Map Oxbridge Applications. 14 – 16 Waterloo Place, London, SW1Y 4AR

Open days are an exciting opportunity to get to know a university first-hand, by visiting colleges that interest you as well as your chosen department. As colleges are where you will live, eat, socialise, and have tutorials, it’s important to look round the colleges you’re considering applying to. A visit to the department will allow you to learn more about the structure of your course, and to speak to tutors. If you’ve never been to Oxford or Cambridge before, open days are a great way to get a feel for the city.  

 

 

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The next Cambridge open days will be held in early July.

Many of the colleges and departments will be open for drop-in visitors but some may require additional booking. Booking for the open day as a whole is mandatory, so don’t miss the deadline!

Once you have booked you will receive an Eventbrite ticket via email. You can book either for a college-only ticket or a university and college ticket, which will give you access to more events.

Students with a disability can indicate this on the booking form, and will be contacted by the university in case special arrangements need to be made.

 

 

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The Oxford open days are held in June and September. 

Oxford suggests that you start with a visit to your subject department in the morning and then visit a shortlist of colleges in the afternoon.

Unlike Cambridge, it is not mandatory to book so you can just turn up to a college or department; however, some specific events may require advance booking, so make sure to check the details for the individual departments and colleges you want to visit.

Some Oxford colleges can provide travel funding for UK applicants who need financial support.

 

Before you go 

 

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  • First and foremost, check to see if you need to book any events, especially if you want to attend the Cambridge open day.

  • Make sure you check which colleges offer your course. For Oxford, simply visit their page and click on your subject. For Cambridge, search the page for your chosen course where there should be information about which colleges don’t offer your subject, if any.

  • Once you’ve done these two crucial things make sure to do plenty of research before the open day, as you don’t want to waste time asking questions you could easily have found the answers to online. Most of the relevant information will be listed somewhere on the college website, and you can always contact the admissions offices with any further questions. Both Oxford and Cambridge also have an Alternative Prospectus, which offers advice and insights by students to prospective applicants. 

  • If there’s any information you haven’t been able to find, prepare some questions to ask. Open days are an opportunity to talk to current students and tutors, so make sure you take full advantage of this.

  • Last but not least, plan how you will get there. Both Oxford and Cambridge advise against bringing a car, as parking will be very difficult with so many people in the city. If you’re visiting Oxford, read their helpful travel advice.

 

What should I look for in a college?

 

meadows smallerOnce you’ve eliminated colleges that don’t offer your course, you’re free to choose which one you’d like to visit and ultimately apply to. Don’t try to visit every single college and don’t leave your favourites until the end of the day, as you may end up missing out.

When evaluating colleges, focus on what’s important to you; you may want to consider factors such as size, age, appearance, accommodation, location, food options, facilities, and tutors. You can use resources such as the Norrington Table (Oxford) and the Tompkins Table (Cambridge) to compare the academic achievements of different colleges.

Most of the more factual information will be available on the college website, allowing you to shortlist colleges before you get there, whereas things such as atmosphere, quality of food, and college pets may be good questions to ask current students about on the open day. 

 

For specialist advice on college choice or any aspect of your application, get in touch with our expert consultants on + 44 (0) 20 7499 2394 or send us your query at info@oxbridge.i3x.co.uk

Colleges

With almost thirty colleges , it can be hard to know how to begin choosing one that is right for you. Your choice of college will affect you in many ways:

  • It is where the majority of your teaching takes place.
  • A lot of your social life will probably take place in your college. 
  • You will live in the college grounds for at least one year and possibly for your entire degree.  

Everyone has different criteria. The best way to make a strong choice is to do your research, check your stats and visit them on the open days. Don’t forget that many colleges don’t offer every course, so it’s always best by starting your college hunt with a list of colleges that are offering your choice of course.

choice of collegeAnother brilliant resource is the website of each college’s Junior Common Room (or “JCR” – usually all the undergraduates in each college). Furthermore, some colleges produce their own alternate prospectuses which are available on their websites.

In general, your college will form a large part of your Oxford experience – for most students, it is your home, where your taught, and where you’ll build many of your closest friendships. You will be assigned a Director of Studies (or “DOS”) in your college, who will oversee your degree papers. However, ultimately your degree is run by your faculty as part of the University. All your exams will be administered centrally and your degree will be conferred by the University of Cambridge. 

