What to Look For When Choosing an Oxford College

What to consider when choosing an Oxford college. It is important that you choose the right college as part of your application to Oxford University. The college is the place where much of your social life, food and accommodation will be based, as well as part of your teaching.

Author: Zayra Morales

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What to Look For When Choosing an Oxford College

It’s important that you choose the right college as part of your Oxford University application. The college is where a lot of your social life, food, and accommodation will be based as well as a proportion of your teaching. Although you are likely to enjoy yourself wherever you end up, you may want to bear this in mind throughout your Oxford application.

Social life at Oxford

“What kind of atmosphere are you looking for?”

Of course you can’t choose the people you share a college with (not that you need to as everyone is lovely). But, as an Oxford University  guide, there are a few factors that you can use as metrics for your comparison. You should think about which of these factors is most important to you, and use this to inform your decision for your Oxford university application.



This is perhaps one of the bigger (no pun intended) distinguishing features between colleges. Some colleges have a small and homely feel, but it could mean that everyone knows everyone. Others are quite large, often meaning that it is easier to get lost in a large group. Either one has their advantage or disadvantage depending on what you prefer.

Before you make your Oxford application you need to have a look at the number of students per year in the Oxford prospectus or on the Oxford website.



There are plenty of rumours and stereotypes flying around about ‘which sort of people go to which college’. Don’t worry, this is really not the biggest deal in the world. For your own peace of mind, we would suggest one other reliable source for getting a feel for the different colleges is Oxford’s Alternative Prospectus.


If you’d like to discuss with former or current students, do get in touch with UniAdmissions for a consultation.


Food and Accommodation

Oxford University colleges are a hub for eating and sleeping, so you might want to think about what sort of arrangements will suit you best. You might be surprised at the variation with some of these factors!

Again, the best way to work out the differences before your application is to read the alternative prospectus. Also, ask questions at Open Days or make enquiries with people who have experienced the lifestyle there. This will help you to work out whether any of the differences are important to what you want out of your university experience. Some suggestions for starting things to think about are as follows:

  1. Prices of food and accommodation. How much is the average meal? How much will you pay for your rent per term?
  2. Is accommodation easily accessible during the vacation? What storage arrangements can be made? This might be particularly relevant to international students, or those who live further away. It’s easy to forget that eight-week terms are very short, and there are some logistical points to consider.
  3. How frequently is food served? Is it self-service or a sit-down meal each time? This might be particularly useful to think about for those who are keen to get involved in extra-curricular activities which may take place over mealtimes. Or perhaps you may just have a preference for one or the other!
  4. Will college accommodation be offered to you for the whole duration of your course? Is this important to you? Would you prefer the chance to ‘live out’?
  5. What are the kitchen facilities like?

You might want to figure out which of these metrics to prioritise, or come up with your own. That way, once you have narrowed down your college choice to a few, you can compare these lifestyle considerations. This will help you with your decision for your Oxford University application.

Provisions for your Subject

Of course, even though welfare and lifestyle are important aspects to your university experience, at Oxford your studying will be pretty central too.

Academic considerations can be good motivations for choosing one college over another. Some of the main differences might be as follows: Have you perhaps read a book or article by an academic and are keen to be taught by them? Do you know that the fellow at your chosen college specialises in an area that you are interested in? Or, perhaps you are even just keen to be part of a larger intake for your subject, and you know that one college takes a bigger cohort each year.

If you are making an Oxford University application for joint honours, this might be particularly applicable as it can help to apply to a college which has often taken students for particular combinations. This is for both organisation and support reasons. It will be easier to coordinate your chosen subjects if there is someone who has studied the combination ahead of you that you can ask for advice!


Other considerations for your Oxford University Application?

In the end, even though researching the collegiate system is a useful part of your Oxford University application, if you really can’t decide, don’t forget you can always make an Open application. Likewise, if you’re not sure whether Oxford is right for you, or even if you are still spoilt for choice, feel free to get in touch for any personalised advice!

Increase your Chances of Success

Once you’ve chosen your Oxford University college, the next steps will be to prepare for the interview. If you want to sharpen your interview skills and make sure you know how to answer all the questions that may be asked, take a look at an Oxbridge interview course.

The course itself is designed to teach you the most important techniques for university interview so that you have a plan of action on the day. Expert tutors have designed the questions and course schedule with mock scenarios and past example questions. On top of the many resources available to you on the day, if you take this course you could triple your chances of success like every other student who has taken the course.

Prepare to Answer those Tricky Questions

Not knowing what answers will come up in an Oxford interview is one of the most daunting parts of the application process. Some questions are sometimes so bizarre, you wouldn’t have even thought to prepare for them. Well, not to worry, because we can help…

Book An Expert Application Consultation