This is possibly one of the areas that people give least thought to when making their Oxbridge application for medicine. Whilst most of your teaching including lectures, labs and demonstrations will take place centrally taught by the medical school and you will only have a few tutorials with your college tutors per week, the college is still the place where you will live, sleep, eat and make friends for the duration of your time there.
In the final 3 years your friends become very ´medic-centric,´ as your old college friends willl most likely have left and gone to London or further afield, and you will also be posted on out-firms in various locations throughout England. But in the first few years, the college you belong to is fairly important.
This character of each of the individual colleges is very different, ranging from some of the older and grander, to some of the much younger modern looking pieces of modern art (sometimes more of a 60´s architectural monstrosity than modern art in my opinion). Wherever you go, you can guarantee that the people will be friendly and you will be able to find like-minded people. This is the beauty of intellectual hotspots such as Oxford and Cambridge. Debate, pontifications and even rants can be found everywhere from the college tutorial to the college cafeteria.
But each college differs in size, provisions and demographic and this can dramatically alter the landscape for those first few years
- how many people do you want around you on a daily basis? If you prefer to be left alone or are a blossoming socialite you should
consider how many undergrads you will be surrounded by.
-How self contained? Some of the colleges are particularly impressive for how many different clubs and societies they have, and the strength that the JCR can have in college decisions. This can be great, but can get claustrophobic for some.
- What are your interests? If you are really into rugby, you might want to consider a rugby college. If you really like rowing, you might want to go to a rowing college. Find out. It makes sense.
- To live – in or to Live – out? One of the biggest regrets that people have about their college is not finding out whether there college can guarantee a room for all 3 years, or whether they may have to live out in 2nd year. Many students prefer to live out with a few friends in this year, and then return to college for their final year, but it can be quite financially penalizing. If you sign a tenancy agreement for 1 year you are locked in to a year of rent, whereas the Oxford and Cambridge terms are only 8 weeks long, and the Colleges will usually have you pay only 27 weeks at a relatively favourable rate
- Hall? Is your college hall operating an opt-in or opt-out system. This can actually make quite a big difference financially, as through either forgetting to opt out every day, or through a slightly screwy rebate system, you may end up paying a lot.
- Where is the college located? This really shouldn´t make a difference, but when you spend 24 weeks a year in an incredibly small place, you sometimes wish you had chosen that college which was 2 minutes closer to the centre of town than you did. A consideration if you are as lazy as I was.
- On site facilities? Does the college have sports pitches nearby or on the site, or is it a 30 minute bike ride. It makes quite a difference. Will there be kitchen access for you and a bar which can delight your palate.
There are a million and one considerations to make when choosing a college. I am sure you won´t regret what ever choice you make, but the above are some of the things I had known when I was applying. Please find some youtube videos and virtual prospectuses below which might help you make the decision, but ideally you should get up there and try to speak to the students.
James Oliver, Oxbridgemedicine.com