Open application or direct application to Oxford?

Watch
rachelfhu
Badges: 8
Rep:
?
#1
Report Thread starter 10 months ago
#1
If I want to have a better chance to get into Oxford, should I do open application or direct application to a less competitive college? There has been many mixed messages. The Oxbridge conference that I went to informed me that they base their offers on the best student regardless of what college they apply to. However, my Oxbridge coordinator at school told me that there will still be a better chance if I apply to a less competitive college as they will consider me first (e.g. I want to apply to PPE and I would have a better chance applying to St Benet's Hall rather than Balliol). Also, I know people say 'visit the college and see which one you like most' but I'm one of those people that can adapt to anything and really don't mind where I am placed. Thanks!
0
reply
OxFossil
Badges: 17
Rep:
?
#2
Report 9 months ago
#2
(Original post by rachelfhu)
If I want to have a better chance to get into Oxford, should I do open application or direct application to a less competitive college? There has been many mixed messages. The Oxbridge conference that I went to informed me that they base their offers on the best student regardless of what college they apply to. However, my Oxbridge coordinator at school told me that there will still be a better chance if I apply to a less competitive college as they will consider me first (e.g. I want to apply to PPE and I would have a better chance applying to St Benet's Hall rather than Balliol). Also, I know people say 'visit the college and see which one you like most' but I'm one of those people that can adapt to anything and really don't mind where I am placed. Thanks!
As a matter of principle, there can't be too much of a discrepancy in acceptance rates for different colleges because admissions rates are published and should this became apparent, the 'easy' colleges would immediately be innundated with applications.

In any case, the university does have a number of processes by which it attempts to make sure the chances of getting in are entirely independent of the college applied to. For example, if you make an open application, you are assigned a college by the central administration of the university. The tutors who interview you at that college do not know whether you have chosen that college by name or whether you've been allocated to it. Secondly, there is a process of discussion amongst colleges post-interview, where succesful candidates are discussed and reallocated so as to even out the intakes (about 25% are offered places at a college other than that they applied to).

Having said that, these are processes operated by humans and there are things that may subvert the 'college blind' ideal.

The published figures show that PPHs (like St Benet's) accept a slightly greater proportion of direct applicants than do other colleges (19% versus around 14-15%). But a significantly smaller proportion of direct PPH applicants are offered a place at another college (9% versus ~18%). No doubt people will have a number of ways of interpreting these statistics, but I'd be reluctant to jump to any conclusions. As you can imagine, people are constantly trying to 'game the system' for Oxbridge entry. Whether it's worth the effort is highly doubtful.
2
reply
SonOfAGeek
Badges: 8
Rep:
?
#3
Report 9 months ago
#3
Pre-interview many *most?) departments automatically (normally by computer, not human choice) reallocate applicants between colleges to balance out over/under subscribed applicant pools and ensure pretty consistent quality of applicants to each college. This is not something you can influence or appeal. At/post interview you can get reallocated as OxFossil describes.

Some colleges are more heavily over-subscribed meaning more applicants get reallocated pre-interview (e.g. Christchurch, Balliol) & others tend to receive applicants through this process (e.g. LMH, St. Hugh’s, Catz). Every year 25-30% of students get an offer from a college other than the one they applied to (including those who made open applicants). Attempts to play the system are unlikely to work as Oxford wants every college to operate similar standards.

My personal advice is is apply to a college you like as looking at the data it seems 80+% of students who get an offer having specified a college do get that offer from the college of their choice. I also recommend that in choosing a college you focus most on quality of accommodation, library, facilities as these things REALLY matter when you are here. Trying to gauge vibe/culture from the experiences of others is difficult as we are all different so I would forget that unless you have friends somewhere specific (but Oxford is small & you can still see them easily if you are different colleges).

Finally, remain aware and prepared for the fact that despite the pretty good odds noted above if you get an offer it still might be from a different college to the one you chose. Do not completely set your heart on a particular college.
1
reply
nulli tertius
Badges: 21
Rep:
?
#4
Report 9 months ago
#4
(Original post by rachelfhu)
If I want to have a better chance to get into Oxford, should I do open application or direct application to a less competitive college? There has been many mixed messages. The Oxbridge conference that I went to informed me that they base their offers on the best student regardless of what college they apply to. However, my Oxbridge coordinator at school told me that there will still be a better chance if I apply to a less competitive college as they will consider me first (e.g. I want to apply to PPE and I would have a better chance applying to St Benet's Hall rather than Balliol). Also, I know people say 'visit the college and see which one you like most' but I'm one of those people that can adapt to anything and really don't mind where I am placed. Thanks!
There is really no benefit in making an open application. Open applications were invented in the 1980s at a time when the admissions system was different and college choice had a serious effect on chances of getting in. There was a perception that state schools lack important information and so the open application was created. It remains, I suspect, partly through inertia and partly not to discourage indecisive teenagers from applying (the number of TSR threads bemoaning that someone can only apply for 5 universities is legion) and because of fear of handing the press another stick to beat Oxford with.

There are differences between colleges and I would try and make a choice. I do not know whether you are Catholic, but life in a very small monastery is inevitably different from a large, mostly secular, tourist trap college.

