At Imperial, almost everyone you meet has tangled with Oxbridge at some point. The students are Oxbridge rejects, the faculty is largely composed of Oxbridge old boys/girls, and the hall subwardens are imported directly with their shiny Oxbridge diplomas clenched in clever hands for some good old Imperial postgraduate work.
Oxbridge is the elephant in the Imperial room. Almost to a one, we were crushed by our rejections, and some of us felt we were “settling” for Imperial. So when I claim now that, were I to again have the choice before me, I would choose Imperial over Cambridge, it might sound slightly insincere and revisionist to the discerning ear–but I promise I’m telling the truth! Here’s why:
1) The reputation: Okay, so Oxbridge are collectively known as the best uni’s in the world, and to be frank, that speaks for itself. I’m not going to say that Imperial is better than either one, though others have made the case (boopboopOxford). What I can say, however, is that Imperial is basically as good, that the extra microdetails and minutiae will make next to no difference to your educational experience. Rankings matter far less than you might think–and I realize this might be “easy” for me to say, comfortably typing this on my Shiny Imperial Blog, on Superfast Imperial Internet, in my Luxurious Hall in the heart of the Regal Imperial Campus, but if you’re reading this with an offer from Imperial, rest assured you’ll come to understand my point wherever you end up. In the end, uni is about you, not the faculty; your intelligence is the limiting reactant, not the infinite resources you’ll receive here (or anywhere else world-class).
2) The location: Okay, so rankings don’t matter. Location matters a bloody hell of a lot more, though neither Oxbridge nor Imperial are anywhere near comparable. It’s more about how YOU feel in regard to either one. Oxbridge are both in small cities, Cambridge slightly more so than Oxford, while London is in one of the biggest metropoli in the Western World. I’d like to say world, but it’s only 29th by population. The fact remains, however, that London is one of the most exciting possible places to go to Uni. From Imperial, you’re on the doorstep of almost everything of import in the world. The city is loud, vibrant, massive, and teeming with people, sights, and experiences. The Imperial social calendar is the London social calendar; again, only your stamina is the limiting reactant. Oxbridge, on the other hand, are small cities with even smaller, ancient centres. Beautiful, beautiful places, steeped in hundreds of years of history and pedagogical tradition, in their own way every bit as exciting as the high streets of London. You will live, for at least a couple of years, in an absolutely beautiful and ancient fortress, growing ever closer with your fellow geniuses and college-mates. Which will you choose? Think wisely. I was blinded and lured in by Cambridge’s rating, which as I mentioned is a massively superficial approach; I can now see I’m much happier here in London than I could probably ever have been at Cambridge. South Kensington, the most expensive postcode in England, is nothing to sneeze at, and the nightlife here, which, may I remind you, is still half your degree time-wise, is absolutely brilliant. I think Cambridge has one dingy club. Do we have secluded private gardens with wandering punters straight from a Romantic’s painting? Nah. Your move, offer-holder. Close proximity to Buckingham Palace, Harrods, Hyde Park, London’s three biggest museums, dozens of embassies, and Essentials? Imperial. Cobbles? Cambridge.
3) Let’s be honest, Saturdays off are really nice. Natural Scientist at Cambridge? Your alarm is set six days a week. Anything-ist at Imperial? Your weekend starts at 6 on Friday. Boom.
There’s a ton more to be said, but I think you get the idea. Make sure you visit, if you’re torn, and consider the long-term implications of your course. And remember, you can probably make the most of wherever you end up going, and, even better, there’s no wrong decision possible!