There are quite a few things you need to consider when you're picking your college. You may have heard lots about one college, you may have had relatives, older friends that have gone to a different college, but they may not let you in.
The first thing you need to check is does it offer the course that you want to do, this is quite a big one, later in this book I've listed which courses you can do at which Oxford or Cambridge college. Some of the colleges at Cambridge are single sex, some of the colleges only admit graduates and some of them only admit mature students. The first thing you need to do is work out which ones you can actually apply to.
Then we need to think about does the personality of the college fit your personality and your style. Some of them are very old, very traditional and if you don't think you're going to get on well with that then maybe pick a slightly more modern college that does things slightly differently.
The best way you're going to be able to do this is by actually visiting the college. There is very little substitute for actually going someplace and getting the feeling for it. I know for some of you that's not going to be easy to do so profiles of the college in this book or go and look at people's YouTube videos about their lives at the college.
Location could be a big factor for some of you. Some of the colleges are tucked right up in the centre next to all the lecture theatres, next to all the bars, next to all the cafes, but they're also right in the middle of the tourist centre so your accommodation, you studying in your bedroom, a tourist might think is a brilliant photo. If you don't want to be so close, if you don't want to be right in the middle of things, there are colleges that are a little bit further out. Oxford is quite compact, nothing's more than about half an hour away, whereas Cambridge is a bit more spread out. These are student towns, as with all student towns, there are loads of buses and especially with Oxford and Cambridge, a large number of students cycle everywhere. It is very common to see more bikes on the road than cars.
You're going to need to look at facilities that a college actually offers, that the clubs the college actually offers. If you are absolutely passionate about one particular sport, don't go to a college where you can't do it, or if you know that you want to sing in a certain position in a choir, have a look at which colleges have an opening for that position for that year. All of these are listed and are constantly changing on the Oxford and Cambridge website so those are the best place to go look at for that information.
For some of you accessibility is going to be a concern, you're going to need accessible accommodation and accessible facilities, and some colleges are better set up for that than others.
The most important thing when you are picking a college is finding somewhere that you are going to be happy. You're going to be living there, you're going to be studying there, you're going to be socializing there, the main focus of your life while you're at Oxford and Cambridge is going to be college based so please pick somewhere that you are going to be happy not somewhere other people think you're going to be happy, and not somewhere you're going just because it has a great reputation.
Mature student colleges
Mature students are over 21 when they start university.
Oxford- Harris Manchester and Wycliffe Hall.
Cambridge - Hughes Hall; Lucy Cavendish College (women only); St Edmund’s College and Wolfson College
Graduate only colleges
Oxford – Campion Hall; Green Templeton College; Kellogg College; Linacre College; Nuffield College; St Antony's College; St Cross College and Wolfson College
Cambridge - Clare Hall and Darwin
Single sex colleges
Cambridge – Women only - Murray Edwards; Newnham and Lucy Cavendish