Cam river, CambridgeChrist’s 

Founded: 1448

Size: Medium (420 undergraduates)

Words that best describe it: Friendly, supportive, central, welcoming, green

It might not be for you if… You like old buildings – New Court has sixties architecture

ChurchillChurchill

Founded: 1960

Size: Large (460 undergraduates)

Words that best describe it: Friendly, informal, recreational, open, sporty

It might not be for you if… You’re looking for ancient splendour – the architecture is not in the traditional style of Cambridge

ClareClare

Founded: 1326

Size: Large (496 undergraduates)

Words that best describe it: Musical, informal, welcoming, popular, fun

It might not be for you if… You’re looking for a relaxed environment – its beauty is a little intimidating

Corpus Christi(1)Corpus Christi

Founded: 1352

Size: Small (280 undergraduates)

Words that best describe it: Friendly, small, historic, convivial

It might not be for you if… You don’t like that the room ballot is academically weighted

DowningDowning

Founded: 1800

Size: Medium (425 undergraduates)

Words that best describe it: Spacious, convenient, friendly, beautiful, supportive, sporty

It might not be for you if… You’ve got lots of friends at other colleges – you have to sign guests into the bar

EmmanuelEmmanuel

Founded: 1584

Size: Large (460 undergraduates)

Words that best describe it: Fun, beautiful, central, open-minded, academic

It might not be for you if… You like cooking – there are limited facilities in college

 

FitzwilliamFitzwilliam

Founded: 1869 (full college status granted in 1966)

Size: Large (440 undergraduates)

Words that best describe it: Relaxed, unpretentious, friendly, fun

It might not be for you if… You want to be central – Fitz is a little out of the way

GirtonGirton

Founded: 1869

Size: Large (500 undergraduates)

Words that best describe it: Distant, sprawling, pleasant, close-knit, unpretentious, easy-going

It might not be for you if…  You’re not into travelling – Girton is a bit of a trek from the centre of Cambridge

Gonville & Caius Cambridge College

Founded: 1348

Size: Large (560 undergraduates)

Words that best describe it: Traditional, supportive, academic, energetic, sporty

It might not be for you if… You want flexibility at meal times – there is compulsory Hall most nights

Copyright © 2015 Gonville & Caius College

HomertonHomerton

Founded: 1895 (full college status granted in 1976)

Size: Huge (550 undergraduates)

Words that best describe it: Friendly, open, inventive, unpretentious, warm

It might not be for you if… You want to be centrally located

 

Copyright © Maciek-commonswiki

Jesus(1)Jesus

Founded: 1496

Size: Large (510 undergraduates)

Words that best describe it: Friendly, historic, beautiful, secluded

It might not be for you if… You want to cook your own food – the kitchen fixed charge is expensive

Copyright © Rudhullandemu-commonswiki

King’s

Founded: 1441

Size: Medium (430 undergraduates)

Words that best describe it: Open, different, fun, impressive, accessible

It might not be for you if… You don’t like tourists

MagdaleneMagdalene

Founded: 1428 or 1542, depending on who you ask

Size: Small (339 undergraduates)

Words that best describe it: Small, old, welcoming, close-knit, supportive

It might not be for you if… You want to keep yourself to yourself – the small community can mean gossip spreads like wildfire

Cambridge music scholarshipsAre you applying for a subject other than music, but want to keep playing your favourite instrument? Lots of colleges have musical societies, and there are a number of university-wide orchestras and bands. 

Look at JCR websites and college websites for details of concerts and societies, and make sure you thoroughly research choral scholarship and instrumental awards if you wish to apply for them, as they often have earlier deadlines.   

Murray EdwardsMurray Edwards

Founded: 1954

Size: Medium (360 undergraduates)

Words that best describe it: Modern, dynamic, inspiring, diverse, girly, low-key

It might not be for you if… Cycling uphill is an uphill struggle

Copyright © Vysotsky

NewnhamNewnham

Founded: 1871

Size: Medium (360 undergraduates)

Words that best describe it: Sociable, safe, pretty, comfortable, peaceful, convenient, girly

It might not be for you if… You’re messy – there is no one to clean your room for you

Pembroke(1)Pembroke

Founded: 1347

Size: Medium (430 undergraduates)

Words that best describe it: Friendly, relaxed, central, inclusive, beautiful

It might not be for you if… You’re hoping for a career in politics – the JCR is not politically active

