Frequently Asked Questions

Below are some common questions about:

 Choosing a College

What is a College, and how does it differ from a department?

Oxford is a collegiate university. This means that, although it is a large, world-class university, each student is part of a small, supportive college community. At Oxford University everyone, from professors to students, belongs to a college. There are over 30 colleges located across the city of Oxford which admit undergraduates, each with between about 250 and 450 students studying a whole range of courses. Your college is where you live, eat, work, and receive the core of your teaching in regular tutorials. You also belong to your subject’s department. Here you meet students on your course from other colleges in lectures, classes, or laboratory work; and it is your department which decides on the content of degree courses, and sets and marks the end of year examinations. The colleges, departments, Bodleian libraries and museums make up the University of Oxford.

Do individual colleges specialise in particular subjects?

Not all colleges admit for all courses, however, this does not mean any one college is a specialist in a given subject. 

Do I have to choose a college?

You can’t choose a college, though you can express a preference by entering a college campus code on your UCAS application.  It’s quite likely that your application will be passed to another college at some point in the process to make sure that the spread of good applicants per college is fair. You don’t have to express a college preference; instead you can make an open application, which about 20% of candidates do each year. You’ll then be allocated by computer to a college.

How do I choose a college?

Colleges have more in common than they have differences and, whichever college you go to, your course will be the same because the course content is set by the subject department . When choosing a college you may like to consider what facilities it has, such as a gym or music practice rooms, as well as the location, for example, would you like to be near the river, near the University Sports Complex, or based away from the busy high street.

If I receive an offer, will it definitely be from the college I applied to?

If you do choose to specify a college preference in your application, other colleges may also interview you, and any of them may offer you a place. 

Do all colleges have the same entrance requirements?

All colleges follow the same admissions process, and use the same selection criteria and entrance requirements as outlined on the University website

Does college choice affect my chances of getting a place?

Oxford has systems in place to ensure the best candidates have the best possible chance of obtaining a place. This is why it is likely that your application will be passed to another college at some point in the process.


Will my application be more competitive if I do 4 A levels instead of 3 A levels?

Three A-levels is sufficient to make a competitive application, and offers will normally only be made for three A-levels regardless of how many you are taking; though the offer may specify in which three subjects we want the required grades. If you choose to take more than three A-levels, this will certainly demonstrate an ability to handle the workload we place on Oxford students. However, be sure that you have plenty of time to read around your chosen subject beyond your school or college work. Please also note that 4 A levels will not make up for a shortfall in the minimum entry requirements, for example, acheiving AABB instead of AAA would not be adequate to gain a place. Therefore, you should ensure that you are able to maintain the grades if you choose to undertake the additional demands of studying a fouth subject. 

What subjects should I choose to do at A level?

In order to be sufficiently prepared for the academic demands of our courses, we often either require, or strongly recommend, particular subjects to be studied at A-level or equivalent. You can see a full list of the subject requirements on the  website. Providing any subject requirements have been met, we recommend that students take those subjects which they enjoy the most, and where they are most likely to achieve top grades. However, the selection criteria for Oxford University are entirely academic, and studying here involves a great deal of independent study: reading and preparing for essays and other academic work. So it is a good idea for you to choose subjects that will prepare you for the demands of study at Oxford, and demonstrate to the tutors that you are prepared for academic life here.

Does Oxford prefer A levels to the IB?

A-levels and the International Baccalaureate are both eligible qualifications for entry to our undergraduate degrees. We do not view either of these qualifications as ‘better’ than the other, since both are eligible for entry, and all applications are considered very carefully on their individual merits.

What international qualifications do you accept?

We have demanding entry requirements but we accept school-leaving qualifications from many different countries; a full list of qualifications can be found on the University website.  If the qualifications in your country are not sufficient to make a competitive application then you may wish to consider taking A-levels or the IB or American SATs.

 The Admissions Process

Do I have to register for an admissions test?

Many of our courses require all candidates to take an admissions test. Registration for these tests is not automatic, and your school should assist in registering you. These tests are designed to show us how you think: how you analyse and solve difficult questions. You can see whether your chosen course has a written test, more details about the test, and also download past papers, on the University's website. It’s a good idea to familiarise yourself with the format of the test, and try to do some practice.

Can I apply for deferred entry?

The College is generally happy to consider applications from students who wish to defer entry for a year, however, we do not consider deferred entry for Medicine. If you apply for deferred entry, you are asking the tutors to compare you with an as-yet-unknown future cohort, and so you will need to be exceptionally competitive. If you choose to wait and apply for direct entry, then you will need to be especially careful to make sure that you keep up your academic interests and reading.

Other than A levels (or equivalent) what else is the most important factor in an application?

There is no single 'winning' factor because all applications are assessed holistically. All applicants are expected to have or be predicted to achieve the minimun entrance requirements for their chosen course, but exam results are only a part of the information we use to build a picture of your academic ability and potential, so even the best possible grades won’t guarantee you a place. The other things that we consider are admissions tests, written work, teacher reference, personal statement and past examination results such as GCSEs. All of these elements are gathered, including the information from the interviews if shortlisted, and then they are assessed together as a whole application.

Can I change course if I am offered a place?

Each course has its own admissions process, requirements and quota of places, therefore, it is not normal procedure to change course once you have been offered a place. 

When are the interviews?

The interviews take place during the first two weeks of December. An initial timetable can be found on the University website

Will my GCSEs be taken into account?

We consider GCSE grades, but we try and look at these in the context of your school. This means that your grades should show that you have done particularly well when compared to others in your school. If there’s a good reason why you didn’t get top grades (e.g. serious illness, difficult family circumstances, or disruption at school), we can also take that into account when considering your application. Ideally your teachers should let us know about anything like this via the reference they write for you as part of your UCAS application.

Can I transfer from another University?

Oxford University does not accept transfer students. If you wish to follow an undergraduate course here, then you need to apply to start the course from the beginning. 

If I am unsuccessful, can I reapply?

Every application to Oxford is treated on its own merits, without regard to any previous applications, so there is no inherent disadvantage in having applied before. If you would like to apply again, you are most welcome to do so, although you may like to apply to a different college. We do first recommend that you ask for feedback from the college which dealt with your application last year and consider the reasons why you were not successful.

 St Hilda’s College

What courses does St Hilda’s offer?

Visit our subject and courses page for full details. 

How many students does St Hilda’s admit each year?

Each year St Hilda's admits roughtly 120 new undergraduates. The College also admits approximately 80 new postgraduates each year too. 

What accommodation does the College offer?

Currently the College offers accommodation to all first year undergraduates, and to all finalists if they wish to live in College accommodation. See our accommodation page for further information. 

What food does the College offer; am I able to cook my own food?

The College offers a range of food at subsidised prices. Breakfast, lunch and dinner is available in the Dining Hall. Most accommodation comes with a shared kitchen, where students can also prepare some of their own food. 

Can I visit the College?

We encourage potential applicants to visit us on one of our Open Days. These days provide a great opportunity for you to meet our current students and our Tutor for Admissions, as well as have a guided tour of the College. If you are unable to attend one of these days we will do our best to arrange a visit at another time if possible. 


Is Oxford a more expensive place to study?

Oxford is no more expensive than many other universities. Our tuition fees are in line with other top universities. In addition to subsidised accommodation and food, the University and colleges have fantastic inexpensive sporting and social facilities, and the extraordinary library provision means that you shouldn’t need to spend money on books. Further information on estimated living costs, fees and funding can be found on the University website.