Oxford has 38 Colleges and Permanent Private Halls (or PPH as they are also known). Each one has its own traditions, customs, and history. There are several factors that one should take into consideration when picking a college: these include:
1. Perhaps the most obvious one – does this college offer a subject that you want to read (and by the way at Oxbridge you are reading for a degree not studying a degree) So many people decide on a college and start making plans about living there only to realise that that college does not offer the subject they want to apply for! Larger colleges such as Christ Church or St John’s would offer most subjects, whilst smaller colleges such as St Benet’s Hall only offer a few.
2. Once you have checked which colleges offer your subject, decide what kind of environment do you want to spend your next 3 years in (if you get in). Do you like to be in a college with 180 people in your year which where you may not know the names of some of the people you are studying with (St Hugh’s). Or do you prefer to go for a smaller, more intimate college with fewer students and a stronger sense of community (Merton). This one is up to you. There is no right or wrong here.
3. Do you want to be in a brand new building or in something that looks like Hogwarts? Both have pros and cons. Older prettier buildings are obviously stunning. But that comes at a price tag: lack of adequate heating in winters, lack of AC during the summers, and a year-round sporadic access to hot water… Newer buildings tend to have more on-suite rooms and have better infrastructure. But then, they don’t look as nice. Decision is yours really.
4. How far is the College from the department? This one is more important for some subjects than the others. For something like Materials Science (the degree I took), there are very few textbooks or notes available. Therefore, all of us had to attend 9am lectures pretty much every day of the week. Nothing wrong with that, of course, but this did get annoying when all of our historian friends would get up around 11am and go into the library in their pyjamas whilst still hangover… Regardless, you need to consider how far your College is from your expected place of study. If you are doing a Science degree, you will have to do labs and 9am lectures. It makes sense to be a bit closer to the department. If you are a Historian, you will probably skip most of your public lectures anyway, so it doesn’t really matter as much.
5. What is the food like at your College. Is it a) good? b) affordable? If the answer to both of these question is yes, then this college is a serious contender.
6. College Library. This is where you will be spending some serious hours doing your work. What is the library like: is it well ventilated? Is it spacious? Are there water fountains? Is it air conditioned? Investigating these small things now will pay off later
7. Does the College have a gym? Most colleges will give you some sort of free gym access. The quality of those gyms varies dramatically. Queen’s will allow you to use a room with a few rowing machines, whilst John’s will give you access to a dedicated fitness facility which would envy of many modern gyms.
All in all, there a lot of different factors that influence a decision. Campus visit and a conversation with a current student is always the best way to find. But if you aren’t able to visit or want a second opinion, feel free to drop our global HQ based in London a WhatsApp/Telegram message on +44 7496 625 544 and one of our colleagues will give you their opinion!