I don't have figures for St Benet's alone but the combined figures for all the PPHs (St Benet's is a PPH) of which Regent's Park is by far the largest for PPE is:-

2014 5 applications 1 offer 0 taken by another college
2015 6 applications 2 offers 0 taken by another college
2016 3 applications 0 offers 0 taken by another college
2017 2 applications 1 offer 0 taken by another college

I don't have the 2018 data.

Your Oxbridge advisor has said it would be better if you applied to a less competitive college. Did she give you that data? With respect, if she didn't, I am not sure her opinion is worth having.

I suggest you hang around TSR. Look at the similar threads in the Oxbridge forum over several years' read and learn. Other will offer advice. Visit some colleges and then choose, based on where you would like to live for the next 3 years.
4
reply
SonOfAGeek
Badges: 8
Rep:
?
#5
Report 9 months ago
#5
I agree with Null. Choose a college as it increases your chances substantially of going there (but does not guarantee it). Open applications are anachronistic and most often you get allocated to an under-subscribed college or PPH. You are better off making your own choice. The quality and size (applicants per place) of applicant pools is now broadly equalised by the mechanisms described in my earlier post so opting for a college with fewer initial direct applicants does not help (it might once have done but Oxford acted to minimise ‘gaming’).

Choose a college with good accommodation (reliable heating, WiFi, decent kitchens on staircases) and library not on the basis of architecture or location unless being a few minutes closer to bars and shops is truly important to you (mobility restricted etc.).

I also recommend that you do not place an unduly high emphasis on tutor interests/specialism at a college when choosing as all science teaching is done centrally & 75% of my teaching (History) has been outside college through my first two years. My thesis and special subject in year 3 will both be supervised at different colleges. Only 1 of my 9 chosen courses/thesis plus the compulsory module will have been taught by tutors from my college over my 3 years!
1
reply
BrasenoseAdm
Badges: 15
Rep:
?
#6
Report 9 months ago
#6
Hola Rachelfhu,

Thanks for your query.

You can certainly make an open application. While these have not kept pace with direct applications to specific colleges several 1,000 applicants do elect to follow this route every year. Opens are reallocated to colleges and the fact an open application has been made does not count against candidates who are assessed in exactly the same way as directs.

By far the biggest differences in success rates are by degree programme. This is because there is very limited scope to transfer candidates between subjects and some programmes are more popular/competitive than others. In rare cases a student applying to read (say) History & French might be made an offer of either French or History but a candidate applying for History will not be made an offer for (say) English.

In contrast, it is possible to reallocate candidates between colleges at both the interview shortlisting stage and when final offers of places are made. Moreover, during interviews candidates can be interviewed at more than one college. This means that while there are differences in the likelihood that the college you apply to will be the one making an offer, there is very little difference in the overall prospects of receiving an offer depending on which college is applied to. Every year on TSR we report the % of our direct applicants interviewed and gaining places at Oxford and these percentages have never been very far apart and in recent years if anything have tended to be higher than the Oxford average.

Our general advice is to choose what feels right for you. Bear in mind that some colleges in recent years have imported very few candidates due to the direct applications they receive and so in practice a direct application has to be made if a candidate wishes to have a chance of gaining a place there. That said, all the colleges offer the same basic package of education and there is not much difference now in terms of accommodation (this used to vary more) and the data collected by the University do not suggest that reallocated candidates are less happy with their college than the directs once on course.

Lastly, we have just posted a heads-up about the Oxford Open Days taking place July 3rd and 4th. These provide a great opportunity to see Departments and Colleges and if you can get to one of theme, we would recommend the experience.

Brasenose Admissions




(Original post by rachelfhu)
If I want to have a better chance to get into Oxford, should I do open application or direct application to a less competitive college? There has been many mixed messages. The Oxbridge conference that I went to informed me that they base their offers on the best student regardless of what college they apply to. However, my Oxbridge coordinator at school told me that there will still be a better chance if I apply to a less competitive college as they will consider me first (e.g. I want to apply to PPE and I would have a better chance applying to St Benet's Hall rather than Balliol). Also, I know people say 'visit the college and see which one you like most' but I'm one of those people that can adapt to anything and really don't mind where I am placed. Thanks!
0
reply
AlexOxfPhys
Badges: 3
Rep:
?
#7
Report 8 months ago
#7
Hi,

Just my two cents. I was an open applicant, but since arriving at Oxford I have honestly not met another open applicant. Before I arrived, I didn't believe how prevalent the 'pooling' system was, (I assumed that maybe only in rare cases would students that 'just missed out' at one college be suggested for another) but, for instance, in my year only 2 of the 6 students were direct applicants to my college (I was an open applicant, and the other 3 applied to different colleges).

So, if I were to apply again, I would definitely suggest not going for an open application. It really does not affect your chances of getting in by any significant amount, and you could end up getting assigned to a college with a 'deal breaker' factor for you (e.g. St Annes being quite far away). At least if you're a direct applicant you have a higher chance of ending up at your preferred college, and if you are pooled then you know that was the only way you would have gotten in.

Good luck if you decide to apply!
0
reply
X

Quick Reply

Attached files
Write a reply...
Reply
new posts
Back
to top
Latest
My Feed

See more of what you like on
The Student Room

You can personalise what you see on TSR. Tell us a little about yourself to get started.

Personalise

Are you worried that a cap in student numbers would affect your place at uni?

Yes (130)
59.09%
No (48)
21.82%
Not sure (42)
19.09%

Watched Threads

View All
Latest
My Feed