Having an Open Offer and Choosing a College

I applied to St John’s College in October last year and was fortunate enough to be invited for an interview for biochemistry. I had 2 interviews, one at St John’s, and one at another college. Then, in January of this year, I received a conditional open offer, which was underwritten by St John’s. I had never heard of this, and neither had anyone else at my state grammar school, so I was a little apprehensive (which was not necessary!).

Essentially this means: “An Open Offer guarantees you a place at Oxford, if you meet the offer conditions, but it is not yet possible to say at which college your place will be; it may be at any of the colleges participating in the Open Offer scheme and offering your course. Exactly which will depend on which college has a vacancy after the publication of UK examination results.”

I was actually quite grateful in some ways to have received an open offer - it meant that I didn’t fixate in the same way some of my friends did on imaging myself in a specific college studying at Oxford, so I could just focus on doing as well as I possibly could in my A-Levels.

I applied to St John’s College in the first place because of its proximity to the department, accommodation in college for the 4 years of my degree, and the friendliness of the staff and students I met there on the open day, but in all honesty, I didn’t really mind if I ended up at another college. Now I’m heading to Queen’s College in October, and I couldn’t be happier - my college parents have been in touch, and invited my fellow college siblings and I to ask them any questions at all about the college or my subject, which has helped me learn more about life at Queen’s, and feel very welcomed.

Overall, the college you apply to doesn’t really matter too much in the grand scheme of things, and you don’t have complete control over it, so if you’re stressing over which one to choose, you don’t need to! There is plenty of advice on this blog, on the rest of the internet, and at Oxford open days to help you decide. You might have interviews at different colleges, or spend your time at Oxford at a college different from the one to which you applied. You can even submit an ‘open application’, where the university allocate you a college for you to be interviewed at, so you don’t have to decide for yourself if you don’t want to.

All of the 39 colleges and six Permanent Private Halls (PPHs - we have another blog post about those!) here at Oxford are wonderful in their own right, with friendly staff and students, and all sorts of different facilities and things to get involved in. Furthermore, everyone is said to end up loving their college, whether or not they directly applied to it in the first place, so don’t worry, and best of luck!