PeterhousePeterhouse

Founded: 1284

Size: Small (241 undergraduates)

Words that best describe it: Intimate, close-knit, relaxed, supportive, old, quaint

It might not be for you if… You get claustrophobic – the small community can get too close for comfort

Queens’

Founded: 1448

Size: Large (490 undergraduates)

Words that best describe it: Large, friendly, relaxed, sociable, extracurricular

It might not be for you if… You just want to relax – Queens’ students can be a little boisterous at times

RobinsonRobinson

Founded: 1981

Size: Medium (386 undergraduates)

Words that best describe it: Unpretentious, open, diverse, supportive, modern

It might not be for you if… You want to be surrounded by classical buildings – the modern architecture is not to everyone’s liking

Copyright © steve haslam

St Catharine'sSt Catherine’s

Founded: 1473

Size: Medium (440 undergraduates)

Words that best describe it: Open, supportive, engaging, central

It might not be for you if… You like to cook – the self-catering facilities are poor

Copyright @ Rept0n1x

????????????????????????????????????You’re almost at the end of the list – don’t worry! Struggling to narrow it down? If you would like to talk to recent Oxford and Cambridge graduates, we’re only a phone call away. 

Lots of you phone in with queries, and we’re always happy to help. Try building a shortlist before you call – but don’t worry if you’re completely stuck, as we’re happy to explain how to narrow it down with some subject-specific advice!

 

St John’s

Founded: 1511

Size: Large (569 undergraduates)

Words that best describe it: Big, beautiful, fun, grand, sporty, cosmopolitan

It might not be for you if… You’re a bit nervous about ‘the Oxbridge thing’ – it can get slightly overwhelming at times

SelwynSelwyn

Founded: 1882

Size: Medium (400 undergraduates)

Words that best describe it: Sociable, close-knit, academic, supportive

It might not be for you if… You want to be in the centre of town – it’s a little way out

Sidney SussexSidney Sussex

Founded: 1596

Size: Small (350 undergraduates)

Words that best describe it: Central, friendly, cosy, close-knit

It might not be for you if… You want to follow in the footsteps of some prestigious alumni – Sidney is often overlooked in favour of more famous colleges

Copyright @ Seamus Leahey

Trinity

Founded: 1546

Size: Gigantic (695 undergraduates)

Words that best describe it: Grand, traditional, sociable, rich, impressive

It might not be for you if… You like your colleges cosy – it can be a little too imposing for some

Trinity Hall

Founded: 1350

Size: Medium (374 undergraduates, 270 postgraduates)

Words that best describe it: Idyllic, small, central, sociable, sporty

It might not be for you if… You want to be part of a big group – it can be a little too intimate at times.

Where next?

 

Colleges

With over thirty colleges and Permanent Private Halls, it can be hard to know how to begin choosing one that is right for you. Your choice of college will affect you in many ways:

  • It is where the majority of your teaching takes place.
  • A lot of your social life will probably take place in your college. 
  • You will live in the college grounds for at least one year and possibly for your entire degree.  

Everyone has different criteria. The best way to make a strong choice is to do your research, check your stats and visit them on the Open Days. Don’t forget that many colleges don’t offer every course, so it’s always best to start your college hunt with a list of colleges that are offering your choice of course.

choice of collegeAnother brilliant resource is the website of each college’s Junior Common Room (or “JCR” – usually all the undergraduates in each college). Furthermore, some colleges produce their own alternate prospectuses which are available on their websites.

In general, your college will form a large part of your Oxford experience – for most students, it is your home, where your taught, and where you’ll build many of your closest friendships. You will be assigned a Moral Tutor in your college, who will oversee your studies. However, ultimately your degree is run by your faculty as part of the University. All your exams will be administered centrally and your degree will be conferred by the University of Oxford. 

