Black women scientists are living in an important time in South Africa as the socio-political landscape is changing rapidly, effecting changes in many dimensions of identification, particularly ‘race’, gender and class. This paper draws data from in-depth interviews with a cohort (n = 10) of Science scholarship students to explore experiences of alienation and belonging at university. Although these young women are, by definition, ‘high performers’, selected from the top five percentile of their secondary schools, they may still enter university study with limited access to dominant forms of cultural capital, including English proficiency and scientific terminology, and other forms of less tangible knowledge. The participants recount multiple experiences of non-belonging in the university context, both in and outside of classrooms, and a sense of alienation from their chosen fields of study. However, the findings also suggest that the establishment of affective bonds with particular institutional spaces and people stabilises their sense of self and belonging. Perhaps simultaneous membership of two outlier groups, a marginal and an elite group, which creates alternating senses of alienation and belonging, may provoke new modes of academic life and ways of doing Science.