While the official advice is mostly solid, it shies away from discussing the more serious disparities between colleges. One could refer to various pieces of student journalism on this topic:

Unfortunately, these are issues beyond your control as an applicant. As of 2024, the university has stated that “around a third of successful applicants receive an offer from a college they didn’t specify on their application”. Rest assured, I still believe the support you get from most Oxford colleges greatly exceeds most universities in UK. Here are some advice.

Base your decision on quantitative metrics

Try to find up-to-date information on accommodation costs, hall costs, financial support, number of tutors in your subject etc. Student newspapers such as Cherwell and The Oxford Student often publish data on living costs / financial support (see above) that is unfortunately difficult to find publically. While WhatDoTheyKnow (freedom of information requests) is also sometimes useful, I’ve come to really appreciate student journalism since coming to Oxford.

Accommodation off-sites

Some of the smaller colleges have huge off-sites where a lot of undergraduates live. Examples include Balliol’s Jowett Buildings, University College’s Annexe and Christ Church’s Liddell Building. Unfortunately, University College’s Annexe is almost a 15-minute walk from nearby supermarkets and a 25-minute(!) walk from the city center. Meanwhile Balliol’s Jowett Buildings are just a 10-minute walk from the city center.

Unfortunately, information like this is really difficult and tedious to obtain. I didn’t know that most colleges even had off-sites until I came here. Do try your best. This leads to the following.

If possible, visit Oxford (at least on Google Earth)

As an international student, it’s really hard to describe how different the real Oxford was compared to my imagination before coming here. I thought I had spent enough time on google maps looking around Oxford (and should stop fantasizing and do some actual work), but in reality I don’t think I have done nearly enough.