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How to Choose an Oxford College

By Willow Rolls

Oxford (and Cambridge) are made up of lots of individual colleges. These are essentially the place where you spend a large amount of your free time, eat and sleep. It might seem like a big decision to make but the most important thing to remember is that the course you do will be the same at every college (departmental teaching is the same) and that the colleges are more alike than different. It is difficult to get an unbiased opinion of which college to apply to as everyone thinks theirs is the best!

The decision this year may be a bit more challenging than most due to limited ability to visit colleges on an Open day – but take advantage of the virtual Open days! These are a great opportunity to ask questions, see videos about the college and get a general feel.

If you cannot choose a college, or don’t want to, you can make an open application. This is where on the UCAS form you put down no college preference, so instead you are randomly assigned one before interviews). The college will not know that this is what you did and certainly those who are interviewing you will not know, so it is not a disadvantage in anyway. It is also worth being aware that you may not always get the college you apply for. If in your particular year it is over subscribed for your subject, you may get reallocated before interviews. Additionally, during interviews you may get pooled – this is where you are given an offer by a different college. This can be one that gives you an extra interview (during the normal period of interviews) or not. So the most important thing is to make your decision with an open mind and not get too set on one particular college.

Things worth considering:

Would you like an older college or a more modern one?

Would you like a smaller college (more of a chance to get to know everyone) or one with more people (potentially more people to get to know)?

How many years does the college offer accommodation for?

What are the catering options for the college – do you have to pay a fixed amount for meals, or is it more flexible with a pay as you go service? What is the kitchen availability to be able to cook for yourself?

What is the accommodation like? Where abouts is it, what is the cost and types of rooms available?

Are there any random features of the college that make you interested in it? – has it appeared in your favourite TV show, or maybe you really want a college with a tortoise!

Good luck choosing and remember, this should be the exciting part!


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