The Student Room Group

American VSP that's super confused

Hello, I'm a Visiting Student from the US, but was advised to ask questions on this forum for more relevant answers. I got accepted into a program at Mansfield, and was ecstatic for the opportunity until this week. Since then I've heard nothing but bad things about Mansfield, how they're lacking in resources for students and extremely far behind other schools, how the Crypt cafe is garbage and other things that put it at the bottom of the college tier list.
I have frankly no clue how much the college you're in matters. Do people identify more with their college or Oxford as a whole? I'll be taking tutorials with my college tutors, so I get the impression it's the former.
Also, how bad is Oxford with nickle and diming? I heard that financial support is atrocious at Mansfield, and that they tend to charge the most for meals. I'm planning on skipping meals and formals to make up the costs, even though I know this will be horrible for my health. In America my college offers a meal plan that allows unlimited access to dining halls and the fact Oxford doesn't have a similar program is frankly absurd to me. How do students even get by?
I don't know if my paranoia is just from having no one to turn to and scouring Quora of all places for answers but I would really like it if someone explained why I'm being delusional. Hearing all this slander online makes me terrified, when just a week ago I was the happiest I'd been in a while.
Original post by Anonymous #1
Hello, I'm a Visiting Student from the US, but was advised to ask questions on this forum for more relevant answers. I got accepted into a program at Mansfield, and was ecstatic for the opportunity until this week. Since then I've heard nothing but bad things about Mansfield, how they're lacking in resources for students and extremely far behind other schools, how the Crypt cafe is garbage and other things that put it at the bottom of the college tier list.
I have frankly no clue how much the college you're in matters. Do people identify more with their college or Oxford as a whole? I'll be taking tutorials with my college tutors, so I get the impression it's the former.
Also, how bad is Oxford with nickle and diming? I heard that financial support is atrocious at Mansfield, and that they tend to charge the most for meals. I'm planning on skipping meals and formals to make up the costs, even though I know this will be horrible for my health. In America my college offers a meal plan that allows unlimited access to dining halls and the fact Oxford doesn't have a similar program is frankly absurd to me. How do students even get by?
I don't know if my paranoia is just from having no one to turn to and scouring Quora of all places for answers but I would really like it if someone explained why I'm being delusional. Hearing all this slander online makes me terrified, when just a week ago I was the happiest I'd been in a while.
bro dw, people are just saying that lol. Well done for getting into Oxford. The colleges are not really much more than where you get meals from and where your dorm is.
Reply 2
Original post by Anonymous #1
Hello, I'm a Visiting Student from the US, but was advised to ask questions on this forum for more relevant answers. I got accepted into a program at Mansfield, and was ecstatic for the opportunity until this week. Since then I've heard nothing but bad things about Mansfield, how they're lacking in resources for students and extremely far behind other schools, how the Crypt cafe is garbage and other things that put it at the bottom of the college tier list.
I have frankly no clue how much the college you're in matters. Do people identify more with their college or Oxford as a whole? I'll be taking tutorials with my college tutors, so I get the impression it's the former.
Also, how bad is Oxford with nickle and diming? I heard that financial support is atrocious at Mansfield, and that they tend to charge the most for meals. I'm planning on skipping meals and formals to make up the costs, even though I know this will be horrible for my health. In America my college offers a meal plan that allows unlimited access to dining halls and the fact Oxford doesn't have a similar program is frankly absurd to me. How do students even get by?
I don't know if my paranoia is just from having no one to turn to and scouring Quora of all places for answers but I would really like it if someone explained why I'm being delusional. Hearing all this slander online makes me terrified, when just a week ago I was the happiest I'd been in a while.
I've never heard anything like this about Mansfield in my time at Oxford - I think people just like to exaggerate things online! Mansfield also have the highest UK state school admission of any college in Oxford, so I do wonder if some of this bizarre criticism is motivated by classism. In any case you'll have a great experience at Oxford whatever college you're at, which ones are better or worse comes down to personal preference rather than any college being objectively terrible in the way you describe.

Meal prices do look a little steep compared to other colleges but from the sounds of the website you're likely to have access to cooking facilities (oven, stove, fridge/freezer etc) in your accommodation so simply cooking for yourself is an easy way to avoid overspending on food - though worth going to a formal at least once for the experience if you can afford it, it should still be cheaper than a meal out in most restaurants. In Oxford you are pretty connected to your college but also to the University as a whole - you have college tutorials but there are also lectures and other classes in your department, there are student societies at a college level but also at a university level you can join etc.

