How To Choose Durham College

How To Choose Durham College In 2024

Applying to Durham Univeristy? Choosing the right college is a real challenge, especially when you have so many options to choose from. 

With each college having its unique identity, it’s important to consider several factors when deciding which one is the best fit for you. 

In this guide, I’ll explore some of the things you should keep in mind when choosing a Durham college, such as accommodation, size of the college, location, and whether to opt for catered or self-catered accommodation.

Learn how to choose Durham College in 2024 with our tips to make an informed decision.

Choosing a Durham College

Don’t worry if you’re feeling overwhelmed by the number of Durham college options available. Each college has its own unique identity, but rest assured that you will make friends regardless of which one you choose.

Choosing the best Durham College is not an easy task, and should be properly done. I’ll explain how I approached the college selection process and highlight some of the differences between colleges to make it easier for you to decide which one is the best fit for you, whether you plan to live on or off campus.

How do I choose a college at Durham University?

I’ve designed an infographic to assist you with college selection. However, please note that this is just the beginning, and I’ll be providing more detailed information on your options, so keep reading.

Step by step guide on choosing the right college at Durham University
Choosing the right Durham College in 2024

Things to consider when choosing Durham College

Catered vs self-catered at College

When deciding on a Durham college, the first consideration is whether you prefer a catered or self-catered lifestyle. This decision will significantly impact your overall college experience, so it’s important to choose wisely.

I opted for a catered college as I didn’t want to cook, and I felt it would be the most social option. Looking back, I’m very happy with my choice. Meal times were a great opportunity to socialise with friends beyond my immediate living space. Eating in the dining hall allowed me to bump into people from different corridors and blocks, which expanded my social circle. 

If you’re struggling to decide between catered and self-catered accommodation, consider the social benefits of shared meals, which are something I miss now that I live out of college.

All the colleges I chose were catered, and I ultimately picked St. John’s as my top choice because they served dessert at lunch, which I thought was a unique and interesting feature. However, when I learned that I wouldn’t be assigned to St. John’s, I was still thrilled to be placed in Grey College.

On the other hand, self-catering allows you to choose your meals and cater to your preferences and budget. This option is ideal if you prefer not to adhere to college-structured mealtimes or have specific dietary requirements. 

However, if you enjoy the social aspect of shared meals, self-catering might not be the best fit for you. Ultimately, your choice of catered or self-catered accommodation will depend on your personal preferences, budget and lifestyle.

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When choosing Durham college, it’s essential to consider its location. If you prefer to live in the city centre, a “Bailey College” like St Chad’s may be more convenient for you as it’s near shops and clubs. 

On the other hand, “Hill Colleges” such as St Mary’s, Grey, and South are a bit further from the city centre but are close to the main campus, which is home to the library and teaching centres.

When it comes to studying, each college offers a mix of subjects and students from different disciplines, so you’ll have the opportunity to meet a diverse group of people. 

Keep in mind that you may not necessarily be taught in your department building in your first year, so it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the university map to see which colleges are closest to your lecture buildings.

It’s worth noting that the college you choose doesn’t necessarily dictate your location since some colleges have multiple sites. 

For instance, St John’s College has two sites, one in the city centre and another in the leafy suburbs. Hild Bede College may seem far from the other colleges, but it’s located in a popular area for student housing, so even if you move out of college in your later years, you’ll still have good access to its facilities.

It’s important to research and consider all your options when choosing a college at Durham University. Each college has its own unique identity, and you’ll find friends regardless of which one you belong to.

Size of a college

Choosing between small or large colleges depends on your personal preference. 

Small colleges offer a more intimate setting where you can get to know most, if not all, of your peers. You may find that you have a closer-knit community and a stronger sense of belonging. On the other hand, larger colleges offer a more diverse group of people, giving you more variety in terms of the faces you’ll see around campus.

I prefer being in a medium-sized college where I have a mix of both worlds. I have a close group of friends, but I also get to see many familiar faces around campus while still having the opportunity to meet new people. It’s important to consider your social preferences and decide which college size is best for you.


If you’re considering living in college, one of your top priorities is finding suitable accommodation that meets your needs. The good news is that there’s plenty of variety in Durham, with each college offering its unique style and amenities.

One of the standout features of Durham’s college accommodation is the historic buildings they are often located in, with many colleges occupying stunning heritage sites. This can give you a sense of pride in the place you call home and make it a unique experience.

In terms of facilities, each college has its own set of bedrooms, kitchens, bathrooms, and dining rooms. 

The quality and style of these facilities may vary depending on the college you choose. Some colleges have en-suite bathrooms, while others have shared facilities. Some have large kitchens for self-catered students, while others provide more basic facilities. 

