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How to choose a college at Oxford and Cambridge

Once you have an offer from either of these institutions, then the fun begins! Although you are guaranteed a place in a college, the business schools allow you to submit a preference. If you are not accepted into your preferred college, then you are placed into one of the colleges according to availability.

Both universities have over 30 colleges. In general, if a college was founded before the 17th century, it is considered ‘old’. This is obviously shocking for outsiders but is quite normal as both universities came into existence by the early 1200s! The older colleges are usually located close to the center of the city and have the feeling of being out of a Harry Potter movie.

I suggest that you make a decision about your preferred college based on several factors: the college’s endowment, its location, available accommodation, and social aspects.


A wealthier college may offer scholarships to incoming students. Additionally, they will have research grants or travel grants that its students can apply for. These colleges also provide a greater subsidy for meals. For instance, a meal can cost around 4 pounds at a wealthier college compared 12 pounds or more at other colleges. Attending formal hall (the three-course dinner served in your college’s dining hall) with your classmates is a big part of the MBA program and the cost of these dinners can add up.

Colleges with larger endowments will typically have a greater alumni base. This means that the networking opportunities are much stronger at colleges like Trinity in Oxford or St John’s in Cambridge, for example. Once you graduate with your MBA, you become an alumnus of the broader university, the business school, and your college. The colleges have separate alumni organizations all around world and this provides another source for networking.


Oxford Said is located outside of the town center and although the school is not a far walk from most areas of town, it is important to be strategic about where you live. If you wish to be close to Said then Worcester College might be a good option for you. It was founded in 1714 and is one of the older colleges. Green Templeton College has accommodations that are right behind Said, within a 5 minute walking distance of the school; however, their main grounds are about a 20 minute walk from Said. Brasenose College is another with accommodations very close to Said.

Cambridge Judge is more integrated with the university and is surrounded by more colleges than Said. Most of the older colleges are close to Judge with Pembroke, St. Catherine’s, and Queens as some of the closest colleges that accept MBA students.


If you are coming to business school with a partner or with your family, accommodation might be especially important for you.

In Cambridge, Wolfson, Gonville and Caius, and Churchill are several colleges that have larger apartments that can accommodate families.

In Oxford, Green Templeton College, St Edmund Hall, Jesus College offer some accommodations for couples. Castle Mill, an accommodation site run by the Graduate Accommodation Office, is another good option for couples as it is in close walking distance to Said.

Social Aspects

You can expect all colleges to have a vibrant social life. There are sports clubs, rowing teams, special interest clubs, and formal halls – core components of the Oxford and Cambridge experiences – at all of the colleges. However, some colleges are for mature students only, which may be appealing for older MBA students.

St Hugh’s College and Green Templeton College in Oxford and Hughes Hall in Cambridge admit the greatest number of MBA students. Students that become part of these colleges benefit from living close to many other MBA students. They can socialize more easily, work on projects together, and wake each other up for those early morning classes!

On the other hand, students that are admitted to colleges that only accept a few MBA students can meet students from other disciplines. During the formal dinners, there are more opportunities to speak to an engineer, a PhD student in theoretical physics or a MPhil student in music. Therefore, it depends on your personal preferences as to which type of college you would like to choose.


What sets Oriel Admissions apart from other admissions consulting companies? I provide highly a personalized service and work around your busy schedule. Your application will truly be your application, only the absolute best version that it could be. I never take a formulaic approach when guiding you.

Rona, an Oxford MBA graduate, has successfully assisted clients in applying to Said and Judge as well as other top programs both in the US and internationally. If you would like to learn more about my services and how I can help you with your applications, please contact me at for a free consultation.

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