Oxford Demystified - Advice on Choosing a College

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Mona123456
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Hi everyone,

Choosing a college can be a long and tricky process when you're spoilt for choice with so many options, but there are some tips and helpful things you can do to narrow down your shortlist. Of course, there are lots of ways to pick a college (and you may even like to just do an open application), but here is some guidance with links to resources and more information.

Before I get started, I just want to say a few things.
- Firstly, colleges are more alike than they are different; and the pooling system also means that if you get an offer, it may not be from the college you applied directly to, so please bear these things in mind.
- Secondly, whilst some colleges have myths/stereotypes surrounding e.g. general political leanings or private school/state school balances, I'd like to emphasise that at least from my experiences (and the experiences of others I know), almost everyone is friendly and everyone is in the same boat, and so even if you apply to (or end up) somewhere that has a rumoured political leaning opposite to your beliefs, or somewhere that has a higher/lower private and state school balance than you'd like, most of the time you'll find that every college is still welcoming, and you'll quickly make friends and feel at home there. Do bear in mind too, that people you may meet at interviews are not usually representative of those who get in, so if you meet people at interviews who you don't click with, remember that some of those people may not get an offer.
- Thirdly, although in the current context this it isn't possible, if you can, I highly recommend attending an Open Day if you get the chance to (or try and get in contact with someone that goes to the college you're thinking of if you can), as they'll often be the best person to answer questions and tell you what student life is like (each college has link areas and Student Ambassadors so keep an eye out for access and outreach events/videos and things like that).

Right, let's properly get started!

Here are some YouTube videos that also give advice on how to pick a college if you're looking for more different ways of choosing a college:
https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=EKMIdkf99aI
https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=igcbIeNudag
https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=Q-To5YsNJHc

Firstly, I recommend make a list of factors that are important to you. Some of these could include:

- Number of places for your subject
- Older vs newer college
- Accommodation (en-suites, kitchens, duration it is guaranteed for etc)
- Location (relative to the centre of Oxford and relative to your faculties/libraries etc)
- Facilities (gym, buttery etc)
- Formal Hall and food
- Size
- Costs and support

Then, use a college suggester and go through individual college websites to narrow things down.

Here are some college suggesters that can help you to make a decision:

https://apply.oxfordsu.org/colleges/suggester/
https://www.chooseoxfordcollege.co.uk
http://www.selectsmart.com/plus/select.php?url=OXCOLLS

The first link above is especially good, and although these links and information may be a little out of date, the Oxford Alternative Prospectus website also has lots of in depth information about colleges:

https://apply.oxfordsu.org/colleges/compare/

This big TSR thread may also be handy, which again may be slightly outdated, but I believe was written by past students and offers a comprehensive list of some pros and cons to consider:

https://www.thestudentroom.co.uk/wik..._Pros_and_Cons

Finally, I definitely recommend doing a virtual tour of colleges and Oxford:

https://www.ox.ac.uk/admissions/unde...-tours?wssl=1#
http://www.chem.ox.ac.uk/oxfordtour/default.asp

Essentially, I’d recommend making a list of things that are really important to you, and then obtaining a shortlist (of maybe 5-10 colleges), then use the virtual tours and pros/cons lists above (as well as the college websites and college alternative prospectuses and JCR websites) to help inform your final decision.

For anyone that wants support with access, understanding admissions, and furthering your learning in the current context, lots of colleges have made resources available online. Please do search specific colleges, but here are some suggestions of places you might like to check for help and advice:

https://sjcinspire.com/teachers/teaching-resources/https://www.univ.ox.ac.uk/applying-to-univ/staircase12/
https://www.worc.ox.ac.uk/applying/a...upport-year-12
https://www.trinity.ox.ac.uk/schools...s-for-schools/
https://www.balliol.ox.ac.uk/admissi...ct%20resources

For information specifically on admissions and making a competitive application, check out these college YouTube channels:

https://m.youtube.com/channel/UCnNVlMl7ZIy2laJ4Md8AdLA
https://m.youtube.com/channel/UCUxfFSl-UKu24lakL3kDd-g
https://m.youtube.com/user/StJohnsCollegeOxford/videos
https://m.youtube.com/user/PembrokeCollege/videos

Lastly, college websites and YouTube videos are good places to find out more about admissions processes and the vibe of different colleges and what they’re like. There are lots of videos of college tours on YouTube which you may like to look into, and many colleges have a YouTube channel (I’ve only linked a few above) that often has more information about life at that college, and the admissions process.

Good luck!
Last edited by Mona123456; 5 months ago
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OxFossil
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That's a good round-up, Monanumbers. It is easy to get lost in all the detail and to get hung up on intangibles like "atmosphere", "friendliness" or "snobbishness" etc. But reputations are often swamped by the contingencies of the year-group you enter with.

