When I was applying for uni it took me a long time to make up my mind of where I wanted to go. It was not an easy choice and I was stuck in between two options: York, and Oxford. It got to a stage where I thought: “maybe I should just flip a coin and be done with it”. However, I did not let my future be decided by a coin and eventually (spoiler in the title) settled on York.
If like me, you submitted your uni application early and are now waiting to hear back from Oxbridge this might be a decision that you are thinking about too. Whether you are completely unsure or you have your mind made up, thinking about these things now and weighing up all your options can be really helpful.
I had my heart set on Oxbridge
I chose to study Biology at York on an Integrated Masters course and am now in my 4th and final year. However, York was never where I envisioned I would end up. Before I even knew I wanted to study biology, I had my heart set on Oxbridge.
Growing up I was often one of the top in my class, and that came with a certain set of expectations, which I am sure many of you might be able to relate to. On top of that, my childhood was filled with stories from my parents, and how they met at 19 while at Oxford University. Although I always knew that my parents wanted me to follow my passions regardless of whether that meant going to university or not, there was always this unspoken pressure to follow in their footsteps. So, when I was choosing my 5 places to apply to on my UCAS form, Oxford was definitely on there, along with Leeds, Warwick, Sheffield and of course York.
York just felt right
York was actually the first university that I ever visited/researched. Before that, I knew very little about what university life was like, other than the (slightly outdated) stories from my parents.
So when I first looked at York I was blown away by the seemingly massive department buildings and library, the huge selection of societies and the vibrant campus community. I soon realised that most universities have big libraries and often the same shiny new departments, but it was only York where I truly felt like I would fit.
It is a hard feeling to explain and I am not sure whether it was the friendly welcome when I arrived, the tranquil view as I looked over the lake, or the student radio blasting through the speakers across campus – something just felt right. I know this all sounds a bit too cheesy, and I am sorry, but it is honestly true!
Fantastic facilities and research
As I was applying to study biology, the facilities in the Biology department were also important to me. I found that the classic biology course doesn’t vary much in content between the universities, so my decision on the course side of things was based mostly on the department facilities and research.
When I looked around the Biology department at York, the latest teaching building was actually still being built. That really impressed me, as it was so new and up-to-date that it wasn’t even finished yet! The Biology department is also one of the biggest departments on campus and has brilliant research going on (as does chemistry) with research that really competes with Oxbridge. Now I am in the department I know of a number of postgrads who did their undergrad at Oxbridge and have moved to York for their postgraduate studies (so they also chose York!) There are a million other things I can say specifically about the Biology department, but it isn’t York’s only selling point don’t worry!
Inclusive college community
Something that I also liked about York was the collegiate system that they have in place. York’s collegiate system is a middle-ground between Oxbridge and simply being allocated an accommodation block. It helps to give you a community bubble but doesn’t restrict you to just your college. This makes it easy to meet other students from all colleges, but it gives you the opportunity to participate in college sport, events and elections as well.
Brilliant student city
When considering where you will be living for the next 3 years or more, it’s important to also think about the city that the uni is based in. I didn’t consider this much before moving to York. But now that I am here, I couldn’t recommend it more to future students. York is a brilliant student city with loads of places to explore, eat out and enjoy, with great transport links to larger cities like London and Leeds.
In the end…
For me, choosing a university was not only picking somewhere with teaching excellence and cutting edge research but also a place where I would feel at home and have the space to find my independence. By choosing York I also chose a place I was inspired by, and although turning down Oxford was one of the hardest decisions I have ever made, I don’t regret it one bit.
Read more student stories about choosing York