Picking a College


The Oxford Application process is, famously, one with many stages. Obviously there’s the UCAS application that every university requests, but for Oxford that’s merely the beginning: some people send written work, many sit entrance tests, and if you progress past these there’s an interview stage to navigate. But before all that there is the task of picking an Oxford college.

The Oxford collegiate system means there are around 30 different places that you can choose to live and study in, each with their own quirks, perks and personality. Some are huge, old and predominantly made of stone, while others are more modern, or much smaller, or mainly made of glass and metal. Some have self-catering facilities, some have their own gym, some have their own gardens and other have huge wooden doors that open automatically like something from Harry Potter.

The college with the magic doors is my college, but it wasn’t the magic doors that lead me to Mansfield as my college of choice. Mansfield is the college that produced the lovely, engaging and approachable tutor who visited my sixth form to talk about Oxford. It was also one of the smallest and youngest colleges, one of the closest to the English Faculty where my lectures would be held and finally, the colleges with the highest percentage of state school pupils. More importantly, when I visited Oxford on the open day and looked around, it was the college that I thought felt like it could be my home. The students and staff I spoke to were friendly, the libraries were amazing, the accommodation looked comfortable and the buildings were beautiful but not imposing like much of the architecture in some other colleges. I could declare, like Goldilocks, that this one was ‘just right’.

So my main suggestion for choosing a college would be too make sure the one you choose feels like home – visit as many colleges as you can, talk to people there, walk around and find out how far you would have to walk or cycle to your lectures, but decide based on your heart.

If you really can’t decide or simply don’t mind which college you end up in, you can always submit an ‘open application’, which means that you will be allocated to a college by the university once they receive your application. If you do select a specific college, there is also a chance that you will end up getting an offer from a different college than the one your chose. This ‘pooling’ system ensures that the university as a whole ends up with the best students, making sure that there isn’t anyone that doesn’t get in just because the college they picked happened to be oversubscribed, so try not to be too set on the college you choose if you do specify one.

It is, however, commonly said that whichever college you end up at you are very likely to end up loving (and fiercely claiming that it is the best college in Oxford). So ultimately, don’t worry too much about which college you choose – wherever you end up, you will be at one of the best universities in the world, with plenty of opportunities to make friends both from your college and from others, and have the time of your life!

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