If you find yourself stuck for choice, I would cut it down to the things that are less subjective:

- what is the accommodation like (and can it guarantee accommodation every year, are there self-catering facilities)?
- rents and meal prices
- do the surroundings appeal (do I need to look out on green space? am I going to resent it if I don't live amongst crumbling ruins? And what about the buildings AHAHAHAHAHAHAAA)
- does it meet my access needs?
- is it especially big or small?
- be aware that the PPHs have an explicit religious ethos
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Mona123456
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(Original post by OxFossil)
That's a good round-up, Monanumbers. It is easy to get lost in all the detail and to get hung up on intangibles like "atmosphere", "friendliness" or "snobbishness" etc. But reputations are often swamped by the contingencies of the year-group you enter with.

If you find yourself stuck for choice, I would cut it down to the things that are less subjective:

- what is the accommodation like (and can it guarantee accommodation every year, are there self-catering facilities)?
- rents and meal prices
- do the surroundings appeal (do I need to look out on green space? am I going to resent it if I don't live amongst crumbling ruins? And what about the buildings AHAHAHAHAHAHAAA)
- does it meet my access needs?
- is it especially big or small?
- be aware that the PPHs have an explicit religious ethos
Thank you. Yes, I agree - for some colleges, reputation precedes them, but I do think that sometimes these reputations and stereotypes can be misleading. As you say, every year one third of the undergraduate population changes! So, yes, using objective factors like those you mentioned is very sensible - everyone has different preferences and wants different things from a college, so really there is no one size fits all - applicants will just have to think about what matters most to them, and which college can suit their needs and wants best overall.
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Oxford Mum
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If you can't get to an open day, please click on the links to each college and you will get a youtube video, plus a link to their website.

First an excellent video by Dr Scott, the admissions officer for Clare College, Cambridge. OK it's for Cambridge, but wise words, nevertheless:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2JanmPpvnAo

Virtual 360 degree tours of each college

https://www.ox.ac.uk/admissions/unde...l-tours?wssl=1

Bailiol

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xY2qAnGCHvY

Website

https://www.balliol.ox.ac.uk/

Brasenose

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E4R_mRAafPs

https://www.bnc.ox.ac.uk/

Christchurch

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N-lQKWF632s

https://www.chch.ox.ac.uk/

Corpus Christi

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UBrwSnT6VBQ

https://www.google.co.uk/search?ei=h...sclient=psy-ab
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Oxford Mum
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Exeter

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JjaEJEFiPdw

https://www.exeter.ox.ac.uk/

Harris Manchester (over 21s only)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ytES3QZ1Qoo

http://www.hmc.ox.ac.uk/

Hertford

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7c78TS2yt-0

https://www.hertford.ox.ac.uk/

Jesus

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CDVhmYrW-uc

https://www.jesus.ox.ac.uk/
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Oxford Mum
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Keble

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dWYLN1TC8N4

https://www.keble.ox.ac.uk/

Lady Margaret Hall (LMH)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q7oNFkMdRBA

https://www.lmh.ox.ac.uk/

Lincoln

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5elX0XV3j7M

https://www.lincoln.ox.ac.uk/

Magdalen

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8jmFfAiowZ0

https://www.magd.ox.ac.uk/

Mansfield

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KCb3MFN2EyM

https://www.mansfield.ox.ac.uk/

Merton

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7xTGGu3BBQM

https://www.merton.ox.ac.uk/

New College

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5F3G9ooa0DA

https://www.new.ox.ac.uk/
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Oxford Mum
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Oriel

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6KMYppWhuB4

https://www.oriel.ox.ac.uk/

Pembroke

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XLNIORQo7_M

https://www.pmb.ox.ac.uk/
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Oxford Mum
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Queen's

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RE7y4e6votY

https://www.queens.ox.ac.uk/

Regent's Park

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ts81sLlQi6g

http://www.rpc.ox.ac.uk/

St Anne's

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pFRl1CCLLZM

https://www.st-annes.ox.ac.uk/

St Benet's Hall

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sPLuyhN4nms

https://www.st-benets.ox.ac.uk/

St Catherine's

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qDRfFgB2GZw

https://www.stcatz.ox.ac.uk/

St Edmund Hall

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sUr42lTOqx0

https://www.seh.ox.ac.uk/
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Oxford Mum
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St Hilda's

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bn3vRcNui5Y

https://www.st-hildas.ox.ac.uk/

St Hugh's

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gf9vSqFDXJk

https://www.st-hughs.ox.ac.uk/

St John's

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0J_W7zJsq4Q

https://www.sjc.ox.ac.uk/

St Peter's

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5dCok9vhNPc

https://www.spc.ox.ac.uk/
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Oxford Mum
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Somerville

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=neXuxcbEROw

https://www.some.ox.ac.uk/

Trinity

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wd7N65dGIG0

https://www.trinity.ox.ac.uk/

Univ(ersity) college

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZDWX565YgDs

https://www.univ.ox.ac.uk/

Wadham

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2bzIL6GwtPw

https://www.wadham.ox.ac.uk/

Worcester

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=En6X3r2XHAE

https://www.worc.ox.ac.uk/
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