How to Choose Which Oxford College I Should Apply To?

3 min read

“Picking a smaller College will increase my chances of getting into Oxford.”

Unfortunately, this isn’t true.

Making a decision about which college to go to will be one of the biggest decisions you’ll make in your academic career as you advance to university. 

Oxford University is one of the most prestigious universities. Students will be thinking of any way to maximise their chances of getting accepted. 

This article will help you consider whether applying to less popular colleges actually does increase your chances of acceptance. It also provides advice on how you can enhance your application.

Common Misconceptions

Although it is true that there are different rates of acceptance amongst Oxford colleges. Brasenose and Christ Church are amongst the most subscribed. However, it doesn’t mean that other colleges are easier to get into. This is because, similarly to Cambridge, Oxford operates a ‘pooling’ system. This means that students can be offered a place at another college if they don’t receive one at the college they applied to. 

This means that students applying to oversubscribed colleges are more likely to be ‘pooled’ and offered places at less popular colleges. Therefore, applications to less popular colleges will still be competitive, and unfortunately, this means students won’t be guaranteed a place at an ‘undersubscribed’ college. In 2020, 34% of successful applicants received an offer from a college that they didn’t put on their UCAS application.

How to Choose the Best Fit

There are ways to consider which college is the best fit for you, which is better than trying to ‘strategically apply’ as that won’t work. The most famous Oxford college ranking is the Norrington Table which ranks colleges based on how well students have performed in their final year exams. If academic rigor is your top priority, then the Norrington Table is a good way to rank which college will suit you. 

A useful way to choose the best-fit Oxford college for you is by process of elimination. Some colleges only accept certain demographics, e.g. graduates and these colleges tend to have a smaller student population. 

Women-Only Colleges

There are no women only colleges at Oxford, and there is only one college to accept students over the age of 21:

Largest and Smallest Oxford Colleges

The colleges all have different sizes, and smaller ones tend to have a more closely knit feel to them, whilst it’s easier to meet more people and get lost in the crowd at a larger college. 

The largest colleges are:

The smaller colleges at Oxford include:

However, it would also be useful to research how your future degree is taught at colleges by talking to current Oxford students and tutors on ‘Open Days’. Additionally, colleges can be ranked by size, age, and degree type- undergraduate or postgraduate. Since you’ll be living at this college for the next 3 years at least, and a number of factors are important. These include the location, accommodation, the reputation of your subject at the college, the Admissions process (and whether you will be willing to take additional tests/interviews), and the traditions of the colleges. 

Oxford Colleges By Location

There are a few colleges not located close to the centre of Oxford, and so a bike may come in handy if you are considering any of these colleges

The colleges are:

Although all colleges are located relatively close to one another, a 10 minute difference can make all the difference. 

The closest colleges to the centre are:

Oxford Colleges By Price

The cheapest colleges by annual rent are:

If money is not an issue, then the more expensive colleges by annual rent include:

Different colleges use different balloting systems. Some colleges give priority to students who do well in exams, whereas others just use a random ballot system. Additionally, some colleges charge the same rate for all of their rooms, whilst others charge different rates depending on the size and location of the rooms.

On the contrary, not so good reasons for choosing colleges include, how famous it is, whether your friends are applying, or if your favourite celebrity studied there. If you come from a widening participation background, the grants, catering, accommodation, and whether Formal Hall is compulsory or not, are all important factors to consider as living at some colleges are more expensive than others.

By creating a list of what you would want in your ideal college and implementing a process of elimination, you’ll hopefully be left with a good choice of colleges to choose from. 

The bottom line is, if you are ‘Oxford-material’, they will offer you a place even if it’s not at the original college you applied to. Although you cannot strategically apply to colleges, there are several ways you can maximise your application to Oxford University. For the most part, a well-written Personal Statement, high predicted A-Level grades, a successful interview and scoring highly on any Admissions Tests will give you a very good chance of gaining a place. So, it could be useful to keep in mind our Oxford Interview Course.


→What factors should I consider when choosing an Oxford College?

There are several factors to consider when choosing an Oxford College, including location, size, academic reputation, facilities, and extracurricular activities. It is important to research each college thoroughly and consider which factors are most important to you.

→How can I research each Oxford College?

The University of Oxford website provides detailed information about each college, including their history, academic programs, facilities, and social activities. You can also find information on student forums, social media, and college websites to get a better sense of the culture and community of each college.

→Should I choose a college based on its academic reputation?

While academic reputation is an important factor to consider, it is not the only factor. It is important to choose a college where you feel comfortable and supported, and where you can participate in extracurricular activities that interest you.

→Can I apply to more than one Oxford College?

No, you can only apply to one Oxford College per application cycle. However, if you are not accepted to your first choice college, you may be considered for another college if places are available.

→Can I change my college choice after I have been accepted?

No, once you have been accepted to an Oxford College, your college choice is final. However, you may be able to transfer to another college after your first year if places are available and the transfer is approved by both colleges.

→How can I make an informed decision about my Oxford College choice?

To make an informed decision about your Oxford College choice, it is important to research each college thoroughly, consider your academic and personal preferences, and consult with teachers, advisors, and current students.

→Can I visit Oxford Colleges before making a decision?

Yes, you can visit Oxford Colleges before making a decision. The University of Oxford offers virtual tours, and many colleges offer in-person tours and open days where you can meet with students and staff and learn more about the college.

→Is there a deadline for choosing an Oxford College?

The deadline for choosing an Oxford College varies depending on the application cycle. Generally, applicants are asked to indicate their college preferences in their UCAS application, which is due in October. However, some colleges may allow applicants to change their college choice later in the process.

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