Maths at Oxford or Cambridge - How Did You Decide!?!?

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Poll: Where should apply to read Maths?
Oxford (140)
39.44%
Cambridge (215)
60.56%
ShaneP
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Hi

I want to study Maths at Oxford or Cambridge but am yet to deviate between the two. You may have seen a couple of my threads in the Oxford and Cambridge forums trying to decide on my shortlist of colleges at each university. Unfortunately, I remain as confused as ever as to which university to apply to! Each has it's own pro's and con's, and everytime I manage to convince myself through logical reason to apply to one, I conjure up some sort of counter argument about why I should be applying to the other. Firstly, my shortlist of colleges in order of preference for each (not as yet definitive):

Oxford
St. John's
Wadham
Christ Church
St. Catz
Worcestor

Cambridge
King's
Churchill
St. John's
Queen's
Trinity

I am planning to go back to each university and visit every shortlisted college and will then come to my definite first choice college for each. Now for my personal list of thought processes for each university (which may differ in opinion to other's):

Oxford
  • Generally perceived to be 'less hard' to get into, and I definitely feel I have a greater chance of getting an offer
  • Oxford seems a nicer city to live in
  • Oxford is closer to home
  • I feel more attracted to some of my shortlisted colleges
  • An Oxford degree in Maths would be more than adequate for a good job in my desired line of work (Actuarial work) i.e. a Cambridge degree will not give an advantage, so why take the risk of not getting in?
  • All colleges give a test at interview, which I'd prefer
  • STEP papers are not part of the conditional offer
  • The Mathematical Institute building leaves much to be desired
  • Not all colleges provide accomodation for the duration of the course


Cambridge
  • Generally perceived as 'better' for Maths
  • Will provide the grandeur of having studied Maths at Cambridge
  • Will rid me of the underlying questions: 'Would I have got into Cambridge?' and 'What if I'd gone to Cambridge?'
  • Not all colleges give a test at interview, which is my preference so my choice of colleges is limited
  • The Mathematcial Institute building looks like something by NASA (which is good )
  • Cambridge colleges tend to have greater annual intakes of Mathematicians
  • Cambridge colleges tend to provide accomodation for the duration of the course


As you can see, I'm in quite a conundrum. Current students, or students with offers to study Maths at Oxbridge, how did you decide where to apply to!? Any feedback you can offer will be of paramount importance in terms of trying to decide where to apply, so many thanks in advance. I've incorporated a poll to make clear your recommendations, based on my opinions.
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Alewhey
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Actually it isn't that complicated.

Are you brave enough and smart enough to take the dreaded STEP papers? If so, go for Cambridge, as it is undoubtably the superior course.

If you are more of a normal human being, you might prefer the Oxford course.

This is coming from a STEP failee.
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RichE
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If you're fairly certain you wish to go down an actuarial route then I'd say the Oxford Maths & Stats course would suit you best. Oxford have the better respected Stats department and a strong range of stats options. Further the choice of which course you're on (Maths or Maths & Stats) can be delayed as late as the third year so you can keep many options open.
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Alan Smithee
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(Original post by Alewhey)
Are you brave enough and smart enough to take the dreaded STEP papers? If so, go for Cambridge, as it is undoubtably the superior course.
It's evident which is better at English though...:p:
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wanderer
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(Original post by ShaneP)
  • Will rid me of the underlying questions: 'Would I have got into Cambridge?' and 'What if I'd gone to Cambridge?'
That was it for me. I liked Oxford when I visited it, and was tempted to avoid STEP, but in the end I knew that if I'd gone there those questions would have hung over me.
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Alewhey
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(Original post by Platocrates)
It's evident which is better at English though...:p:
Is it just me, or is this message board full of touchy *******?

Unbelievably I also got neg repped for that comment I made on that Jesus vs Clare thread.
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tenjon
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Platocrates doesn't go to Oxbridge so I don't think it was a case of him being 'touchy'.
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ShaneP
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(Original post by Alewhey)
Actually it isn't that complicated.

Are you brave enough and smart enough to take the dreaded STEP papers? If so, go for Cambridge, as it is undoubtably the superior course.

If you are more of a normal human being, you might prefer the Oxford course.

This is coming from a STEP failee.
Personally, I feel I would be able to handle STEP after lots of preperation. It's actually getting the offer in the first place that I'm worried about. I'm confident in my Mathematical ability, but am concerned that I'm not too good at thinking on the spot. That is why I'm still undecided over where to apply, because the admissions test at Oxford gives you another opportunity to show your ability whilst avoiding too many unseen problems, and the only Cambridge colleges I'm considering which give tests at interview are Churchill, King's and Trinity. I feel it would be extremely hard to get an offer from the latter two due to the immense competition, and although Churchill has it's pro's, I'd much rather apply an Oxford college I feel more attracted to.

