Choosing a University and College

Choosing a College can seem like an arduous task that will have a major impact on your time at Oxford or Cambridge should you gain a place. Application and acceptance statistics are often used by students to choose “tactically”, supposedly to maximise their chances of getting in, and rumors abound as to the “kind of student” favoured by particular Colleges over others. This post is therefore an exercise in myth busting! Choosing a College can be fun, but is certainly not something to get worried about. Here are our reasons why…

1. You will have a great time, regardless

You will never find a Cambridge or Oxford graduate who didn’t enjoy their degree because of their College. You will always find friends within College, and clubs and extra-curricular societies mean that you will have friends all over the place as well!

2. You have an equal chance of getting in, wherever you apply

It is official; no College is “easier” to get into than another. At Cambridge, they have a “pool” system, meaning that if you are not offered a place at your chosen College but the tutors feel you are a good applicant, you will be placed in the pool to be picked out by another College. This system remedies the imbalance that is inevitable in subjects between different Colleges, so trying to tactically apply to “less popular” Colleges is not necessarily a wise option.

Oxford meanwhile interview many candidates at multiple Colleges; we have heard from our students that they were interviewed at up to three Colleges, and were made offers by their first choice or other Colleges instead. There is little point in trying to play this labyrinthine system, designed to take the best applicants for each subject every year.

3. Pick a College for personal reasons

Think about what you prefer. Big or small? Old or new? Central or further out? If you’re sporty, you might be looking for a College with a great sports ground. If music’s your thing, you’ll be curious about what your College choir and orchestra are like. And if your preferred method of relaxation involves walking backwards around a quad drinking port, Merton’s going to be your only option.

4. Your College will always be the best

Essentially, if you end up at either university, you will think your College is the best! Heated debates ensue in the office when we approach the question of “the best College”. Lee went to Selwyn, Cambridge and is therefore its fiercest advocate. Alex was at Merton, Oxford, which apparently is “the only College to pick”. So, ultimately, we would suggest that you don’t worry too much about “the College conundrum”. It’s not really a conundrum at all!