Choosing an Oxford College
Colleges and the Application Process
Can students apply to more than one college?
No. Students may indicate one college or Permanent Private Hall of preference on the UCAS Apply system (by inserting the college code), along with the course code and institution code for Oxford. Additional college preferences may not be specified by the applicant, though they may be allocated a second or third college which may also consider their application. Note there is a separate code for applicants who wish to make an open application
At what stage can an application be reallocated to or considered by another college?
There are two points in the admissions process where an application may be reallocated to or may be considered by another college. This may happen before the interview period, particularly if a certain college is oversubscribed in that subject area. At the time of interview, other colleges in addition to the college of preference may also consider an application.
These processes are in place to ensure the strongest candidates who demonstrate a great deal of potential have the best possible chance of securing a place at Oxford.
Note that tutors at all colleges are working from the same common framework for admissions and that the selection criteria for entrance are defined by subject and not by college, so tutors at one college will be assessing an application against the same selection criteria as tutors in that subject at a different college.
What is an ‘open application’ and will it affect my student’s chances of gaining a place at Oxford?
Applicants can make an open application by choosing campus code '9' on their UCAS application. This means we will assign their application to a college or hall which has fewer applications for each place for their course in the year they apply. In 2014, 18% of applicants chose to make an open application.
Tutors have no preference for direct or open applications: they are looking for the best applicants for their course, so they are not interested in whether or not applicants apply directly to their college. Even if you do specify a college, other colleges may also interview you, and any of them may offer you a place. In 2014, 33% of successful applicants got an offer from a college they didn’t specify.
Submitting an open application will not affect a candidate's chances of securing a place at Oxford: the best candidates are just as likely to be offered a place whether they choose a college or not. However, with an open application, they are unable to change the college which they are allocated. So, if there are any colleges they definitely do not want to go to, they should specify a college of preference on their UCAS form.
The allocation of open applications occurs before all applications are sent out to colleges for assessment by their academic tutors. It is important to remember that the colleges cannot see whether or not an applicant has applied directly to them or whether that applicant has been allocated to them in the ‘open application’ process; all the applications are therefore treated equally.
Should my student be applying to a certain college for a particular degree course?
No. All Oxford colleges are very strong academically, and most colleges offer a wide range of the courses offered at the University. To check which colleges offer which courses, see Which colleges offer my course?.
When looking at colleges with your students, there is no need to focus on a certain tutor’s research specialisms, for example. Very often, for optional subjects in their second or subsequent years of study, undergraduates will be taught by specialists in that area and may well be sent out to another college for tutorials with that specialist tutor.
A student’s academic experience of Oxford will be the same whichever college they apply to; the syllabuses for the degree courses are devised on a departmental not college basis.
Undergraduates attend the same lectures and classes and will take the same exams irrespective of college choice; the only difference will be who is providing their tutorials and in which college these are held.
All tutors are experts in their field and are adept at covering a wide range of topics; if there is someone else in the department who would be better placed to teach a certain set of tutorials, the student’s college will try and arrange for tuition in the specialist’s college.
What other factors should my students consider when choosing a college?
After they have checked which Oxford colleges offer their course, the choice then really becomes a question of personal preferences. They might like to consider:
- the size of the college (how many students it has)
- how old or new it is
- the location (is it in the city centre, or a few minutes away? Is it near a particular department building, the park, the river or the swimming pool?)
- what accommodation options can the college offer and do they suit the student’s needs? (all colleges will offer accommodation for the first year of study and many are able to offer accommodation for the duration of the student’s course, though this provision will vary across colleges).
Will my student only be interviewed at their chosen college?
Tutors from different colleges exchange information and meet to consider everyone applying to study their subject, to ensure that the best candidates get places, whichever college they chose.
As well as their college of preference (or allocated college, if they make an open application), another college may also interview them and perhaps offer your student a place.
One in five students is at a college other than their college of preference; they are very happy there and would not want to be anywhere else.
Finding out more