What Kate Middleton's Life At College Was Really Like

Much of what we know about Princess Catherine in the media has to do with her royal duties — or with her so-called feuds with other members of the royal family. As is the case with many celebrities and public figures, the depth of who Princess Catherine is seems to get buried underneath sensationalized headlines or comparisons against Meghan Markle.

But Princess Catherine is very much her own person, and her years in college give some insight into who she was and what she was up to before she was the Princess of Wales — not to mention before she was under intense scrutiny as part of the royal family. The mother, philanthropist, children's advocate, and talented photographer was once a normal college girl who went out drinking, worked on and off for her family's business, and even spent time waitressing. Learn more about what Princess Catherine's life at college was really like.

The college she went to wasn't her dream school

Princess Catherine's dream school was Edinburgh, a prestigious school known for its world-class courses — and Catherine was accepted into the university, an impressive feat considering the school's 10% acceptance rate. But the princess didn't go to Edinburgh. Instead, she took a gap year before applying to St. Andrews. "It was a bold move and very risky, and rather out of character for Kate. There was no guarantee that she would get a place in the history of art program at St. Andrews, which was oversubscribed now that William had confirmed his place," royal expert Katie Nicholl wrote in her book, "Kate: The Future Queen" (via Marie Claire).

It's unclear why Catherine abruptly changed her college plans, but the fact that Prince William was attending St. Andrews — the school that Catherine attended after her gap year — seems more than serendipitous. Is it possible that fate brought the two together, or did Catherine, like other girls who attended St. Andrews in the hopes of getting close to the prince, follow William to college? As Nicholls writes: "It seemed every girl in America wanted to come to St. Andrews to search out the prince. Kate would have read the papers. She would have known that William was going and that there was every chance they could be in the same program at the same time if she got a place to study there."

She wasn't as prim and proper as she is now

The Princess of Wales is known for doing everything right: dressing properly, behaving gracefully, and generally following a respectable and traditional route in life. But when she was in college, she was, well ... much like many other college students. She was not always put together; she went out partying with her friends and sometimes wore "revealing" outfits (read: short-ish hems and slight cleavage. Scandalous!).

One particular photo (via Reader's Digest) seems to encapsulate Princess Catherine's college days. In the photo, the princess is at a rugby match with two friends. One friend is smoking a cigarette, while Princess Catherine and the other friend are chowing down on what appear to be greasy burgers. All three are decked out in low-slung jeans and oversized hoodies — classic staples from the early 2000s — and they all also appear to be vaguely hungover. And while some may be inclined to chastise the princess's casual look and behavior, she didn't need to follow any royal rules at this time, since she may not have even been dating Prince William when the photo was taken. Plus, we love a relatable moment. In another photo, she wears a low-cut spaghetti-strap tank top — something you'd never see her in these days.

She was part of a now-infamous university fashion show

In 2002, when Princess Catherine was 19, she was part of a charity event and fashion show at St. Andrews. Her outfit of the night — a mesh dress with a bikini underneath (via YouTube) — has become an iconic symbol of Catherine's pre-royal life, not to mention the inciting incident for her romantic relationship with Prince William.

When Princess Catherine strutted down the runway in her racy dress, this was apparently the moment Prince William knew he wanted to be with her. He evidently paid £200 for a front-row seat at the show, and when he saw Princess Catherine in the dress, he began to think of her as more than a friend. The dress went on to sell for a whopping £78,000 at an auction, and well, we all know what ended up happening between Catherine and William. An interesting fact about the iconic dress is that Catherine modified it before modeling it. "It was meant to be a skirt actually. And she kind of yanked it up and wore it as a dress," said auctioneer and fashion expert Kerry Taylor (via Us Weekly). Would the sheer skirt have caught William's eye the way the dress did? We're guessing yes!

She studied art history

Students at many Scottish universities — like the one Princess Catherine attended — will try out different subjects to major in their first two years before deciding on their final major for their last two years. Many may know that the princess eventually got her degree in Art History, but that's not the only subject she focused on at St. Andrews. "I started off doing psychology at St. Andrews, with History of Art," the princess said (via The Telegraph). "It was a bit full on, but it was really interesting." 

Though she still has an interest in psychology, Catherine ultimately went the art history route. Her love of art has been evident in different ways throughout the years with Architectural Digest pointing out her "deft photography skills" and a sketch she did for her sister Pippa's wedding. Catherine has also been involved in several art-related events, including opening museum exhibitions and being a patron of the National Portrait Gallery. Looks like her degree has paid off!

She was shy in college

The Princess of Wales was once just a "shy" college student, according to People. "Back then you would never have credited that the young woman who walked through those gates would turn out to be our future queen," said The Sun's royal photographer, Arthur Edwards, reflecting on the first photograph he ever took of Princess Catherine back in 2005 (via People). "I didn't know who on Earth she was," Edwards said.

While Princess Catherine has likely had to overcome some of that shyness, it's safe to say she's still pretty reserved. A source close to the princess told Hello! that she is a "natural introvert" and that she's had to adjust to such a public lifestyle. "I think she would say herself that she wasn't born to be a public figure. She's a reserved person and she's incredibly thoughtful, but she would never have sought a public role if it hadn't been for the man that she married," the source said. Despite the challenges that come with being a royal, it appears she is learning to embrace the lifestyle. "Hers is an understated presence," the insider noted. "But she's quietly growing in confidence."

She was set to work for her family's business post-grad

When Princess Catherine was a child, her parents started a party supplies company called Party Pieces, and the business was inspired by Princess Catherine, in a way. Her mom, Carole Middleton, was looking for supplies for the princess' fifth birthday party and could only find plates with clowns on them. Thus, the business was born.

