Choosing an Oxbridge College

Athena Chuang

At Oxford and Cambridge, college life is at the centre of the undergraduate experience. Because each university comprises over 30 colleges, selecting a college may seem like a daunting prospect.

The advice below will help you narrow down your college choices.

  1. Subjects offered and teaching staff

Most Oxbridge colleges offer all subjects to their undergraduates, but a handful do not. Therefore, it is important that you visit the relevant university’s course page and individual college websites to ensure that your particular subject is offered.

Oxford and Cambridge attract students who are passionate about their discipline of study. It is also noteworthy that each academic is attached to a specific college. For example, if you have an interest in Constitutional Law, you should consider applying to college where you will be taught by an eminent professor in that field.

2. Size and student body

Each Oxbridge college occupies its own grounds and admits a specific number of undergraduate students every year. You should think about whether you prefer larger grounds or a smaller and more intimate college. Additionally, some colleges welcome only 90 undergraduates per year and others welcome a sizeable cohort of 170.

Another factor to keep in mind is the composition of the college’s student body. While most colleges welcome applicants aged 18 and above, several mature colleges are catered only for applicants aged 21 and above. Similarly, while most colleges are mixed-gender, there are a few female-only colleges at Cambridge.

3. Location

A large number of students at Oxford and Cambridge cycle to get around town. However, you may still want to consider the location of your prospective college, which will most likely be the site of your accommodation and some of your tutorials or supervisions. Factors to consider include the distance to the town centre and your lectures.

4. Open days

Sometimes, choosing a college boils down to what feels ‘right’ for you. Oxbridge colleges hold open days in the summer and throughout the year. If you plan to pay a visit, make sure to wander around your shortlisted colleges, but do not forget to explore a few others. Keep an open mind and take the opportunity to ask the volunteer guides any questions you may have about college life.

5. Open application

If you still have trouble deciding on your college choice, rest assured that you can opt for an ‘open application’. You will be allocated by a computer algorithm to one of the colleges. This will not necessarily increase or decrease your chances of getting invited to interview, but it will certainly save time and help you move on to other more important parts of your application.

To find out more about Ampla Education’s university application services, contact us at


Educated at Wycombe Abbey, Athena obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree in Law from the University of Cambridge, where she was an Academic Scholar, President of the Cambridge University Society for Women Lawyers and Careers Secretary of the Cambridge University Law Society. Athena is passionate about learning and teaching languages. She has had experience in teaching English, English literature, and modern foreign languages, including French, Spanish and Mandarin.


© Ampla Education  –  Unauthorised use of this material without permission is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full credit is given to Ampla Education.

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