But then I look at my reason's for why I should apply to Cambridge, and it's like a tormenting Mobius Loop..... :hmmmm2:

With regards to Maths and Stats, I have considered it but would be happy doing straight Maths and not commit myself to too many Stats modules, which are not particularly necessary for my career path anyway in terms of Actuarial Exam exemptions.

Finally, with regards to the haunting questions that Maths at Oxford entails, I would much rather be in that situation than apply to Cambridge and not get an offer. I really wouldn't want to study anywhere apart from Oxbridge, however naive that sounds. The question underlying this all is whether I could handle that disappointment or not.
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Jan
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do you actually know what actuaries do? I've met relatively many very good mathematicians or people talented in maths; none of them would ever touch the sort of work actuaries do. it's immensely boring.

there's work for mathematicians in finance, but actuarial work/accounting is as far from it as it gets, apart from secretaries..if you manage to get in, and finish your mathematics degree at either of the two universities, I doubt you'll ever think again about actuarial work

go for cambridge; aim higher.
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ShaneP
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(Original post by Honza)
do you actually know what actuaries do? I've met relatively many very good mathematicians or people talented in maths; none of them would ever touch the sort of work actuaries do. it's immensely boring.

there's work for mathematicians in finance, but actuarial work/accounting is as far from it as it gets, apart from secretaries..if you manage to get in, and finish your mathematics degree at either of the two universities, I doubt you'll ever think again about actuarial work

go for cambridge; aim higher.
Well, of course nothing is definite as of yet. I've read about the career, know many Oxbridge graduates who have gone into the profession and are making a lot of money. Of course I may easily change my mind, but since both universities are so good, do employers really differentiate between the two or have a preference in terms of which produces better potential employees? I think they look for more important transferable skills which both universities provide good training in.
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KAISER_MOLE
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Aye, if you think you can handle STEP your ability would eventually show through in the interviews. How many applicants do you think aren't going to be at all nervous? I was very clumsy and jittery mathematically in my first maths interview, but kept at it. Remember because of STEP Cambridge can make more offers than they otherwise could have.

Won't advise you either way though, both are top notch. Also, there are many other good universities out there for reading mathematics, don't feel it's Oxbridge or bust.
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wanderer
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(Original post by Honza)
do you actually know what actuaries do? I've met relatively many very good mathematicians or people talented in maths; none of them would ever touch the sort of work actuaries do. it's immensely boring.

there's work for mathematicians in finance, but actuarial work/accounting is as far from it as it gets, apart from secretaries..if you manage to get in, and finish your mathematics degree at either of the two universities, I doubt you'll ever think again about actuarial work

go for cambridge; aim higher.
Umm, lots of people go into maths aiming to be actuaries? Its the closest maths gets to having a profession associated with it. The money is rather good.
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wanderer
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(Original post by KAISER_MOLE)
Aye, if you think you can handle STEP your ability would eventually show through in the interviews. How many applicants do you think aren't going to be at all nervous? I was very clumsy and jittery mathematically in my first maths interview, but kept at it. Remember because of STEP Cambridge can make more offers than they otherwise could have.
That seems a lot less reassuring than it did a year ago.
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RichE
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(Original post by KAISER_MOLE)
Won't advise you either way though, both are top notch. Also, there are many other good universities out there for reading mathematics, don't feel it's Oxbridge or bust.
:yy:
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ShaneP
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(Original post by KAISER_MOLE)
Remember because of STEP Cambridge can make more offers than they otherwise could have.
Really? Why is that?
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tenjon
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Because STEP is very difficult. Lots of people don't get the required grades, and therefore don't get in. This means that Cambridge make more maths offers as far more people fail to make the grades.

I think they offer to something like 40% of interviewees, but only about half of them will actually get in, unlike other subjects where the vast majority of offer holders get in.

I may be slightly off with the figures but the general gist is true.
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Ronove
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Because so many people don't pass it and thus fail to meet their offer.

EDIT: Ah, too late.
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RichE
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(Original post by ShaneP)
Really? Why is that?
About 1100 people apply - 400 or so are given offers based on STEP (so around 36%) - then of those 400 around 240 get places.
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ShaneP
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(Original post by tom391)
Because STEP is very difficult. Lots of people don't get the required grades, and therefore don't get in. This means that Cambridge make more maths offers as far more people fail to make the grades.

I think they offer to something like 40% of interviewees, but only about half of them will actually get in, unlike other subjects where the vast majority of offer holders get in.

I may be slightly off with the figures but the general gist is true.
Ah, I see. So this is primarily why considerably less applicants actually get into Cambridge compared to Oxford. They seem to offer to similar proportions of people, the main difference being that more Oxford offer holders eventually get a place.

That puts things into perspective.... :hmmmm:
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wanderer
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Yes, only 2/3 of maths offer holders get in to Cambridge, compared to 9/10 in other subjects.
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