By Tiffany Walmsley
When choosing a college as a postgraduate student, after already having the ‘uni’ experience (perhaps elsewhere), there doesn’t seem to be so much at stake as I can imaging there being as an undergraduate. There is often much more affiliation to the department you are working in than the college. When I chose to apply to Jesus college, the main (and perhaps only reasoning) was that it is my supervisor’s college!
Jesus college is a beautiful, 450-year-old, college located in the heart of the city centre, close to historical sites such as the Radcliff Camera and the Sheldonian Theatre, to the high street, and the covered market. The old courtyards are framed with wisteria and provide a safe space to hide away from the busy shopping streets – a secret garden. A large looming portrait of Queen Elizabeth I watches over the dining hall and the sounds of the chapel can be heard in the First Quad throughout the week. It really is the experience you imagine when you first think of Oxford University.
I am in a unique position, however, of also living with my partner at Linacre College, a postgraduate only college located adjacent to both the University Parks and—even more conveniently—the science buildings, and a 10-minute walk from the city centre. Founded in 1962, the college feels more modern and relaxed in comparison to Jesus college. It is a small college with a friendly and diverse community. Since the students are postgraduate only, you will meet people from all over the world at different stages in life. I have had so many fulfilling conversations at the college bar, and everyone has an interesting story to tell.
My experiences thus far of both colleges has largely been impacted by living out of Jesus college and on site at Linacre—and personally I feel like I did this the right way round. An older college close to the city centre can offer beautiful grounds and fancy dining events, famous alumni, and quirky traditions, although you may perhaps prefer a college closer to your department with an informal atmosphere and frequent social events. A postgraduate-only college surrounds you with engaging, like-minded people whereas mixed colleges offer more opportunities to socialise with (and perhaps mentor) undergraduates.
Choosing a college as a postgrad may not weigh as heavily on your priority list as choosing the correct supervisor but it is worthwhile to consider the kinds of experiences you would like during your time here! I’ve been fortunate to experience more than one type of college, so make the most of networking and finding friends in other colleges (and convince them to give you a tour!).