Balliol

Founded: 1263

Size: Large (380 undergraduates)

Words that best describe it: Unpretentious, liberal, energetic, high-achieving

It might not be for you if… You want all the Oxbridge trimmings – there is a lack of formal hall and formality in general

Brasenose Brasenose

Founded: 1509

Size: Medium (356 undergraduates)

Words that best describe it: Old, stately, warm, easygoing

It might not be for you if… You are looking for a modern outlook

 
 
Copyright © Remi Mathis

Christ Church 

Founded: 1524

Size: Large (433 undergraduates)

Words that best describe it: Prestigious, grand, proud, beautiful, traditional

It might not be for you if… You don’t like tourists or Harry Potter fans

Corpus ChristiCorpus Christi

Founded: 1517

Size: Small (249 undergraduates)

Words that best describe it: friendly, supportive, intellectual, quaint, compact

It might not be for you if… You want lots of space – the small size can get a bit claustrophobic

ExeterExeter

Founded: 1314

Size: Small to medium (323 undergraduates)

Words that best describe it: Central, open-minded, chilled, beautiful, close-knit

It might not be for you if… You want to spread out – the college grounds are a bit cramped

Copyright @ simon q

Harris ManchesterHarris Manchester

Founded: 1889 (full college status granted in 1996)

Size: Small (93 undergraduates)

Words that best describe it: Friendly, liberal, mature, homely, small

It might not be for you if… You’re under 21 – Harris Manchester only accepts mature students (over 21s)

Hertford

Founded: 1282 (full college status granted in 1874)

Size: Medium (397 undergraduates)

Words that best describe it: Democratic, unpretentious, central, social, relaxed

It might not be for you if… You’re a foodie – the college meals are not amazing

 

JesusJesus

Founded: 1571

Size: Medium (335 undergraduates)

Words that best describe it: Small, close-knit, welcoming, sleepy, central

It might not be for you if… You want to live in the city centre for the duration of your course – the external accommodation is quite far away from college

Copyright @ simononly

Keble

Founded: 1870

Size: Large (425 undergraduates)

Words that best describe it: Friendly, buzzing, gothic, fun, traditional

It might not be for you if… You want to be in the middle of Oxford – it’s a tad far from the city-centre bustle

LMHLady Margaret Hall

Founded: 1878

Size: Large (391 undergraduates)

Words that best describe it: Pretty, friendly, scenic, lively

It might not be for you if… You don’t like cycling – the college is a 15-20 minute walk from the centre

Copyright © Ed Webster

LincolnLincoln

Founded: 1472

Size: Small (293 undergraduates)

Words that best describe it: Friendly, small, busy, close-knit, high-achieving

It might not be for you if… You’re looking for a big college – Lincoln is one of the smallest colleges

Magdalen

Founded: 1458

Size: Large (402 undergraduates)

Words that best describe it: Big, inspiring, beautiful, surprising, challenging

It might not be for you if… You want friends from outside college – they may all suffer from college envy!

MansfieldMansfield

Founded: 1886 (full college status granted in 1995)

Size: Small (231 undergraduates)

Words that best describe it: Unpretentious, small, friendly, accommodating

It might not be for you if… You want access to funds and bursaries – Mansfield is not the richest of colleges

Merton

Founded: 1264

Size: Small (291 undergraduates)

Words that best describe it: Small, central, academic, pretty

It might not be for you if… You don’t really love your subject – over-indulgence in extracurricular activities is not encouraged

Oxford Music ScholarshipsAre you applying for a subject other than music, but want to keep playing your favourite instrument? Lots of colleges have musical societies, and there are a number of university-wide orchestras and bands. You might have heard of Out of the Blue, but they represent just one of the several a cappella groups at Oxford.

Look at JCR websites and college websites for details of concerts and societies, and make sure you thoroughly research choral scholarship and instrumental awards if you wish to apply for them, as they often have earlier deadlines.   

NewNew College

Founded: 1379

Size: Large (426 undergraduates)

Words that best describe it: Social, big, active, diligent, supportive, fun

It might not be for you if… You like cooking – the facilities are limited

OrielOriel

Founded: 1326

Size: Small (324 undergraduates)

Words that best describe it: Sporty, small, old, traditional, central, warm-hearted

It might not be for you if… You’re a foodie – the college food is not that good

PembrokePembroke

Founded: 1624

Size: Medium (365 undergraduates)

Words that best describe it: Inclusive, busy, sporty

It might not be for you if… You want to live cheaply – the rent is more expensive than at other colleges

Copyright © Andrew Shiva / Wikipedia / CC BY-SA 4.0

QueenQueen’s

Founded: 1341

Size: Medium (339 undergraduates)

Words that best describe it: Cosy, friendly, down-to-earth, old-fashioned

It might not be for you if… You plan to spend a lot of time outside college – it can be quite insular

Copyright © M Stone English Wikipedia

St Anne'sSt Anne’s

Founded: 1879 (full college status granted iin 1952)

Size: Large (428 undergraduates)

Words that best describe it: Sociable, relaxed, down-to-earth, spacious

It might not be for you if… You want a picture-perfect college – it’s not the prettiest

Copyright @ User:Stannered

St CatzSt Catherine’s

Founded: 1963

Size: Large (497 undergraduates)

Words that best describe it: Social, friendly, sporty, vibrant, peaceful, modern

It might not be for you if… You take an instant dislike to the architecture. It’s a marmite affair – you either love it or you hate it!