It’s important to consider what’s important to you and research each college’s accommodation options before making your decision.

Additionally, some colleges offer unique features, such as self-contained flats or annexes, which are perfect for those who value their privacy. Others have a mix of modern and traditional buildings, providing a range of accommodation options for students.

Choosing the right accommodation for you is essential in creating a comfortable and enjoyable experience while studying at Durham University.

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Accommodation is one of the top concerns for many incoming students. Room sharing is a topic that may excite some and repel others

Different colleges in Durham have varying policies when it comes to room sharing. Some colleges, such as Grey, allow students to share for one term before being moved to a single room. Other colleges require students to share a room for the entire academic year.

I was hesitant when I found out I would have to share a room as I did not choose to share initially. However, Grey matched me with a roommate who shared many of my interests. 

Before moving to university, Grey sent out personality forms to fill out that included information on whether you were noisy, quiet, or a night owl, among other things. Sharing a room allowed me to have someone to do everything with, from attending events, meals, or parties. It made me feel less homesick and I had a positive experience.

Green Areas

I want to highlight parts of Durham that sets it apart from other universities and that I find particularly appealing: the abundance of green spaces

Durham is known for its beautiful landscapes, and this connection to nature is something that drew me to this university. 

Whether you live on or off campus, your college is an essential part of your Durham experience, and having access to outdoor spaces where you can relax and unwind is fantastic. 

If you end up in a student house without any outdoor space, it’s great to know that your college grounds are available for you to enjoy. There’s nothing quite like taking a walk around the gardens or sitting outside in the fresh air, surrounded by lush greenery. 

I think this aspect of Durham is unique and adds to the overall appeal of studying here.

Funding opportunities 

As a current Durham University student, I am constantly amazed by the range of funding opportunities available to students from various colleges and departments. 

It’s no secret that university life can be expensive, and that’s why I think it’s important for everyone to know about the funding options that are available to them.

If you’re interested in Catholic theology or Catholic studies, the Centre for Catholic Studies offers a variety of scholarships. Collingwood College also provides the Sports Road Scholarship for athletes.

If you’re studying biosciences, the Department of Biosciences has funding available for both undergraduate and postgraduate students. Similarly, the Department of Chemistry offers postgraduate funding for its students.

For a woman studying in the Department of Computer Science, you may be eligible for the AMI Scholarships for Women in Technology. Postgraduate and undergraduate funding is also available for students in the department.

Students studying earth sciences, the Department of Earth Sciences has postgraduate funding available. In the Department of Geography, there’s funding available for doctoral students.

The Department of History offers the Ralph Whitell Waggett Bursary and Thebes History Scholarship to its students. 

Students in the Department of Mathematical Sciences can apply for postgraduate funding and the Global Masters Scholarship is available to students in Trevelyan College/Department of Mathematical Sciences.

The Department of Modern Languages and Cultures has several scholarships available, including the Barker Doctoral Scholarship in Modern European Languages, the Helen Sharp Undergraduate Scholarship for Modern Languages, and the Radhakishin Scholarship.

There are many funding and bursary opportunities at Durham university and colleges. Research well and find the best funding options for you. 

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Facilities and community

When choosing Durham college, it is common to have questions about which one is the best for certain activities such as sports, theatre, social spaces, or even aesthetics. 

However, it is important to avoid making decisions based on stereotypes or subjective opinions. Instead, it is best to research each college’s facilities, societies, and sports teams by checking their website, and social media pages, or by contacting the college directly.

Supportive and friendly community is important consideration when choosing a college
Photo credits: Durham university

When I was choosing my college, I was interested in extracurricular activities like sports and music, so I looked for colleges that had suitable facilities for these interests. 

If your college doesn’t offer what you’re looking for, don’t worry, the Students Union has plenty of groups that members from any college can join.

It’s always possible to set up your society, either within or outside of college, to accommodate your changing interests.

What if want to live out of college

Living outside of university doesn’t mean you can’t be part of the college community. 

It is crucial to select a college that aligns with your needs and interests. For instance, if you like participating in college sports or attending formals and balls, you should consider a college that offers such events. 

However, keep in mind that significant social events such as these will differ in frequency and formality depending on the college. Therefore, you should browse through the college’s social media pages to learn more about their events and see if they suit your preferences.

Final Thoughts

Choosing Durham college is a crucial decision that will significantly impact your university experience. 

You need to consider various factors, such as your preference for a catered or self-catered lifestyle, the location of the college, the size of the college, and the accommodation facilities.

Each college has its unique identity, so it’s essential to research and consider all your options before making a decision. 

Remember that regardless of which college you choose, you will make friends and find a community that will support you throughout your university journey.

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