Applying to a college is one of the most confusing aspects of your Oxbridge admission, but one that is worth thinking about before sending your application.
As all prospective Geography students know, Geography is a diverse subject with many subdisciplines. A-Level Geography students will recognise the two main subdisciplines as Human and Physical Geography, but at the undergraduate level Geography diversifies further, allowing students to explore the areas they are interested in most.
At university Geography tutors specialise in their own area of academic research – from animal geographies to geomorphology – and this can affect what and how they teach their students.
After considering which colleges offer Geography, the location of the college in relation to the town, the size of the student population in each college, and what each college can offer you in terms of money and facilities, I suggest one other aspect which can make your application stand out from the crowd.
My top tip, whilst considering which college to apply to, is to do some research into the tutors you may encounter at your chosen college. Not only are they the ones likely to be conducting your interviews, but they will also be your academic mentors for the entirety of your degree.
This information is readily available in the subject prospectus and on the Internet, but a list of all academic staff at the School of Geography and the Environment at Oxford can be found here.
Your tutors matter for a number of reasons. As mentioned earlier, Geography is a diverse subject and you will be required to study both Human and Physical Geography in your first year at Oxford. However, if you have already developed a specific interest you want to take further, it could be useful to consider a college with a tutor that specialises in your desired area.
Try reading a couple of academic articles or books by tutors you find interesting, or simply reading their profiles on the department’s website. These small things can give you an insight into what life is really like as an undergraduate Geographer, and help you to stand out at interview. This does not mean obsessing with the academic work of the tutors at your chosen college; wide reading is important and reflects the diversity of Geography.
Despite this, it is important to remember that all tutors are very well equipped and experts in the course. Whatever your interest, tutors will accommodate this, and lectures and tutorials are regularly conducted by tutors outside of your chosen college. Whilst tutors can make a difference, it is the responsibility of the students to put in the effort that matters most. Choosing a college is not reducible to one factor, however considering your tutors may be advantageous at interview and throughout your Geography degree.