The college system at Oxford and Cambridge can be confusing, especially if you are not familiar with the application process and which college to choose. There are several talking points in choosing a college: which is most beautiful, oldest, has the best food or gives you the best chance of getting in. Try not to be fixated on the Oxbridge college that seems to give you the best chance of success. Choose the college which best supports your choice of subject and most resonates with you – the one you can picture yourself in.
Narrowing Down your Choice of Oxbridge College
You need to take several things into account when deciding on an Oxbridge college. Big or small, all-girls or mixed, in the city centre or more on the outside? Whether you would prefer to know everyone or meet new people every day and be at the heart of the city or in a quieter place will definitely influence your choice.
For Cambridge University applicants, the following will help you narrow down your choice of college: Wolfson, Hughes Hall and St. Edmund’s are for mature students only, meaning if you are under 21, you can’t apply to these. Female-only colleges include Newnham and Murray Edwards. These only take female students, if you’re a woman, you need to decide whether you would prefer this or not – if you haven’t considered them before, maybe you would like to. They are great places to live in and study. Trinity College is world-renowned for Maths and Gonville and Caius for Medicine.
For Oxford University applicants, St Edmund Hall, or “Teddy Hall” takes the highest percentage of Fine Art undergraduates. Some Oxford Colleges take only one Fine Art student, which means that you may feel quite isolated as the only student in your college studying your subject. Balliol College is well-known for its PPE course and budding politicians.
Attend Open Days
If possible, once you’ve made a shortlist of the colleges you are considering, go to the open days. Although the online open days, due to the current pandemic, are not ideal, it’s still a good idea to attend. You will gain insight on living and studying at Oxford and Cambridge. There are a lot of people you can direct your questions to if you have any. Try to speak with current students to get a feel for their experience of their college. Talking to faculty members, tutors and members of the colleges you are interested in will give you a better picture of what it would be like to live and study there.
Application Success Rate for your Subject at Oxbridge
There’s nothing wrong with looking at applications statistics for the success rate for the subject of your choice. However, this might not be the most useful technique to choose your college. Indeed, Oxford and Cambridge have pooling systems that help to ensure that the best candidates still have a chance, even the original college they have applied to is over-subscribed. Remember Oxford and Cambridge are very competitive places, where even the “least” competitive colleges may still surprise you with the number of applicants.
Submit an Open Application
If you’re still not sure which Oxbridge college to apply to, you can submit an open application. These applications let a computer allocate you to a college. If successful, this college will then invite you for an interview. However, you won’t be able to ask for another college. Once you’ve been allocated one, it is not possible to change. Moreover, this type of application may not necessarily increase your chances. In addition to that, an Oxbridge college may be more likely to consider you if you have shown a direct interest in the college, rather than being allocated via computer.
At Oxford or Cambridge, belonging to a college is a great experience. Most students wouldn’t trade their college for anything. Your college will define your time at Oxbridge, so choose wisely but don’t get too stressed about it! Enjoy the process and good luck.