Copyright © Kenneth Yarham

Teddy HallSt Edmund Hall

Founded: c. 1371 (full college status granted in 1957)

Size: Large (409 undergraduates)

Words that best describe it: Sociable, small, sporty, intimate, relaxed, central

It might not be for you if… Food is very important to you – it’s not great at Teddy Hall

equipment of a research laboratoryApplying for a science? Check where your labs are – you’ll spend a lot of time there, so it’s best to check so the early morning cycle doesn’t catch you by surprise! 

Equally, humanities students might want to look at where most of their lectures will be – History lectures, for instance, tend to be in the Exam Schools on the High Street, which is a roll out of bed for a Queen’s or Teddy Hall student, but a bit of a trek for an LMH Historian.

St Hilda’s

Founded: 1893

Size: Medium (400 undergraduates)

Words that best describe it: Relaxed, friendly, spacious, inviting, fun, supportive

It might not be for you if… You want the ‘Brideshead’ experience – it lacks the traditional Oxford trimmings (cloisters, quads, etc.)

St Hugh'sSt Hugh’s

Founded: 1886

Size: Large (432 undergraduates)

Words that best describe it: Spacious, unpretentious, chilled-out, friendly, calm

It might not be for you if… You want to live in the city centre – it’s quite far out

St John'sSt John’s

Founded: 1555

Size: Large (386 undergraduates)

Words that best describe it: Friendly, rich, big, academic, diverse, high-achieving

It might not be for you if… You’re looking for an undersubscribed college – entrance is highly competitive

Copyright © Nigel Cox 

St Peter'sSt Peter’s

Founded: 1929 (full college status granted in 1961)

Size: Medium (350 undergraduates)

Words that best describe it: Open, friendly, grounded, central, caring, cosy

It might not be for you if… You want to live in college accomodation for the duration of your course

SomervilleSomerville

Founded: 1879

Size: Medium (292 undergraduates)

Words that best describe it: Friendly, open-minded, homely, supportive, untraditional

It might not be for you if… You want delicious food – it’s not great at Somerville

Copyright © Philip Allfrey

Trinity 

Founded: 1554

Size: Small (292 undergraduates)

Words that best describe it: Spacious, inclusive, friendly, warm, beautiful, open

It might not be for you if… You want to cook for yourself – there are poor self-catering options on the main college site

UnivUniversity 

Founded: 1249

Size: Medium (364 undergraduates)

Words that best describe it: Relaxed, fun, diverse, welcoming, cosy

It might not be for you if… You want to stretch out – it’s a bit of a squish

The Bridge of Sighs, Oxford, Oxfordshire, EnglandYou’re almost at the end of the list – don’t worry! Struggling to narrow it down? If you would like to talk to recent Oxford and Cambridge graduates, we’re only a phone call away. 

Lots of you phone in with queries, and we’re always happy to help. Try building a shortlist before you call – but don’t worry if you’re completely stuck, as we’re happy to explain how to narrow it down with some subject-specific advice!

 

 

WadhamWadham

Founded: 1610

Size: Large (462 undergraduates)

Words that best describe it: Alternative, open, political, sociable, friendly, unpretentious

It might not be for you if… You want guaranteed college accommodation for the duration of your course

Copyright © Ukexpat

WorcesterWorcester

Founded: 1714

Size: Large (420 undergraduates)

Words that best describe it: Beautiful, friendly, relaxed, sociable, welcoming, sporty

It might not be for you if… You want very grand and glorious surroundings – Worcester is beautiful, but a little hectic!

Permanent Private Halls

Peterhouse, a college of Cambridge UniversityPPHs are smaller than Oxford colleges and offer a more limited number of courses. These colleges were originally founded by different Christian denominations but, in most cases, students are not required to be of that denomination to apply.