I honestly wouldn't worry. Be proud of your achievement and remember how excited you were to go to Oxford, I really don't think Mansfield is anything like how these people make it sound!
Original post by Anonymous
Hello, I'm a Visiting Student from the US, but was advised to ask questions on this forum for more relevant answers. I got accepted into a program at Mansfield, and was ecstatic for the opportunity until this week. Since then I've heard nothing but bad things about Mansfield, how they're lacking in resources for students and extremely far behind other schools, how the Crypt cafe is garbage and other things that put it at the bottom of the college tier list.
I have frankly no clue how much the college you're in matters. Do people identify more with their college or Oxford as a whole? I'll be taking tutorials with my college tutors, so I get the impression it's the former.
Also, how bad is Oxford with nickle and diming? I heard that financial support is atrocious at Mansfield, and that they tend to charge the most for meals. I'm planning on skipping meals and formals to make up the costs, even though I know this will be horrible for my health. In America my college offers a meal plan that allows unlimited access to dining halls and the fact Oxford doesn't have a similar program is frankly absurd to me. How do students even get by?
I don't know if my paranoia is just from having no one to turn to and scouring Quora of all places for answers but I would really like it if someone explained why I'm being delusional. Hearing all this slander online makes me terrified, when just a week ago I was the happiest I'd been in a while.


Teaching is delivered centrally for lectures and classes, and it wouldn't be a constituent of the university if it wasn't delivering appropriate tutorials for students. The academics there are still full members of the university department.

Pretty sure most colleges at Oxford charge per meal or have meal plans where the cost is similar...?

I've been told on good authority before in many ways the colleges are glorified halls of residence. They just have some additional pastoral functions and you have tutorials in them too.

I think you're making the colleges out to be something they aren't. The university still has separate academic departments where most teaching is delivered, where academics are based themselves.
Reply 4
Original post by artful_lounger
Teaching is delivered centrally for lectures and classes, and it wouldn't be a constituent of the university if it wasn't delivering appropriate tutorials for students. The academics there are still full members of the university department.

Pretty sure most colleges at Oxford charge per meal or have meal plans where the cost is similar...?

I've been told on good authority before in many ways the colleges are glorified halls of residence. They just have some additional pastoral functions and you have tutorials in them too.

I think you're making the colleges out to be something they aren't. The university still has separate academic departments where most teaching is delivered, where academics are based themselves.
At my current college (Cornell) people identify more with their department than the college itself. For example business students will tell others they're in Dyson, not that they're just Cornell students. I'm assuming Oxford is the same with people culturally/academically relying on their colleges more than the school itself.
Reply 5
Original post by eeeli
I've never heard anything like this about Mansfield in my time at Oxford - I think people just like to exaggerate things online! Mansfield also have the highest UK state school admission of any college in Oxford, so I do wonder if some of this bizarre criticism is motivated by classism. In any case you'll have a great experience at Oxford whatever college you're at, which ones are better or worse comes down to personal preference rather than any college being objectively terrible in the way you describe.

Meal prices do look a little steep compared to other colleges but from the sounds of the website you're likely to have access to cooking facilities (oven, stove, fridge/freezer etc) in your accommodation so simply cooking for yourself is an easy way to avoid overspending on food - though worth going to a formal at least once for the experience if you can afford it, it should still be cheaper than a meal out in most restaurants. In Oxford you are pretty connected to your college but also to the University as a whole - you have college tutorials but there are also lectures and other classes in your department, there are student societies at a college level but also at a university level you can join etc.

I honestly wouldn't worry. Be proud of your achievement and remember how excited you were to go to Oxford, I really don't think Mansfield is anything like how these people make it sound!
Why does Mansfield charge so much for meals compared to other colleges? Do you think I could change colleges if it's a major burden to my health/finances?
Reply 6
Original post by Anonymous #1
Why does Mansfield charge so much for meals compared to other colleges? Do you think I could change colleges if it's a major burden to my health/finances?
I'm not sure, its not 'so much' or anything like that, it's around £1 more than I remember my college charging but actually looking at my college's website the meals seem to have gone up in price a fair bit so Mansfield dinners are actually cheaper!

Generally speaking, given everyone has access to cooking facilities at Mansfield (as far as I can tell from the website) people have options so college might be less likely to subsidise meals - at a lot of colleges many of the rooms onsite don't have hobs or ovens so eating in hall is kind of necessary there. I don't think they'd let you move college because of this, not every college even has a visiting student programme like this, moving college is extremely rare even for regular undergrads, and given you have access to full cooking facilities there is a much easier solution of cooking for yourself. I cooked for myself in second and third year once I got kitchen access and probably only spent around £30-40 a week on food and you could definitely do it even cheaper than that.
Original post by Anonymous #1
Hello, I'm a Visiting Student from the US, but was advised to ask questions on this forum for more relevant answers. I got accepted into a program at Mansfield, and was ecstatic for the opportunity until this week. Since then I've heard nothing but bad things about Mansfield, how they're lacking in resources for students and extremely far behind other schools, how the Crypt cafe is garbage and other things that put it at the bottom of the college tier list.
I have frankly no clue how much the college you're in matters. Do people identify more with their college or Oxford as a whole? I'll be taking tutorials with my college tutors, so I get the impression it's the former.
Also, how bad is Oxford with nickle and diming? I heard that financial support is atrocious at Mansfield, and that they tend to charge the most for meals. I'm planning on skipping meals and formals to make up the costs, even though I know this will be horrible for my health. In America my college offers a meal plan that allows unlimited access to dining halls and the fact Oxford doesn't have a similar program is frankly absurd to me. How do students even get by?
I don't know if my paranoia is just from having no one to turn to and scouring Quora of all places for answers but I would really like it if someone explained why I'm being delusional. Hearing all this slander online makes me terrified, when just a week ago I was the happiest I'd been in a while.
People always trash talk other Colleges and are hyperbolic about whatever issue they have a particular focus on. Think of it like NFL, loads of trash talk from other teams, and even their own fans about every team whether it's Kansas City Chiefs or the Cincinnati Bengals (for what it's worth, the best team!). I'm sure if you looked on Quora you could find all sorts of trash talk about Mahomes and build up a really poor profile of him, but back in the real world ....!

