A bop is a ‘Big Open Party’, a fancy dress party organised by your JCR for your college. Bops normally happen 2 or 3 times a term. Some themes are more conventional (Halloween, Christmas, the 60s, etc.), whilst others are a bit more… out there (like Boulangerie vs Lingerie). Some people will disregard the theme entirely, but others will go all out. As such, it’s almost impossible to be under or overdressed! But don’t worry about breaking the bank for an outfit – part of the charm of bops are the haphazardly DIYed costumes.

Bops often take place in college bars, but sometimes colleges will hire out the smaller clubs in the city. Occasionally, colleges will hold bops together, and all these contribute to the minimal entry fee, making bops both fun and a cheap night out.


Balls are one of the most famous Oxford events and an excuse to live out your fairytale dreams. Balls usually last from the evening into the small hours of the morning, with live music, different food stalls, and sometimes different activities.

Most colleges hold balls biannually in Trinity, but some societies hold them throughout the year: examples include the annual RAG Ball. There are also the more prestigious Commemoration balls (usually every three years), which can be in the region of £200 for a ticket. Whilst balls can be expensive, many colleges now have discounts for students from lower-income backgrounds.

Most balls are black tie: either a nice suit with a bowtie or long dresses will be appropriate. Fancier balls, like Commemoration balls, can be white tie, which means a black tailcoat, white waistcoat, and a white bow tie or fancier evening gowns. Most people will rent a suit or dress for a white tie event, so you don’t need to break the bank for an outfit you’ll wear once!

Formal Hall

Formal Hall is essentially a three-course meal taking place in your college’s fancy hall. Most formals begin with students standing up and remaining silent whilst Latin grace is said. The formal is a sit down, served meal.

Almost every college requires students to wear sub fusc at formals, but some colleges will let you wear casual clothes underneath. It definitely depends on college, so it’s worth asking around! Sometimes, colleges will have themed formals, and often these are an occasion to dress up a bit more.

It’s worth going around colleges and seeing what they have to offer at formals; every college has its own experience and trying these out can be fun! You can ask a friend to invite you, or buy a ticket for Formal Hall Surfing from Oxford Raise and Give, where your money goes to a good cause.


Matriculation is the first ‘proper’ Oxford event you will go to. Held on the Saturday of 1st Week, this event officially enrols you as a student at the University of Oxford.

Normally, everyone will be dressed in full sub fusc, and your college will take a group photo for everyone matriculating that year. You will all head to the Sheldonian Theatre on Broad Street, where you’ll hear a short speech in Latin. Don’t worry — you don’t need to understand this! Afterwards, your college will probably organise an event for you all to get together and celebrate.


Trashing occurs to celebrate the end of exams. You’ve worked hard all year, have sat through gruelling papers, and are leaving Exam Schools (or your laptop) for the final time. Next on the list? To get covered in shaving cream, glitter, prosecco, confetti, and whatever your friends will throw at you!

Although trashing is technically banned, many students still find a way to do it. One of the biggest concerns regarding trashing is its environmental impact. To counter this, many colleges sell Eco-Trash trashing kits, and students are encouraged to clean up the mess made.

Image credit: Sheng P. via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).

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