A mentor’s review of the University of Cambridge Student’s Union shadowing scheme

Some much-needed new perspective on Cambridge life

Each Lent term, the Cambridge SU runs its flagship shadowing scheme, giving Year 12 (or equivalent) students the chance to “shadow” a current Cambridge student for three days. Having ignored the emails last year, this year I took the plunge and decided to sign up. This is my definitive review of my experience on the scheme.

An opportunity to inspire and encourage future applicants

I don’t know if it’s just me, but I always love getting to show prospective students around Cambridge. There’s something so exciting and satisfying about being able to give the advice that you wish you’d had to someone else. This scheme is great for allowing you to do this, giving you a chance to show the reality of Cambridge life to a prospective Year 12 student.

A new perspective on Cambridge

Sometimes it can be easy to forget just how insane Cambridge actually is and how lucky we are to be here, and seeing the excitement of the Year 12 shadows at something as simple as sitting in a library has really given me a chance to reflect on my degree and how genuinely exciting (although really difficult) the academic side of Cambridge Uni life is.

King’s College Chapel looking absolutely gorgeous!

A chance to meet new people

I was matched with a shadow staying at Medwards (I’m at Fitz), meaning that I got to finally have a proper look around the college. It was a little bit stressful trying to show a Year 12 student around a college I had literally been in once before, but on the plus side I now (sort of) know my way around Medwards. The scheme throws you together with a bunch of students across the uni doing different subjects, giving you a chance to make some new friends along the way.

A new appreciation of the city

Touring my shadow around Cambridge and a variety of central colleges gave me a chance to really look around and appreciate just how beautiful this city really is. It can be so easy to get caught up in the busy nature of Cambridge life that I often forget to just look around me and fully appreciate the city.

The view of the city from Castle Mound (how had I never been up here before????)

A time-consuming commitment

The scheme can take up a lot of time on the days the shadows are staying in Cambridge, which is definitely easier for humanities students (like me). The requirement to be with your shadow pretty much all day means that it can be very time-consuming – in all honesty I did not get much work done over the three days of the scheme! (It is a VERY good excuse to tell your supervisors though.)

An average history student library sesh – boring for me but (somehow) very exciting for a year 12


At the start of the scheme another mentor described to me how she felt like a “mother” on the scheme, and honestly I kind of get that. As a mentor, you are expected to personally be on top of things and stay in constant communication with both other mentors and your shadow. This isn’t necessarily always a negative though, because it you are given a lot of flexibility to choose how you want to spend you time, and it makes the scheme a good item for the CV.


The SU’s organisation is not always great, and communication between the SU, college access officers (who run the scheme at a college level) and mentors was not always the best over the course of the scheme. Everything did work out in the end, but in a very typically Cambridge last-minute way.

My final verdict

Honestly, I came into the scheme with very little expectation of what it would be like, and I’ve really enjoyed it! The chance to show a prospective student the reality of student life in Cambridge and give exactly the kind of advice and guidance I would’ve loved to have had when I was in their three years ago made the scheme so worth it and enjoyable for me. In my eyes, the pros of the scheme outweigh the cons, and I would definitely consider giving it another go next year.

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