Personal Statement - University of St Andrews (for American students)

Hello CC! I’m very interested in studying international relations at the University of St Andrews in Scotland.

I’m a bit confused about what my personal statement should look like. For UK schools, personal statements are very cover letter-y, while American application essays are more creative.

I plan on applying through the Common App, so is it OK to use the same essay I have for American schools? Since St A is on the Common App conventional wisdom would suggest yes, but I want to be sure. Are there many students who have been admitted via the Common App? Or, does it make the most sense to use the direct application and draft a new essay specifically about my academic capability? (I’m not applying to other UK schools, so the UCAS seems extraneous).

I’d love any wisdom from admitted students or their parents. Any help is appreciated.

My daughter applied using the common app and wrote a new essay for St. Andrews.


Hi @polisciguy2005 !!

Yes, the CommonApp is just a way for you to turn in your application, for any school that utilizes CommonApp, there is no preference or bias of application fashion one over the other. :slight_smile: Everyone’s application will be reviewed all with the same energy and fashion no matter which application portal they use (Commonapp, Coalition, School’s own portal)

I personally enjoy using CommonApp more because the website is very organized and I don’t have to visit many links, haha AND it gives you a clear checklist/overview supplemental needed.

Do you mind explaining what you mean by using the same essay for American schools, I may have misunderstood but I also don’t want to give you the wrong answer!

Your CommonApp Personal Statement should be like a formal essay that captures the question, but kind of imagine it as a coffee conversation. It should be reflective, personal, and almost something that captures the essence of YOU! And yes, it can be creative!

I hope this helps :slight_smile:

University of St Andews is in Scotland, and most applicants will apply via UCAS, the UK application portal. In the UK the essay (there is only one) is where you “… articulate why you’d like to study a particular course or subject, and what skills and experience you possess that show your passion for your chosen field.”. The focus is academic/vocational, not personal.

The question is interesting because StA’s actively recruits Americans, and amongst UK unis is likely the most accepting of American-style application elements.

As I read the question, the OP is weighing whether not writing a more UK-style essay for StAs would affect the likelihood of an offer. IMO, if you are seriously interested, you make the effort of writing a separate essay. It should be a pretty easy essay to write, as you are writing about what what you want to study. It also gives you an opportunity to show some maturity of thought, and that you see more than international + swishy red robes when you look at StAs! FWIW, IR is usually one of the most over-subscribed courses at StAs.


I actually spoke to my regional St A rep a few days ago about this topic exactly and he gave me some wisdom which I’ll share here for any other Americans applying:

When applying through the common app, the professors reading your application usually skip over the personal statement since they don’t care as those essays are typically non academic in nature. They look at the supplemental questions about St A and your subjects, and make their decision using those. He advised me to not write a new common app essay for St A.

I’m taking his word for it and will now focus on just crafting good supplements! Thanks for all of your help!