We previously wrote a post on how to choose your college - http://oxbridgesciences.com/which-oxbridge-college-is-for-me/.
Just wanted to make a slight addendum.
The above post relates mostly to quality of life or ‘best fit’ principles. I appreciate however, that for many people the most important thing is getting in…..anywhere. Certainly when I was applying I had a vague idea of colleges, and I found it useful going there to look at them all, but when it came to it, I would have been happy anywhere.
So here I give you a few more practical pointers about picking the college that will pick YOU.
Grades – assuming you all have the grades, then it is well worthwhile spending time researching the colleges in depth with regards to how they weight the BMAT/GCSE’s/A-levels. All of the colleges work hard together to ensure that a good candidate doesn’t slip through the net somehow (pooling system), but you should not waste a first choice on a college that places most weight on BMAT if you are feeling underprepared. This holds true for your GCSE results.
Topics – If you have been a budding researcher/ have done lots of work experience in a particular area, you may consider applying to a college where one of your interviewers has a similar area of expertise. They will not favour you, but it is only human nature that they will be impressed by your knowledge and dedication, particularly if it is what they have dedicated 15 years of their lives to. You may even find a kindred spirit and develop a real rapport with the interviewer in the short time that you have to be assessed.
Gap-years – some look particularly unfavourably on these. Almost all will want you to do something worthwhile.
Extra-curricular – This does matter. All of the tutors want candidates who will excel academically AND in their lives outside of study. From a practical perspective this means that you will cope with the course, and will add more to the student population. Everyone wants each candidate to get the most out of their Oxbridge experience, and so it is useful to know what a college has a particular reputation for. Some for rowing, some for music etc etc.
Your extracurricular excellence is not a substitute for academic ability, however, your tutors may be more sympathetic to particular activities or hobbies that particularly inpress them and make you an asset to the college.
Hope this helps