No Colleges are financially dramatically different to any others as far as student costs are concerned. Funding for students in the UK falls into a pretty narrow band (the wealthy funding parent is more or less a myth, and very rare) and all Colleges fit within that band. Some make a little more on rents and less on food, others vice versa, but it all balances out. In terms of funds, some are richer than others, but the richer ones are the ones with enormous estate costs because they live in buildings older than many countries! Their money doesn't necessarily go on students.

The US funding system for tertiary education is fundamentally different to the UK because your approach to philanthropy is very different.
Original post by Anonymous
At my current college (Cornell) people identify more with their department than the college itself. For example business students will tell others they're in Dyson, not that they're just Cornell students. I'm assuming Oxford is the same with people culturally/academically relying on their colleges more than the school itself.

I think you are being confused by the terminology.

What in the US is referred to as a "college" is called a "university" exclusively in the UK.

The term "college" in the UK has two separate and distinct meanings. In the context of Oxford and Cambridge, it refers to the constituent colleges of the university, which as noted are largely glorified halls of residence. Outside of that context it refers to providers of 16-19 education (6th form colleges - some academic university preparatory programmes, some more akin to trade schools in the US).

Anything you would call a college from a US perspective is known as a university here, and anything we would call a college doesn't have a proper analogue in the US (the closest analogue to Oxbridge colleges would be e.g. the Harvard houses or whatever they're called).
(edited 1 month ago)
Reply 9
Original post by threeportdrift
People always trash talk other Colleges and are hyperbolic about whatever issue they have a particular focus on. Think of it like NFL, loads of trash talk from other teams, and even their own fans about every team whether it's Kansas City Chiefs or the Cincinnati Bengals (for what it's worth, the best team!). I'm sure if you looked on Quora you could find all sorts of trash talk about Mahomes and build up a really poor profile of him, but back in the real world ....!

No Colleges are financially dramatically different to any others as far as student costs are concerned. Funding for students in the UK falls into a pretty narrow band (the wealthy funding parent is more or less a myth, and very rare) and all Colleges fit within that band. Some make a little more on rents and less on food, others vice versa, but it all balances out. In terms of funds, some are richer than others, but the richer ones are the ones with enormous estate costs because they live in buildings older than many countries! Their money doesn't necessarily go on students.

The US funding system for tertiary education is fundamentally different to the UK because your approach to philanthropy is very different.
Do you think it'll really be as much of a shock as the internet makes it out to be then? I'm still excited to go I'm just worried that they don't seem to have the same level of services for students from what I've heard
Original post by Anonymous #1
Do you think it'll really be as much of a shock as the internet makes it out to be then? I'm still excited to go I'm just worried that they don't seem to have the same level of services for students from what I've heard
Be excited! It will be different from what you're expecting (if you're expecting it to be the same as in the US). Student services will def be different. But be excited because it's different, and because it's Oxford, and because you'll have a fantastic time there (once you're more familiar with the differences between UK and US unis)!
Original post by Anonymous
Do you think it'll really be as much of a shock as the internet makes it out to be then? I'm still excited to go I'm just worried that they don't seem to have the same level of services for students from what I've heard


No, of course not. Mansfield is a lovely College, you will be absolutely fine.
Original post by cheesy pizza man
bro dw, people are just saying that lol. Well done for getting into Oxford. The colleges are not really much more than where you get meals from and where your dorm is.

Colleges are a whole lot more than that. Each college is a self governing academic community, where people study and socialise. OP, have fun at Mansfield. It's a good college, dynamically led by Helen Mountfield KC.
Ignore what randoms write on Quora. Colleges create a strong sense of loyalty and community and almost everyone feels strongly connected to whatever college they go to and thinks it’s the best one. Mansfield is a good college and you will have fun there.

Mansfield pricing may be slightly more expensive than some colleges but the food will still be heavily subsided compared to eating anywhere else.

Student services will be different in Oxford to a US university - but part of the reason you are going is to get a different cultural and academic experience so try to embrace that.

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