Hi, I'm Matt from Buxton, Derbyshire. I took my A Levels at a state school in Bakewell before coming here to study Natural Sciences at Emmanuel.
I applied to Cambridge for a couple of reasons: firstly the reputation of Cambridge, particularly in the sciences, is great and secondly the course is really unlike any at other universities around the country. The variety of topics on offer in the first year means you can really find out what you actually enjoy studying at university. You pick one maths and three other science modules and you can have any combination of these which is great. I ended up studying physics, chemistry and a biology module (Biology of Cells) in the first year as I really wasn't sure which one I wanted to end up specialising in. I think that's definitely something quite a few students find because you can't really know what you'll enjoy studying before you actually try them out at university.
The average day in first year consists of about two lectures (you'll have twelve a week) each an hour long and labs that go on all afternoon a couple of times a week. You'll also have an hour long supervision for each option once a week. The usual format of these is that you'll be set work (a set of problems or an essay) to complete and hand in before the supervision so that you can then go over it with your supervisor (normally a PhD student or an academic of the college, all really friendly and intelligent people). The supervisions here are a great opportunity to make sure you really do understand the material covered in lectures and if you don't then you have someone who really knows the course to explain it to you.
One thing I wish I knew before I applied is really how important your College ends up being. Although your lectures and labs will be organised through the university, not college, all of your supervisions will be organised by college and it ends up being where you spend the majority of your time. Most of my mates have ended up being from college as well. I actually got really lucky with Emmanuel because even though I didn't really think about this stuff it has a great set of supervisors and the other students here are a great group of people.