The company took off, and is still successful today, with nearly 80,000 followers on Instagram. And some of the success may be owed to Catherine, who helped out with the shop on and off throughout school and college. Had fate turned out differently, she may have continued working for the store, since she was a great salesperson. "Catherine [had] all the making of a fantastic trader," said a former colleague (via SheKnows). "Everybody thinks of her now as a mother and future queen — whatever that means. But she's got a shrewd eye for profit and a very hard head on her shoulders."

She took a gap year to travel

Of all the things we know about Princess Catherine, we'd say her adventurous gap year is one of the most interesting — maybe because it seems a little out of character for the reserved, straight-laced Princess of Wales. As the story goes, the princess took a year before going off to college to work with Raleigh International, a charity organization that builds community resilience in poor rural areas. She spent time volunteering in Chile, then studied at the British Institute in Florence, before becoming a crew member on a Round The World Challenge boat in Solent. In other words, she traveled a lot.

Interestingly, Prince William also took a gap year and spent time in Chile. According to Malcolm Sutherland, who ran the events that Catherine and William were involved in Chile, it was "absolutely crazy" that they both opted to volunteer at the same place — just a few weeks apart. "I think a lot of people don't realise there is that common connection there in their pasts," Sutherland said (via the Mirror). Perhaps it's another example of their fated love?

She was well-connected even before royal life

Before she even went off to college, Princess Catherine was part of a clique called the "Glossy Posse," which was essentially a group of wealthy teens who partied together. She likely met these privileged teens when she was at the prestigious Marlborough boarding school as a teenager. According to the book "Royals at War" (via SheKnows), the Glossy Posse was a "group of privileged teens letting off steam" by frequenting "the bars and clubs of rural Gloucestershire."

And while the posse mostly just sounds like bratty rich kids being rambunctious, it's also said that the clique often partied with Prince William. If this is true, the group probably also partied with all kinds of up-and-coming powerful teens, and this may have allowed the princess to establish herself in these higher-up circles. Plus, these connections likely followed her into her college years and made it easier for her to cross paths with the future king.

She cofounded a drinking society

Of all the extracurriculars that Princess Catherine could be involved in during her college days, we have to admit, cofounding an all-girls drinking society was not our first guess. Catherine was reportedly unamused that the old drinking societies were men only. And if you're wondering what exactly a drinking society is, well, it's pretty much what it sounds like: a club where people hang out and drink.

But just because Catherine was determined to buck tradition and create a women's drinking club doesn't mean that she was a heavy drinker. Though she did seem to go out regularly — she frequently hung out at Boujis, a popular London club — she was not known for getting black-out drunk or even drinking often. Apparently, those who remember her from college days don't recall the future Princess of Wales being inebriated (via The Guardian). What they do remember? Well, according to a Boujis regular from that time, Catherine used to be seen touching up her makeup in the bathroom before leaving the club and meeting the swarm of paparazzi waiting for her. "It's a rough, tough rite of passage," said biographer, Robert Lacey, at the time. "But she seems to be surviving it well."

She spent more time with Prince William than with her friends

It's a common occurrence: you get a boyfriend and before you know it, you're spending all of your free time together, much to the chagrin of your friends. Apparently, even the princess isn't immune from this scenario. According to friends of hers from college, she kind of dropped off the radar once she and Prince William became an item.

"When we first came down from St. Andrews, it was exciting for us all to be in London together," said a friend of Princess Catherine's from university (via The Guardian). "But as it turned out we didn't end up seeing much of Kate. She spent a lot of time with William's friends and sort of stopped coming to our girls' suppers." 

To be fair, dating Prince William likely complicated the princess' life in a way that made it hard for her to live the way she did pre-William. As her university friend explained: "I don't even think she dropped us deliberately. But she has to be so careful about where she goes now and all the arrangements that it became more trouble than it was worth."

She and William were roommates before they started dating

They say the best relationships are those that start as friendships, and if that's the case, Princess Catherine and Prince William have done things right. Apparently, the royal couple were good friends for years before they actually began dating. In fact, they even lived together as roommates along with a few other friends before they started seeing each other romantically.

Catherine and William were neighbors while they were living on campus at St. Andrews during their first year, and the two would hang out and play tennis together. During their second year, the pair moved into a townhouse together with friends. At this time, the princess was reportedly dating someone named Rupert Finch, and Prince William was very much still in the friend zone.

Then, during their third year of college, the group of friends moved from the townhouse to a more private cottage outside of town. Shortly after this, it appears Catherine and Rupert broke up, and then things began to stir between the princess and William. "Kate was going out with a bloke called Rupert Finch ... soon afterwards, though, they split up and I remember William saying that he thought he might 'have a go,'" a source who knew the couple told The Guardian in 2007.

She was a waitress during her time at university

Even though Carole Middleton can trace her ancestors back to The Queen Mother and Michael Middleton's family came from aristocratic backgrounds, the Middletons were still a typical working-class family so it's no surprise that the princess had a waitressing stint in college. In a TV special with Mary Berry (via YouTube), the host hands Catherine a mocktail, to which Catherine says: "Reminds me of university days when I did a bit of waitressing." Mary asks: "Were you good?" Catherine laughs and says: "No, I was terrible!"

Though she doesn't explain much about why she was a terrible waitress, we're guessing it just wasn't her cup of tea. And to be honest, we're struggling to imagine the sophisticated and elegant princess as a waitress juggling plates of food and taking orders. It just doesn't seem like it would be her vibe, even in her college years. However, we won't have to try too hard to imagine the princess waitressing, since the upcoming season of "The Crown" will apparently showcase Catherine's college days and includes scenes of Meg Bellamy, the actor who plays the princess, waitressing at a pizza place.