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Christer Holloman




United Kingdom




Jan 2014 - Sep 2015

By Christer Holloman

How to choose your Oxford college

Oxford University is a little bit different from other universities in many ways, one of which is the fact that you are not just a member of the University and a member of your department or faculty, but also a member of a College. Once you have paid your deposit you will be sent a list of colleges and asked which one you would like to apply to join, if you have a preference. So, how do you know which one to choose, and does it even matter?

The Purpose Of The Collegiate System

There are 38 colleges at Oxford University and in addition to their basic services, such as offering rooms to rent, a cheap place to eat and being responsible for your general welfare, it is an opportunity for you to belong to a smaller community within Oxford. The college will also assign you an advisor, who is a member of the College’s academic staff and who will be able to offer you support or advice.

Why Making An Active Choice Matters

Each college is slightly different; location, facilities, resources, etc., so if you don’t make an active choice you might end up with one that isn’t ideal for your circumstances. Some colleges won’t accept graduates, so there is no point considering these. From a networking aspect, being alumni of a certain college can also be a door opener in the future, which is another reason I would urge you to make an active choice. Once you have joined a college you are not really able to switch, so having been accepted you’re stuck with it for life.

Choosing The Right College; Before, During and After

1. Decide what you’re looking for:
My first criteria was to find a college where I could meet those people that were most likely to help me in my career, so I started by researching members of my network of trusted colleagues, clients, etc. who had studied at Oxford. I asked them what college they were a member of, and which one would they recommend to me? I figured that if there was a trend in their answers it would give me an initial shortlist.

I then used the website Choose an Oxford College to narrow down my options. I decided I wanted to go to an old college, to really make the most of the experience of going to one of the world’s oldest universities. Another benefit of an old college is that they are located in central Oxford, so easy to get to and from. I also thought it would be nice to go to a college with many intellectual celebrities just for the bragging factor, but in the end I had to compromise on this criteria.

I now had a list of three colleges.

2. Start early:
Each college will only have a certain number of places set aside for EMBA students. This means that the sooner you can apply to one the greater the chances are of getting into the college you really want. Students who get accepted to the EMBA and pay their deposit early have an advantage over the rest; I was a late joiner so some of the colleges on my shortlist were already ‘off the market’. Start early to avoid disappointment.

3. Be active:
Once you have been accepted to a college, make the most of it! This is a bit easier for EMBA students based in the UK as a lot of activity happens throughout the year, and not only during our EMBA weeks (when you’re really busy anyway). Each college will have a social group, called MCR (Middle Common Room) for graduates and mainly made up of 25-30 year old PhD students; get on their mailing list, join their Facebook group and go along to their events. Only a few months into the EMBA I’ve already attended a few dinners and a wine tasting. These social events are just one example of the benefits of being a member of a wealthy college, as that means these activities are free of charge and they will have the resources to invite alumni back for annual dinners etc.

Good luck in your search for the perfect college!

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