How Hard Is It For Americans To Get Into Elite British Schools?

I am an international (American) student applying specifically to King’s College London, University College London, and the University of St. Andrews. However, I have heard that American students usually have an easier time getting an offer from these schools because they pay more tuition, and therefore, is less selective. These schools mainly require a 5 on AP test, but would they admit me if I submit 3s or 4s? Has anyone reading this gotten into these schools as an American? How hard is it?

If a UK university says on their website they require a 5 on an AP test from American applicants, that’s what they require to admit you. I am honestly at a loss why you would think they really require only a 3 or 4 but won’t tell you about it.


It is “easier” for Americans to get in because all you need to do is meet the stated requirements (and have a reasonable LoR & PS) for most- not all- UK schools.

If you are applying to a course that wants 3 5’s on APs, then you need the three 5’s. If you are applying for English, and you have 5’s in Lang, Lit and (say) US History, but a 3 in Calc AB and a 4 in Bio, you will be fine: what they care about is your strength in the subject you are applying to study. On the other hand, if you are applying for English and you have a 4 in Lang and Lit and a 3 in (say) USHx, you won’t get an offer.

And: if you are applying for English (or Bio or whatever) in the UK, and you can’t get a 5 in the relevant AP that is a red flag that the UK might not be the place for you: big exams are the main form of assessment in the UK.


Except maybe for holistic-to-Americans St. A’s.

For KCL, you likely just need to meet whatever minimum requirements they set for their course.

For UCL, that may not be enough.

But yes, as your marks will to a great extent be determined by major tests at the end of the year, you’d want to be able to do well in the AP(s) in the subjects(s) you will study (read) for your own sake. Failing out of a British uni likely isn’t a path you want to go down, and while there is a bit of grade inflation in the UK now (nowhere as pervasive as in the US . . . yet), they still feel no compunction about failing out students who don’t do well enough on the exams.


For the universities you are targeting, not a chance with 3s and 4s!

Easier time getting an offer” just means better odds than locals, not easier grades.

The more popular the university is in the US, the lower your odds are to get an offer, even if you meet the university’s minimum grades.

And your 3 target universities are all part of the Top 8 most popular UK universities in the US. This means that many US students will be applying to them.

The demand and supply dynamics will play a significant part in your odds of getting in. So odds of getting an offer in any of the 3, even if you meet minimum requirements, will be much lower than other UK universities.

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This - 100%. My son is a finalist at Oxford. The exams that he took his first two years (pre-Covid - the traditional closed book, get dressed in sub fusc and head to the exam schools exams) were far beyond what he experienced with APs or other US HS testing. And since the entire year’s academic grading is usually based on the result of that one exam, and it adds up to a lot of pressure.


FWIW King’s College London and City University London (might include University College London?) are both listed on the NACAC list of schools still accepting applications this year. I don’t know if that’s an annual occurrence because their application cycle is different than the US or because Covid has affected the number of applications this year so it’s a one-off.

For them, “5s on AP tests” IS being “less selective for Americans”.
It’s the absolute basic minimum you need to make it in any “course” (where a 70% is a pretty decent grade).

A 3 on an AP is roughly what would be expected for their applicants in the 10th grade. A much higher level of achievement is expected for university entrance. Remember you’d start straight into your major and are expected to have all the pre-reqs already completed.

Yep, if you study (read) one subject at a good English uni, in the 3 years you are there, you’ll cover as much material as a “regular”* American major + a masters.
At a Scottish uni, the same + an extra year’s worth of classes where you may take other stuff over 4 years.

That’s why virtually all the English unis will take Americans with a high enough GPA in their first year of college/CC.

BTW, I’ve looked at some of the AP material, and in some subjects, they’re “college level” in the sense that they are about what you would expect at a CC. A 3 in some APs would be equivalent to just passing an intro CC class.

  • “Regular” major meaning a non-preprofessional majors (engineering majors, etc.)

OP-- there are lots more quality U’s than the one’s you’ve listed. Check those out- there isn’t a lot of wiggle room from the stated requirements. (It’s not like a US university “suggesting” four years of a foreign language, where if you’ve progressed through the highest level your HS offers you’ll be ok).

What is St. Andrews like? Can you get in without test scores and ACT/SAT scores?

FWIW my D was accepted to St. Andrews without AP scores because her school doesn’t offer them, but she did have an ACT.

MXCol- why not start at the beginning- tell us what your stats ARE, what you hope to accomplish by studying in the UK, what academic path you’d like to take?

There are plenty of test optional colleges in the US!!!


St Andrew’s also considers GPA & ECs much more than any other UK uni.

Note that undergrad in England is more like junior grad school so you really should be sure what you want to study (a little more flexibility in Scottish unis but not a lot more).

An issue is that if the student isn’t used to end-of-year, high-stakes exams like IB or AP exams, then the UK format is likely to be a disaster. And if the student cannot easily get 5’s in the chosen subject, then the “course” will be too difficult.
In some subjects, a 5 in an AP is fine, but in others… it’s not. Scottish Unis are a bit better since the 1st year allows for a switch at the end of the year and some sequences can follow AP well (where Scottish Highers are expected rather than Advanced Highers). English Unis where A-Levels are the expected pre-req would be a problem since A-Levels are more advanced than APs.

Read this, decide on the subject you want to study and come back to us!