What should you consider when you choose your Oxbridge college? Find out here.
One of the most common questions I’m asked when people find out where I went to university is “Which college?”. Your college will be the centre of your social and academic life in Oxford or Cambridge, but a lot of applicants know very little about any of the colleges at the point when they’re applying. Although the vast majority of Oxford and Cambridge students end up loving their college however they ended up there, there are some things you might want to consider before you decide which college you put down on your application form – and some things people might be telling you to consider that aren’t necessarily important.
Location, location, location
Although the majority of colleges in both Cambridge and Oxford are within walking distance of most departments, some are closer than others. If you think you’ll be one of the many students who will still be in bed 10 minutes before a 9 o’clock lecture, you might want to consider checking out which colleges are closest to your lectures! Both Oxford and Cambridge have maps on their website where you can check out the location of different colleges and departments. You might also want to think about whether you’d prefer to be right in the centre of town (handy for shops, restaurants and clubs) or a bit further out (still within walking or cycling distance of the city centre, but with fewer tourists and less noise!).
A room with a view
Accommodation does differ somewhat between colleges. A lot of colleges will offer college-run accommodation for all three years of a standard undergraduate course, but in many cases second years at least will be in an annexe outside the main college and in some cases a mile or more away – if you’ve picked your college based on its fab city centre location then this might be rather disappointing. You might also want to consider the price of accommodation (some colleges are more expensive than others and you don’t usually get much choice as a fresher) and whether you’d be able to stay over the holidays, particularly if you’re coming from a long way away – many colleges let their rooms to conference guests or to interviewees during the holidays. Finally, consider kitchen facilities and the reputation of the college food if you can find any information on this. A lot of colleges don’t provide ovens in their student kitchens and this can be tricky if you’re trying to self cater, particularly for specific dietary requirements.
All girls together
One for the female Cambridge applicants only – Oxford’s last single sex college went co-ed in 2008. Cambridge, however, still has two undergraduate colleges which only accept women: Newnham and Murray Edwards (aka New Hall). It’s a different environment but it’s totally personal choice as to whether you think it’s one for you.
And finally, one NOT to consider:
Past admissions Statistics
Many people decide which college to apply to based on their perceived chances of getting into Oxbridge – based on how many applications per place there were last year. Truth is, the pooling system ensures the best applicants get in no matter where they applied to so it really doesn’t matter if you’ve applied to the most oversubscribed college or the most undersubscribed – if you’re one of the best applicants on paper and at interview, you’ll get in somewhere even if it’s not the college you initially applied to. Besides, if everyone based their college choice on applicants per place from the year before, the most undersubscribed college from the year before would be very oversubscribed!