop whining about it. i would have thought that a prospective Cambridge undergraduate would have at the very least researched his course, college and mentality of students on said course before he chose Cambridge as his firm choice on his UCAS form.

on the other hand of course help does exist and it's up to you to go and seek it out. can you arrange meetings with tutors to help you through the bits you don't understand?
So intelligent that you choose not to use capital letters where appropriate? :rolleyes:

OP, you'll only be there for a few years, even if it is unfriendly, it's still one of the best universities in the UK. Consider yourself lucky that you got in, and enjoy the fact that future employers will rate you highly. If it's completely unbearable, maybe consider a different university, or a different course?
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DavidCrow
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#9
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#9
It is possible to degrade for a year and start afresh My sister did NatSci at Downing College and several of her friends did so after being unable to cope with the work. Maybe you could try that? Talk to your tutors, Do mocks, and see how you're faring. If you get a 3rd or 2.2 after Y1/Y2, consider degrading or leaving, a mark below a 2.1 is really not worth it and you won't catch up.

NatSci is known for being a horrendous degree in terms of workload and I guess that comes out in the social side of things as well. I could never do it, geography all the way


This was posted from The Student Room's iPhone/iPad App
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Manitude
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#10
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#10
If I was in your situation (and tbh, I reckon I would have been if I had gone to Oxford for physics) then I would transfer to another university. If you're not happy and not succeeding then it makes little sense to stay there. You don't need to get an Oxbridge degree to succeed in life.

In high school and sixth form I was one of the top few performers in my year and now at university I'm quite a few rungs down in the pecking order. I do well enough (aiming for a first overall), but nowhere near the top.
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FiniteMr
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#11
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#11
(Original post by sprazcrumbler)
Sup. I went to a pretty average state school where all of my friends were the smartest kids there. I came to assume that this would hold true wherever I went, and that I would easily bond with other intelligent people at uni. I had done pretty well at school, all high A*'s and whatever, and thought that I could manage pretty well wherever I ended up.

So I went to Cam this year not really knowing much about it, I applied to Trinity to do phys natsci and got in. At the time I had no idea about Trinity's reputation, but since arriving I've discovered that it is hard working (top of the Tompkins table), full of geniuses (5 of 6 British Fields medals, 32 Nobel prizes), formal, conservative, and filled with private school kids (These last 3 points I think are related, Trinity has the highest private school percentage of any oxbridge college). And I happen to be lazy, untalented, not comfortable with formality, generally liberal, and state schooled.

My subject is possibly one of the unfriendliest at the college, Natscis are naturally unsociable, and Trinity natscis more so. The sciences are overwhelmingly populated with private schoolers, as years of high quality teaching is pretty much needed to get in, and private school is where you get that, and I feel that i can't really relate to them that well, they have grown up in some entirely different universe to me and we generally don't have a lot in common. Also a lot of fellow natscis have come from places like eastern europe, russia, china, etc, and while that isn't an issue in itself, these kids frequently hang out in their own country specific groups, and lack the level of fluent english needed for a chat type conversation, rather than a scientific discussion. Both of these factors make me feel pretty lonely within my subject, and I have no one to turn to when I need help with my work.

Needing help with my work happens frequently, I cannot keep up with lectures, cannot understand problem sheets, and barely know what is going on in my supervisions. I think that the education I received at school was inferior to that of pretty much everyone I meet, I think that somehow everyone else is both naturally smarter than me and more motivated than me (I sat next to some natsics at lunch one day and they were discussing whether there was a concise geometrical proof for divergence. I did not know what was going on). I feel like I lost a part of my personality when I went from "smartest kid at school" to "dumbest Natsci at Cambridge"

I think I get on better with people outside of my subject. But when I socialise with these people I still have problems:
1. A lot are posh, don't care about money. Think £10 for a meal is "cheap", have never had to deal with the violence and drugs and anti intellectual sentiment so rife at state schools, don't realise how different the real world is to their comfortable "prep school to public school to Cambridge" life. They don't know either, how hard it was for normal people to get to Cambridge.
2. My subject still gets in the way. I have lectures at 9.00 six days a week, I don't really get a weekend, my longest day stretches from 9.00 AM to 9.00 PM, and then on top of this, I have questions sheets to do which take me twice as long as others because of my stupidity. Due to these factors, I never really get to stay up late and hang out, never get to drink too much, Never get to do anything during the day.
3. I don't fit in. The people here are nothing like my friends back at school.

I think I am going to see how the exams go this year, and if I do too badly I will drop out and reapply for somewhere else. I visit my friends at Bristol when my term ends and it just seems so much more friendly there than here.

All in all, I am alone. I am failing. I am unhappy.

Thoughts?
Sorry you ended up at Trinity and having these experiences, I've heard a lot about it being more posh and annoyingly stressful. Many other colleges are really friendly from what I've heard! But, trying to relieve at least a little pressure, you also aren't the top of the Tompkins table (long term), us at Emma unfortunately hold the expectation for achievement since we have the best average score over 10 years
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Blutooth
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#12
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#12
If you are finding the problem sheets too hard, why not find someone on the course at a similar level to you academically and work with them? That way you can bound of each others energy or wallow in depression-whatever floats your boat. You might make a good friend out of that person.

I am sorry you dont like the atmosphere at Trinity and find the place a bit stuffy. However I have found that most posh people are really just like you or me if you scratch beneath the gilted veneer. We are all humans; perhaps your preconceptions of some of these students is inhibiting you. I suppose you could ask to change college if you thought the social life was too unbearable.

