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University of Oxford, Pawel-Sytniewski
University of Oxford

Balliol College (Oxford) Students and Applicants

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Reply 260
Do u start in October then - depending on the grades?

Yeah Ive got a conditional offer, but haven't heard anything since my offer letter in january.
University of Oxford, Pawel-Sytniewski
University of Oxford
Reply 261
Yeah Ive got a conditional offer, but haven't heard anything since my offer letter in january.

yer - i just got the letter from ucas and then nothing else. Chemistry??
Reply 262
Hi everyone.

I am planning to apply at Oxford in October for PPE and in the last few days I had a look at the Oxford prospectus, alternative prospectus and the college websites to decide which college I am going to apply to.

Turns out the college that I have the best feeling about is Balliol: I like the kind of left-wing attitude, obviously the reputation for PPE. I get really excited when reading about the societies present at Balliol, especially the Left Caucus (alhtough maybe too extreme for me), Cerberus and Jowett. I love debating.

Unfortunately, I am not going to be able to visit for the open days. So I'd like to ask you some questions about my momentary number one choice for application:

1) You kind of get the impression that Balliol is REALLY competitive in comparison with the other colleges. Is that true? I remember having read about admission statistics per college somewhere, does anyone have a link to that?

2) If you are not good enough for Balliol, but good enough for Oxford, you are pooled, right? Is that more of a reassuring myth or is the whole thing about chances being the same actually true?

3) The alternative prospectus says something about accomodation prices being from 750 to 1321 - how's that? Can you choose a smaller room and pay less rent? Because 1321 is really a lot compared to other colleges and I am not swimming in money :-(

4) (not really relevant to the topic, but still) Oxford admission criteria for students from Germany is better than 1.5 in "Abitur". I am probably going to have something like 0.8 (smaller is better and 0.6 is maximum) - will that have any (hopefully positive) influence on my application?

5) Anything other I should know about Balliol before deciding to apply there?

That's it for now.

Thanks very much for your answers beforehand,
Reply 263
(1) Yes it is much more competitive than average, this year it had 192 applicants for 12 places (as 2 had been taken the year before by deferred entry people). They interviewed 45 at Balliol, send 45 to other colleges for interview, and rejected the rest. They told me this at interview, there aren't any statistics on the website for this kind of thing.

(2) The idea is that you should be pooled. No-one is exactly sure how perfect the system is, so can't really say with any certainty how applying to Balliol will affect your overall chances. From my experience, though, I wouldn't be too worried - lots of people got interviews at other colleges and subsequently got in (though 2 got places at St Benet's Hall, a tiny, all-male place run by monks so not the best!). Also, I got the impression that Balliol really cares about finding the best people - everyone had 2 half-hour interviews, more than at other colleges. So basically I wouldn't worry.
Apply to Balliol, I got in for chemistry this year, when I visited it I loved the atmosphere and just the college itself and the students who helped when I went for interview were brilliant :biggrin:.

1) I'm not sure about PPE but for chemistry 4 people were picked out of 20, all the other 16 got a second interview at another college and then I believe Balliol interviewed something like 15-20 more from other colleges and accepted a further 4.

2) There are other chances to get in, a lot of people got interviews at other colleges and got in there that I know of, if you're good enough you have a good chance of getting in somewhere in Oxford.

3) I believe so, plus there's all sorts of bursaries etc. for applying to Oxford.

5) It's legendary :biggrin:, right in the centre of Oxford and 5-10 minute walks to pretty much everywhere. Beautiful grounds and architecture and friendly tutors and students.

Good luck :smile:
Reply 265
Thanks for your fast answers Ilyusha and TigerJack. So how does Balliol decide which applicants have an interview at Balliol and which at other colleges? Is it about the personal statement, marks and TSA or is it just a random decision?
Reply 266
1. Can't really tell you about statistics, but you certainly shouldn't base you decision on them. Playing the statistics game is a waste of time. Apply to the college you think will suit you best.

2. No, it's not a reassuring 'myth'. If they're not able to offer you a place at Balliol you will probably be interviewed by another college or colleges. Even after that, you can still be made an offer by your original choice of college. And they won't be prejudice against you because you didn't apply to their college first. If you really deserve a place but they currently do not know where will have spaces avaliable, they can make you offers where your college is not specified until after everyone has received their results.

3. £750-1321 per term is a very respectable rate. Oxford and Cambridge are a lot cheaper than most other UK universities for accommodation, as it is freuqently subsidised by the college. Standard rent elsewhere can be anything from £80-£160 per week, for a contract that includes paying for the room during holidays. I'm not sure exactly, but many colleges allow you to choose what band of rent you want to pay, and you can of course, choose the lowest one. If money does become a serious issue, and would compromise your attendance at the university, the college is often very supportive financially. You may qualify for financial support anyway, but I'm unsure of funding avaliable for EU students.

4. I don't know much about the Abitur but generally, the better the grades the stronger your application.
1) Yes it is more competetive. I don't know the numbers but it's really one of the most prestigious for PPE so there's more competition for sure.

2) Pooling is real, but not perfect. To a certain extend it works and a lot of people get pooled every year, but the system is very informal and some people might fall through the cracks. Also, if there are specific colleges you really really don't want to go to, pooling can put you anywhere so that's an added disadvantage.

3) No idea.