Students at PPHs have the same access to University and Faculty Libraries, they often share tutorials with students at other colleges, they sit the same exams and have the same degrees awarded by the Universities.

BlackfriarsBlackfriars

Founded: 1221

Size: Small (8 undergraduates)

Accepts applications from: Mature students (over 21s) only

Subjects offered: Theology, Theology & Oriental Studies, Theology & Philosophy, PPE

Copyright © susz

Campion HallCampion Hall 

Founded: 1896

Size: Small (1 undergraduate)

Accepts applications from: Undergraduates in exceptional circumstances only

Subjects offered: N/A

Copyright © Steve Cadman from London

Regent's ParkRegent’s Park

Founded: 1752

Size: Small (117 undergraduates)

Accepts applications from: Everyone

Subjects offered: CAAH, Classics, Classics & English, English Language & Literature, Geography, History, History (Ancient & Modern), History & Politics, Law (Jurisprudence), PPE, Philosophy & Theology, Theology

Copyright © Tpot123

St Benet'sSt Benet’s Hall 

Founded: 1897

Size: Small (52 undergraduates)

Accepts applications from: Male students only

Subjects offered: Classics, Classics & Oriental Studies, History, History & Politics, History & Economics, Oriental Studies, PPE, Philosophy and Theology, Theology, Theology & Oriental Studies

Copyright © J M Matarazzo Jr

St Stephen'sSt Stephen’s House

Founded: 1876

Size: Small (5 undergraduates)

Accepts applications from: Mature students (over 21s) only

Subjects offered: Theology

Copyright © David Hallam Jones

Wycliffe HallWycliffe Hall

Founded: 1877

Size: Small (55 undergraduates)

Accepts applications from: Mature students (over 21s) only

Subjects offered: Theology, Theology and Philosophy

Where next?

 

Oxford College snapshots buttonShould your application be successful, your college will be a big part of your life at Oxford or Cambridge. But how do you choose which college to apply for? 

Taking the time to consider which college you want to apply to at either Oxford or Cambridge is an important part of the application process. Your college will be where your weekly supervisions or tutorials will take place in most instances, and will shape your social environment while you are at university. As a result, there are some important questions to consider while you’re selecting a college to apply to on your UCAS form.

Does your college offer your subject?

This is one of the most important questions to ask yourself before applying to a college. You will need to apply to a college that offers the subject that you are interested in studying, as there are colleges that do not have the supervision/tutorial provision for every course. To check that your subject is available at particular colleges in the year of your application, check subject listings on college websites.

Moreover, if you are applying to combination courses such as Classics and Modern Languages at Oxford, for example, you will need to confirm that the college you are interested in offer places for your particular degree combination. If not, you will need to seek out colleges that do offer your desired combination course.

Starting your college search with this question will enable you to compile a list of colleges that offer your subject, from which you can narrow down your choices further based on other criteria that are important to you.

Cambridge College Snapshots Button

What are the tutors like?

It can be an enlightening step in choosing a college to look into who may be teaching you. The easiest way to become acquainted with your prospective tutors is to visit colleges on an Open Day and make sure you speak to tutors from your subject area. Taking the time to consider who your supervision tutors could be from your colleges of interest will enable you to make an informed choice when it comes to college selection. However, it is important to note that for many students, your subject teaching will occur cross-colleges, therefore you should not base your college selection solely on who teaches in the faculty at your college.

Widget PC 3Is anyone else from your school applying there for the same subject?

Most schools have checks and balances in place to stop this kind of thing from happening, but it’s worth double checking with the person in charge of Oxbridge applications at your school. This is not because Oxbridge has quotas for people from certain types of school, but because tutors are looking to assemble an interesting group of students for their subject – they are looking for people from diverse backgrounds, with varied interests and different educations so that they can always guarantee a lively debate. People coming from the same school tend to have had the same kind of teaching, so even if you are both very strong candidates, the chances of you both going to the same college for the same subject are slim.

What matters most to you in a college?

While in many ways, colleges can appear to be very similar, there are significant differences between them. For example, if you have your heart set on Girton in Cambridge because you like the idea of an on-site swimming pool, be prepared to enjoy your swimming before taking a 40-minute walk to your lecture in the morning. Similarly, if you really want to live in the centre of everything, be prepared for the accompanying rush of tourists if you choose to do so!

Each college has its pros and cons – in terms of size, location, how traditional it is, and what societies it offers. There really is a college to suit all kinds of people, so exploring thoroughly what matters most to you in a college will guide you to make a good college selection.