All in all, I think u should persevere. You were admitted to Cambridge because the tutors saw potential in you. There are some Cambridge colleges which are predominantly state school in their mKeup, but I'd think it best to try and get on with the Trins as surely you must be able to find someone with whom you share similar interests. There are like 700 of you afterall
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FiniteMr
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#13
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#13
(Original post by A level Az)
I think it may be the college choice that has let you down? They're all excellent obviously, but the more well known ones like emma, st johns and trinity probably attract more private school attention than Homerton for example (no disrespect, it's just relatively newer so not as well known).
Please be joking! Emma is in the group of less known colleges that works the hardest towards access. I've never heard it lumped with Trinity and John's
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jj193
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#14
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#14
Sounds like you're getting on with it admirably, given the circumstances.

Thoughts? As you planned you should see how exams go. If they don't go so well figure out if there is a way to salvage your course for a good result (Maybe you can find a niche route through your course by selecting options carefully). I wouldn't worry about people talking maths as described, it shows that they're interested in it (perhaps obsessively so) but doesn't make them superior or any smarter then you are etc..
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A level Az
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#15
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#15
(Original post by Hypocrism)
Please be joking! Emma is in the group of less known colleges that works the hardest towards access. I've never heard it lumped with Trinity and John's
:O I thought it was up there with them, but I'll take your word for it.
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willbee
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#16
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#16
You've found it difficult to make friends on your course. I can empathise with you there. Okay so I'm not at Cambridge and the only divide at my uni between anyone and me is that I don't speak Welsh, but I started on Joint Honours English / Drama and struggled to make any friends in Drama because they're nothing like me. So many are OTT and just downright annoying. And I needed help in understanding the drama theory (mainly because I disagree with a lot of it and want to say "No, hold on, this is a load of BULL****.")

Anyway, there may be a general gist to people on your course not being your type of people but there will be someone you can be friends with, you probably just haven't had a chance to get to know them.

Do you have course-related socials? Is there any chance anyone you'd be friends with would go? Can you have a snoop around your lecture hall and look at people you might be able to become friends with before the lecture starts? You could just go ask if you can sit with them in your next lecture. It would be pretty forward and I understand if that's not your style, but being forward gets you where you want to be quicker and you might fix your loneliness sooner...

Anyway, you're the Cambridge/state-school student so you're probably considerably smarter than me or anyone who has had a private school upbringing (it takes more on your part to get in) so you being lazy and untalented is not true at all. Plus it sounds like you've probably got pretty good social skills for your course (want to make friends, speak English fluently, plus I think people from private schools can be a bit socially awkward sometimes- citing my dad, gran, best mate and everyone I've ever met from a private school as references here).

For you to get in is more of an achievement than someone from a private school. It just is. Fact. So stop going round thinking you're dumber or not as good as everyone else. For starters, it's unattractive and will counter your efforts to make friends, and secondly, it's probably wrong. Even if they are better at Natsci, you will be better in other areas and you can offer them that.

I've been the new kid at a lot of schools and I think considering that Freshers' is over you are probably in a similar situation. You need to actively pursue friendships, really make an effort if you want to befriend some people on your course who can help you, even if they're not generally the type you'd hang out with normally, you need them to help you learn. Maybe make a thread asking if there are any Trinity Natsci students on TSR? Join a Fb group. Sometimes you have to cling onto a social group by the skin of your teeth until there is an opening and they let you in. Sometimes you have to follow people around a bit until they see that you're actually pretty cool and they enjoy your company. Sometimes you have to force a friendship so that you can pass your exams. We all make friendships with agendas, and God knows I wouldn't have passed GCSE Science if I hadn't had my good friend John always sat somewhere near me, close enough that all his multichoice answers were very visible and easy to follow

Anyway, all the best.
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KSP
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#17
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#17
I think the two hardest things for oxbridge undergrads to come to terms with is the difficulty of the material and the fact that they're surrounded by students who have the same level of intelligence as them. My brother did his undergrad at Cam and absolutely hated his first year there, even though he's very clever. He went from being the best in his year at our (state) school to simply being "average" and i think that has a major impact on confidence. However, once you get used to it, i think things do start to pick up a lot and you really find out what your potential is. He got a 2:1 in his first year but graduated with a first.

I was a bit different, i didn't do my undergrad at oxbridge, but i'm a postgrad there now. Even though i was the best in my year at my school too, i guess i was quite lucky in that my brother's smarter than me and so i was used to being around people who are smarter. Since i've already passed that hurdle, i've found that i've gained so much just from a year of study.
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Hipster
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#18
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#18
(Original post by Cake Faced Kid.)
So intelligent that you choose not to use capital letters where appropriate? :rolleyes:

OP, you'll only be there for a few years, even if it is unfriendly, it's still one of the best universities in the UK. Consider yourself lucky that you got in, and enjoy the fact that future employers will rate you highly. If it's completely unbearable, maybe consider a different university, or a different course?
From looking at your profile, you seem to be still at college/sixth form. Don't even pretend that you can answer this question meaningfully, because you've not been to university and you know NOTHING about it. :rolleyes:
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racheatworld
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#19
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#19
Hi.

I know of a first-year student doing Physical Nat Sci at Trinity who went to my 6th form college and was state-schooled throughout his whole education. (scarily similar)

You aren't as alone as you think you are. You should definitely persevere, and don't be afraid to ask others for help.

Also - don't put yourself down so much! It is a great achievement to get into Cambridge from a state school, and you should definitely not compare yourself to others as being "unmotivated and lazy". You obviously are not a lazy person to get there in the first place.
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Xero Xenith
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#20
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#20
(Original post by A level Az)
:O I thought it was up there with them, but I'll take your word for it.
Emma has a reputation for being friendly

And there are other well-known colleges, like King's, that are nowhere near as full of private school people as you might think. King's is actually full of state-school-ians...
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