Deciding on which college to apply for in Oxford or Cambridge can seem like an agonising process.
The college is the centre of university life, where you’ll meet your friends, have your tutorials, and even sleep. Although its important to not get carried away with the minutiae of every single college (considering there are more than 30 in Oxford) it is nevertheless essential that you pick one that is right for you!
Here are a few of my tips on choosing the right college, and some things to consider;
1) Practical considerations.
Things like college location, college accommodation, and college food are all worth considering. Choosing a college that is further out from the centre might not be a problem if you are a keen cyclist, however if you would like to be able to wake up and cross the road to get to lectures etc. it is worth choosing one of the central colleges. Accommodation is another practical factor to consider – some colleges offer accommodation for the entirety of your degree, whereas others require you to live out. Whether or not you would prefer the ease of living in, or the excitement of living out, should be a factor in your college decision. College size is another consideration – there is quite a disparity between colleges so it is important to decide whether a large environment suits the extrovert in you, or if you would favour a close-knit community.
Oxford Colleges from the City Centre
Cambridge Colleges from the City Centre
2) Aesthetic differences.
Naturally there is quite a few differences in the way the colleges look. This can depend on the age of the college (there is a difference of over 600 years between the oldest and youngest) so if you would prefer a more venerable institution this should be considered. There are colleges which are traditionally seen to be more attractive (Magdalen for the deer park, Christ Church for the grandeur) however this does all come down to personal preference, and it is important to visit the colleges to see which you like the look of. Although this might seem like a more superficial consideration, it is nevertheless an important factor!
It is possible to have tutorials at other colleges if your own does not have the tutor to suit your specific interests, so this is not the most important factor. However, it will help your application if the tutor who interviews you has interests in alignment with your own, and it is worth checking this before you decide!
4) Extracurricular interests.
College sport is a key part of college life, and different colleges have different levels of sporting prowess. If you are interested in rowing or rugby for example, it might be worth choosing a college with a particular enthusiasm and history for these sports. Drama is another interest which can vary between colleges, and some have their own theatres for their students to use. Therefore, if you have a particular passion, choosing a college with a reputation for that passion would be a good thing!
Hours the college library is open, how good the bar is, whether or not you have to wear gowns to dinner may all seem like trivial issues, however these can vary in importance to different people and should also be taken into account!
In truth, you will likely be happy at whichever college you end up in.
It’s possible you might even be offered a place at a college different from the one you apply for – most people end up loyal fans of their own college, however, visiting the colleges and researching them to see if they suit you and your interests is well worth the time, and can guarantee a positive experience at university. Don’t get put off by stereotypes, which more often than not prove untrue, however it is good to consider the hard facts of college living before making your final choice.