Can you picture yourself living there for the next few years? Do you like it on an academic and personal level? Whilst it is important to remember that your choice of college does not limit your social experience at Oxford or Cambridge, colleges do often have different things to offer their students, whether that be a central location, on-campus undergraduate housing, an in-college theatre, or a close-knit student body. It can be easy to get drawn in to looking at application statistics and picking a college that you don’t really like the look of because you think that it will mean you have more chance of getting an offer – even if your heart is telling you that you want to go to that small, pretty one right in the centre of the city.

Knowing that you’re keen to attend the college you apply to may also help you at interview. Since you’ll be interviewed by tutors at your chosen college (unless you’re applying through an open application), showing an interest in the college itself, including the research produced by tutors belonging to that college, will demonstrate your passion and commitment as a potential student.

Prepare for the pooling system

If you don’t get a place in the college of your choice, you may go into the pooling system. The pooling systems at Oxford and Cambridge are very sophisticated, meaning that strong applicants are likely to be sent on to other colleges if there is no room for them in the one they subscribe to. Around 27% of successful Oxford candidates for 2016 entry were placed at a college they had not applied to, and this is usually the case for 20-25% of Cambridge applicants.

Specialist interests of different colleges

Finally, when thinking about your college choice, it is important to consider which colleges cater to your specialist interests. Below is an overview of which colleges are renowned for their rowing, sport, drama or politics societies to help you to narrow down your college choices:

ROWING: Downing, Gonville and Caius, Jesus (Cambridge), Magdalene (Cambridge), Magdalen (Oxford), Oriel, Pembroke (Oxford and Cambridge), St John’s (Cambridge), Wolfson (Oxford).

SPORT: Keble, Oriel, Pembroke (Oxford), St Catharine’s (Cambridge), St Edmund Hall, St John’s (Cambridge), Worcester.

DRAMA: Corpus Christi (Cambridge), Homerton, Pembroke (Cambridge), St John’s (Oxford), Trinity (Oxford), Worcester.

POLITICS: Balliol, Emmanuel, Kings, Murray Edwards, Peterhouse, St Catherine’s, Trinity (Cambridge), Wadham.

MUSIC: Clare, Emmanuel, Exeter, Fitzwilliam, King’s, Lincoln, New, Queens’ (Cambridge), Selwyn, St Hilda’s. St John’s (Cambridge), Trinity (Cambridge), Wadham.

So do your research, be aware of the admissions statistics but take them with a pinch of salt and best of luck with your college choice!

 Where Next?

What is “pooling”?

 

Sometimes, after your interview the college or PPH you applied for may decide that they lack the space to take you, but believe you are a strong applicant. In this situation, you may be “pooled” to another college.

 

Colleges & PPHs

 

Pooling button 2 115 x 1153,874 applications at Cambridge were pooled in total

20% of applicants at Oxford pooled each year.

Over 94 UMS across the board? You’ll be auto-pooled by Cambridge. Call us to find out more.

 

 

Cambridge universityPooling at Cambridge

When you make an initial application to Cambridge, you may choose to apply to a particular college. If you submit an open application, a college will be allocated to you.

If called to interview, you will be interviewed at the college your specified on your application form.  You also may be pre-pooled to a different college for your interview. When these interviews are completed, all students return home. You are very likely to only be in Cambridge for one day.

Each college then decides which applicants they want to accept and which, being less strong, they feel are not suitable candidates. However, there may be a collection of students who were strong candidates but that college has now run out of spaces to accept them. These candidates are placed in what is called the ‘winter pool’.

Your application 

At Cambridge, pooling happens in January, after the application cycle. If your application has been placed in the pool, you will receive a letter informing you of this in January and might be called for another interview at a different college. This does not necessarily mean that you have an offer. These pooling interviews usually take place in the first week of January.

The majority of pooled students are not recalled to interview but simply informed that their application is  currently under consideration by other colleges, however you may be called to be seen by whichever college has chosen you in the pool. You will hear later in January whether a college has made you an offer or whether your application has been unsuccessful overall. 

The Radcliffe Camera, OxfordPooling at Oxford

The Oxford pooling system is different from the Cambridge pooling system in one key way: Pooled applicants remain at Oxford and have further interviews at other colleges.

