A friend of mine recently got an offer to go to Oxford. I was so pleased for him; all I could think of was how much of an achievement it was and how proud I was that all his hard work had paid off.
My bubble was burst when he asked me, “should I go?”. I felt dumbstruck. Should you go? Well, of course you should! You just went through an extremely challenging application process, what was probably an exhausting set of interviews, and weeks of waiting in the hopes that you’d get this answer. Why would you throw that away?
Thinking on it a few days later, I wondered whether the trial that is applying to Oxbridge ends once you get the offer, or intensifies once you accept it. So, Ollie, my dear friend, here’s my honest advice about whether you should go to Oxford.
First of all, I have to do the classic ‘you should have applied to Cambridge’. Haha. Good joke. Glad we got that out of the way with. In all honesty, I can’t tell you what the differences are between Oxford and Cambridge. I couldn’t even tell you the differences between two colleges within either institution. All of the advice that I can give you is based on my experience at Queens’, so is in no way universal. You’re doing a different course, at a different college, and a different uni. But that doesn’t mean I’m not going to give you my two cents. I’m an Oxbridge student, after all; we think very highly of our opinions.
While the collegiate system is not unique to Oxbridge, it has become a trademark of the experience. I still haven’t decided whether I love it or hate it, but I suppose there’s a healthy dose of both. First of all, a college makes things way less intimidating. It will guide you through freshers’ week, introduce you to your first friends, and provide you with a more than necessary amount of getting portered. If you don’t know what that means, get ready for pres being shut down at 10pm, posts being shut down the second you walk in, and your moves being tracked by forces more cunning than secret agents.
Okay, I exaggerate, but I did have a porter once come to my room to tell me to stop talking to my friend (no music, no shouting – just talking) because it was ‘too late’. And another come to fix my fire alarm, which would have been a lovely gesture had it not been 2am and had I not had someone over. Much like Queens’ College architectural disparity across the river, there is a light and dark side to living in college; you won’t know how well it works for you until you go. Personally, my college tends to treat us like children in a boarding school rather than students at uni. On the lighter side, I’m surrounded by my friends, and they make all the gossiping, babying, and occasional ridiculous behaviour of certain members of staff worth it. Plus, you’ll find the good porters and fellows who make you glad that Oxbridge lets you get much closer to those who run your uni than any other place seems to.
Balancing Work and Play
Next on the Oxbridge list: work and fun. I will be honest, at times you will find it hard for the two to coexist. When you’re four coffees down, have an essay due at 8am, and haven’t slept in 36 hours, you might be wondering why anyone in their right mind would ever go to a place like this. Well, let me tell you, it is NOT for the clubs. Actually, Ollie, I know you like a bit of cheese, so you’ll probably find it alright. My advice is, learn which nights are good, make sure all your friends go, never miss a good night out just to do work (it’s just not worth it), and try not to go to any 9am supervisions hungover. Going still drunk, however, can be enjoyable.
So, the big question. Should you go?
I don’t know if you’ll be happier somewhere else. I don’t know how many times you’ll have to tell yourself it’s ‘worth it’ when the work never seems to end. I don’t know if you’re going to like the people around you, or the way your course works, or the uni experience as a whole. I wouldn’t know that no matter where you ended up going though. Oxbridge is a unique experience in many ways, but it’s also just a uni. You applied because you wanted to go, you got in because your interviewers believed you would thrive there, so why not give it a try? This isn’t going to define your life. If you love it, that’s great! I certainly wouldn’t leave this place for anything, even if it sometimes feels like I want to. But worst comes to worst, you absolutely hate it. It’s the worst thing ever. You hate me for even suggesting that you should have gone. So, what? You don’t need to think that your choice of uni is going to define your whole life. It’s not! Sure, this is a really important choice right now, but it’s not a choice that you can never go back on. Go with your gut, give it a shot, and if it doesn’t work out please remember that that’s not a reflection on you.
Go to Oxbridge, see if you like it, and know that you can and should always put yourself first.