At Balliol, all students are guaranteed accommodation for the first and final years of their course - whether that be in the main accommodation on-site or at the college-owned accommodation at Jowett Walk - and most have the option of living in college-owned property in their second year. Students on a three-year course generally spend their first and final years in a room on-site, while second-years can choose whether to live in Jowett or in privately-rented student accommodation.
In first year, the college rooms are randomly allocated according to the price-band preferences you send to college in the summer before you come to Oxford. Each room is on a “staircase,” and all have basic facilities like a desk, a sink, and a place to store your clothes. Most first-years won’t have an en-suite, but there are showers and toilets on all the staircases. The main first-year staircases are staircases 15, 20, and 22. Other staircases are also used, but even if you’re not on a first-year staircase don’t worry – people aren’t just friends with the people on their staircases, and you won’t feel left out!
In second-year you have the choice of either staying at the college-owned accommodation at Jowett Walk or choosing to rent a private student house. The rooms at Jowett are all en-suite, and are divided into flats that share a kitchen. Jowett is a seven-minute walk from college and overlooks the college sports field.
If you choose to “live out” then the Drs WHO (the JCR's welfare and housing officers) will give you lots of advice on the best places to live and how to deal with landlords and letting agencies, not to mention any other help you feel you need. You have to choose whether to live in Jowett or to live out at the end of Michaelmas term of your first year - this may seem daunting but everyone’s in the same boat, and the Drs WHO are always on-hand to help out.
The main areas for students to live out are Cowley Road, Iffley Road, Abingdon Road, and Jericho. There are advantages and disadvantages to every area (Cowley Road is generally cheaper but more noisy, for example) but it’s easy to find a nice house no matter what your budget or preferences. People generally start looking at houses in the last couple of weeks of Michaelmas, and most have signed their contracts by the middle of Hilary term. It all seems very overwhelming, but it’s lot less intimidating than it sounds and we're here to help every step of the way!
In third-year you’ll move back into college, and the good news is you can choose your own room! This is done in Hilary term of your second-year: the DRs WHO arrange a random ballot, and you’ll then pick your room based on your position in the ballot. If you’re at the top of the ballot then you’ll have your pick of all the rooms in college, but even if you’re not near the top you’ll still be able to choose a really nice room.
At Balliol not all staircases have kitchenettes, and most people choose to eat either in Hall or at Pantry. If you have any special requirements (for example if you need a carer to live with you at college) then College will ensure that you are put in a suitable room. The College owns several rooms that are specially adapted for disabled students, with disabled showers. There is one on the main site, one in the Graduate Centre at Holywell Manor, and three in our newest buildings at Jowett Walk. Balliol also has a generous bursary program, and the College is committed to ensuring that no-one will have to leave because of a lack of funds.