Oxford or Cambridge...

It's a difficult one. When I was at school Oxford and Cambridge were just amalgamated into Oxbridge. I didn't really know the difference and with respect to my school it seemed like neither did they. Both were elite institutions with excellent reputations - the best of the best, so sometimes it felt like it didn't matter which one I applied to.

They are however, not the same. Both are excellent institutions and people who go there prefer different things and applied for different reasons. If you have your sights set on either oxford or Cambridge you have to make the choice.

But how?

I initially had no idea as to how to go about answering that question. My younger sister suggested one day that Oxford must be better because it starts off the word 'Oxbridge'. Whilst I applauded her thought process, it's not quite as simple as that.

To try to find which you prefer these are some of things I would check off your list:

  • What are the courses like? 
    • Which has more of the things you'd be interested in?
    • Is one of them more challenging for you personally?
    • Am I applying because I feel it's the best decision for me? Sometimes it's easy to get swept up in the ideal.
  • For some subjects it's useful to look at the breadth of the course e.g History and English- how far back can you study?
  • You absolutely must go and visit both places! I went just on a day in the summer holidays and then I went again for a proper open day
    • Be aware as well that the different colleges have different Open Days
    • Oxford certainly have virtual tours of the uni which is perfect if you can't make a visit or want to check back in.
  • Do you like the city or surrounding area?
  • Do you like the facilities both of the university and of the city
  • Cambridge is a smaller city then Oxford and the university and city are a lot more separate. You might prefer this, you might not
  • The landscape
  • How far away it is from home (although I wouldn't put too much stress on this point, at interviews there was a boy who'd travelled from Scotland over two days!)
  • You might want to consider the differing living costs although I found they were much of a muchness
    • Travel from home to uni
    • Living in or out and in what years
    • Travel expenses around the city (although both Oxford and Cambridge are known for having everything within easy walking or cycling distance)
Sometimes you might just know, straight away, without having to think too deeply about it. As cliched as it sounds I had a eureka moment quite quickly. It was the feel of Oxford that I loved. There was something about Cambridge that just wasn't... Oxford.

Also if you're still not sure don't force a decision, keep thinking it over, keep researching and make visits! They're both excellent universities  and so often it's more about how you personally feel in that environment than anything else. 

Also make sure that your applying because you think you would thrive there and you really want to pursue it. There's more to both institutions than the dreaming spires, balls and colleges. When it comes to picking a university you need to be sure that you will blossom there and this includes thinking about how you might fit in, or what societies can cater for your hobbies, backgrounds etc


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