University Life At Cambridge
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Dos And Don'ts Of Attending A Cambridge Uni May Ball

Becky Milligan July 15, 2022

The University of Cambridge is widely known for its traditional and glamorous student events. May Week, which ironically annually takes place in June, is the university-wide celebration of exams finishing. The most exciting of events held during May Week is each College’s May Ball. They are held every year at some Colleges, and once every two years at smaller Colleges. Students are expected to follow the dress code set by the organisers, which will either be black tie or white tie depending on the College. They usually follow a creative theme too, but there is no obligation to dress according to the theme!

Tickets don’t go cheap, with the most expensive general admissions ticket of 2022 being over £340 at Trinity College! However, everything at the ball is included in the ticket price, such as unlimited alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks and food, and fairground rides. They have live music with huge headliners such as Sigala at Magdalene College, Rudimental at St. John’s, Scouting For Girls at Christs’s, Big Narstie at Homerton, and The Amazons at Corpus Christi.

If you’ve never been to a Cambridge May Ball before, you may not know exactly what to do to make the most of your night. Don’t worry, this article is here to help! Here are the dos and don’ts of attending a Cambridge Uni May Ball.

DO: dress to impress!

May Balls are all about dressing up to the nines! For example, some May Balls allow mini, midi and maxi dresses, while some specify maxi dresses only. Depending on if it is a black tie or white tie event, those wanting to wear suits will have to wear a suit regardless, but the difference lies with the type of tie you have to wear and the type of blazer permitted. All-in-all, May Balls are an excellent opportunity to dress up in your best clothes and shoes. Who wouldn’t love going to a mini-concert wearing a formal dress?

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DON’T: assume the queue will be short

If you want to make sure you get in on time to see all of the live performances, try to go and queue early. This is especially if you have a general admissions ticket. The queues grow very quickly and can be extremely long: I’m talking over three hours of wait time here! I recommend getting ready and going to queue early to beat the long waits.

If you have a fast-track ticket, the queue won’t be as long as general admissions, there are also long queues for fast-track entry too. Larger Colleges’ fast-track queues may be up to an hour long, so it’s better to get there sooner to make sure you don’t miss out!

DO: take extra clothes to be comfortable

By this, I mean take flat shoes if you’re wearing high heels at the start of the night, and a jacket if you’re staying into the early hours of the morning (it gets cold). There are cloakrooms available at some College Balls so you don’t have to carry your extra belongings around all evening. Being comfortable can make all the difference to how much you enjoy it.

DON’T: stay until the survivors’ photo if you’re not feeling it

The survivors’ photo is a professional photo taken of everyone who made it until the very end of the night. Again, depending on the College, this could be 1 A.M., 3 A.M., or even as late as 5 A.M. However, if staying until this time is likely to make you feel tired or unwell, there is no pressure to stay until the survivors’ photo. Listen to your body, and if it’s telling you it’s time to go home, it is ok to go home!

Photo by Patrick Ward/Popperfoto via Getty Images

DO: make use of the provided maps for the bigger Colleges

Navigating your way through the large, unfamiliar campuses is extremely difficult. Often, these colleges will provide maps to navigate where everything is. Make use of this, as it makes it so much easier to locate where you want to be.

Also, if you happen to lose the people you go with, you can use the maps provided to find each other easier. It may also be a good idea to set a meeting point beforehand if you can’t reach each other.

DON’T: hesitate to get your money’s worth!

There is so much to do at a Cambridge College May Ball. Having some sort of plan beforehand may help you to do everything you wanted to do while there. For example, you could aim to go on the dodgems first, then go get food and drinks, and then head to the main stage for the headlining act. The point is, the ticket wasn’t cheap, so you may as well try to fit in as much as you can while you’re there.

One tip I can offer is that if you stay until near the end, there may be freebies that you can take home with you. For example, my friends and I took the leftover trays of brownies home at the end of Magdalene College’s May Ball. You’re also allowed to take some of the small decorations home if you’re into collecting memorabilia from events you attend.

The takeaway message

The most important thing to do is to have fun! Lots of students, especially students who attended Cambridge through the pandemic, will only experience maybe one of their own College’s May Balls. The tickets are not always easy to get ahold of as they are highly popular events, and saving up for tickets can take time given the cost. So, above all, enjoy yourself and make some memories!

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Becky Milligan is a Freelance Writer for Freshered and a Lead Generator for PROP by GRV Media. The main focus of her articles is mental health, as she strongly believes in reducing the stigma surrounding mental health for university students through education. She also shares stories about her personal university experiences and gives advice for university living. She currently studies Psychology at the University of Sussex and volunteers for Shout 85258. She is an avid animal lover, with two rescue cats called Smudge and Oreo, and she loves to dance and sing in her free time.