When you make an initial application to Oxford, you may choose to apply to a particular college. If you submit an open application, a college will be allocated to you.

If called to interview, the majority of students will be seen at the college of their choice. However, some colleges are extremely over-subscribed and you may be pooled pre-interview. If so, you will receive a letter from a different college saying that your application is now under consideration there and your interview will be conducted at this college instead.

Once your initial interview(s) are completed, you will either be allowed to go home or informed that you need to stay in Oxford for further interviews. You may be told in a variety of ways of further interviews, so make sure to check the noticeboard on the JCR (Junior Common Room) of your chosen college.  You may be interviewed at one or even two further colleges. One student we know was interviewed at 4! The amount of further interviews that you are given in no way reflects the quality of your application.

Colleges are in constant communication and you are quite likely to interview at several colleges in December. This may not even mean that you are ‘pooled’ – your first choice college may have decided to accept you and is simply seeking a second opinion from another college to confirm they have made the right decision. This helps the university to regulate the standard of applicants that gain a place.

If you are pooled, it may be that your application is strong, but the college you applied to doesn’t think you are the right fit for their particular college. It may also mean that you are a great candidate but unfortunately the college you applied to are oversubscribed with good applicants. 

Once you finish the interview period you will not be asked to return for further interviews. However if you are ‘post-pooled’ this means you will receive a guaranteed place through an over offer, and will be assigned a college later.

The Bridge of Sighs, Oxford, Oxfordshire, EnglandOxford and Cambridge hold University Open Days throughout the year. These can be a great taster of what life at the different Universities is like, and can help you choose between Universities, Courses and Colleges.

Why should you go?

Booking on one of the main university Open Days gives you a chance to find out about all the aspects of going to Oxford or Cambridge. You will be able to speak both to students and tutors in the department you want to study at, as well as the colleges to which you are interested in applying.

You’ll be able to get really specific answers to your questions and a good idea about what student life is really like at the college and in the faculty. This will not only help you with some of the big decisions you need to make, but will also give you an idea of what tutors are looking for in your subject and what preparation you should be doing in the run up to your application, admissions tests and interviews. Life at university is not solely about studying, so take this opportunity to find out about the colleges’ social events, societies and what made other students pick their college.

What to do if you cannot attend

Face carved in stoneDon’t worry too much if you can’t attend one of the days. There is absolutely no obligation to go and it won’t affect your application from the university’s perspective if you are not there. Oxford is holds a third Open Day in September and both Oxford and Cambridge colleges and faculties are holding Open Days throughout the year – just check on their websites for the dates you might be able to attend.

Remember also that Oxford and Cambridge colleges are often open to the public on other days – bring along your prospectus and explain to the porter that you are a prospective student and they should let you in free of charge. Alternatively, you’ll be able to find their email addresses and phone numbers in your prospectus. Just get in touch with them and they will be happy to help you. If you do have any questions you’d rather ask Oxbridge Applications, do not hesitate to get in touch! Everyone working at Oxbridge Applications has recently graduated from Oxford or Cambridge and will be able to answer any queries you have.

Who should I speak to?

Traditional Chesterfield armchairMembers of your faculty, current students, tutors and members of the colleges you are interested in are your first port of call.

It’s worth thinking about the key questions you want to ask in advance, so that you can make the most of your day.

It’s also worth speaking to the porters at the colleges you are interested in: as a student, you’ll go past the porters’ lodge several times a day and, because of the frequent undergraduate comings-and-goings, porters take an active interest in student welfare.

How will I know where to go?

Oxford and Cambridge can be a bit of a labyrinth until you know where you’re going. However, the colleges are easy enough to spot as their doors will be open and there will often be banners to show the name of the college. There will be lots of students to welcome you and show you around.

On the Open Days the cities are busy and there will be plenty of people to ask if you need to find specific colleges, faculties, libraries or other areas of interest.

To get you started, check the maps of Oxford and Cambridge, with their colleges marked on it. Although the majority of colleges are an easy walking distance from each other, there are some which are further away, and so it is a good idea to have a look at these before you go in order to check how far away they are from each other.

 

We hope you enjoy the Open Days. As ever, if you have any questions on course or college choice, please get in touch.

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Our Oxbridge-graduate consultants are available between 9.00 am – 5.30 pm seven days a week, with additional evening availability when requested.

Oxbridge Applications. 14 – 16 Waterloo Place, London, SW1Y 4AR


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