4) Yes, higher grades helps. Also, if you get predicted grades that good, if they make you an offer they have the choice between making your condition what your predicted grades are, what their minimum requirements are or anywhere in between. I got lucky and a low offer compared to my predictions, but some people predict optimistically and then have to make that happen for real. It's tricky finding a balance.
I remember reading before I applied this year that Balliol has a policy of not allowing people being prevent from studying there for financial reasons. What exactly they do, I'm not sure but it sounded reassuring anyway. Plus, the Oxford university bursary is pretty generous if you fall within the household income threshold. Although I'm not sure that's available to EU students but I don't see why it wouldn't be, you pay the same fees, don't you?
Reply 269
Balliol is awesome. Pooling is definitely real, I originally applied to a different college then got pooled to Balliol, now looking at it I'm rather glad I did!

PPE at Balliol is rather competitive, but justifiably so, and last year we took 12-14 PPEists, in freshers week when you were forgetting what subjects people you just met were doing it was if in doubt, PPE.

As for rooms, you get to declare your order of preference of the three price bands, and if you put the lowest one (max £980 or something like that) then its very unlikely you'll end up in one of the high priced rooms, especially as a 1st year.

For money issues, our Dean, Doug, is great and you can go talk to him about anything - for instance, this year there wasn't enough room for everyone to live in the 2nd year accomodation that they wanted to so they'll be living out, which is a bit more expensive, but Doug said the college will pay the difference.

Balliol really is a great college (though of course, after a few days at any college you'll be swearing blind its the best one), its a lot more informal than most - we only have an optional semi-formal (smart, but no gowns) hall once a week, we can lay on the grass etc. It's right in the centre of Oxford, I've not had to go anywhere that was more than a 20 minute walk away.

If you've any other questions, feel free to ask :smile:
Reply 270
Thanks very much to everyone!

Actually, I have a few other questions:

1) The Societies - I found three sources telling me different things about which societies are in place at Balliol and which not:
The Balliol College Annual Record 2009, the Balliol JCR website and the Balliol Alternative Prospectus (

Annual Record: Cerberus
JCR Website: Cerberus ; Left Caucus
Alternative Prosp.: Cerberus ; Left Caucus ; Arnold&B. ; Jowett

Which of this information is true? Which of the societies do exist and which are "active" (not only on paper)?

2) If I have 2 interviews, are those subject-specific? If yes: How do they decide which two subjects out of the three will be dealt with?

3) Ok, I know this is a terrible question. Which of these factors that Oxford considers are the most important? Like "interview beats Personal Statement" and "TSA is only a tie-breaker"? I guess information on this does not really exist?

4) Does anyone know about societies like Cerberus in other colleges?

Thanks very much again,
Reply 271
(2) I heard when I was there that they tried to gather from your personal statement what kind of a candidate you were. Perhaps this is why I didn't get a politics interview (thankfully!). They can ask you 2 subjects in one interview though - as I remember, there were 4 different pairings of tutors:

two philosophy tutors
two economics
one philosophy, one politics
one economist, one politics

... though not competely sure about the last pairing.

From Facebook, Balliol Philosophy Circle looks relatively active
Reply 272
Thanks very much Ilyusha. Does anyone have answers to the other questions?
Reply 273
Thanks very much Ilyusha. Does anyone have answers to the other questions?

Not really. I know Univ has a PPE society, and there's also lots going at the university level - eg there's a university-wide PPE society, and an International Relations one too.

We had a talk the morning interviews started at Balliol where they said the interview was "an important part, but not the most important part" of the admissions process. The tutor said candidates often overestimated the importance of interviews. I also got the impression that PPE admissions are fairly centralised - one person who was interviewed at Balliol and Regent's Park (a PPH) was initially rejected but was phoned up by Merton tutors in January saying he'd got an offer there - he's never been interviewed by a Merton tutor so I guess they trusted other tutors' recommendations. Perhaps there's a centralised ranking system for all the candidates like there is in History, and he was the next on the list, but I'm just speculating.

Also at least 2 or 3 PPEists who interviewed at Balliol got open offers, so bear in mind that applying there means that you have a higher chance than average of not knowing what college you're going to till the summer (I personally wouldn't like this at all).
went to visit this badboy, was incredibly nice
Reply 275
Does Balliol do academic room ballots?

Do we have to bring our own duvets?
Reply 276
Does Balliol do academic room ballots?

There is a room ballot for those living in College accommodation in their 2nd, 3rd and 4th years (but not in first year).

Do we have to bring our own duvets?

Reply 277
Are there any shared kitchenettes available for first years living in the college?
Reply 278
Are there any shared kitchenettes available for first years living in the college?

As long as you use the term 'kitchenette' loosely then yes, yes there is. There's one in staircase 15, 20, and 21 (almost sure), and they are rather small, but functional - one couple managed to cook most of their meals in the staircase 15 kitchen, despite it's ceiling height dropping to 4 foot half way in. It has a microwave, fridge, oven, 2 hobs and a sink, I think the other kitchens are the same/similar. As a fresher you will most probably be in one of these three staircases, but there are a few 1st year rooms in other staircases which I am unsure as to the availability of kitchenettes. Hope this helps :smile:
Reply 279
so, if we get in, do we mainly rely on the main hall for food? ...if so, i should probably not be planning on buying pots, pans and coordinating plates? :/

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