What's the University of Bristol like?

Hi, I’m a US applicant considering applying to the University of Bristol for an undergraduate degree in psychology. I’m trying to find out whether Bristol’s right for me, but it’s hard to glean much information from the promotional videos and glossy website. What is studying at Bristol really like? What are the students like? What is the psychology program like?

You have threads for so many unis! these comments relate to all of them:

  1. all will have an “alternative prospectus” that is student created- you get a different view there.

  2. the uni experience is not as varied in the UK as the US, and they don’t look for “fit” in their student body. Most of the ones you list are generally comparable to a state flagship college in the US, except that there is no equivalent to Big 10 sports and there is no greek life. The one that is different in your group is Durham, which is collegiate (like Oxford & Cambridge, you belong to a specific college within the university).

  3. there is a uk website called the student room (all one word). You will need to be more specific in your questions. Do you know what you are looking for?

  4. the coursework for every year of university is online, so you can see what the structure is, and what the required modules are at Bristol v Durham v Warwick. That is the biggest differentiator.

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It’s like being in grad school for one subject.
All courses are decided ahead of time for you and all of them deal with what you want to specialize in.
To give you an idea of the difficulty, a 40% is a pass.
You’ll be expected to have AP Bio and/or AP chem with a 5, plus Ap Calc and/or stats (“higher numeracy requirement”). There’s a standard English requirement, so AP English may be good to have but not required.
Bristol itself is a really cool city.
There are 3 courses (majors) and this is the one most likely to be a good fit for a US applicant because it includes some team work in addition to lectures and is a bit interdisciplinary.

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Thanks for the info! I’ve looked at the course structure and required modules for almost all the unis I’m considering, but I haven’t thought to check out studentroom or the alternative perspectuses yet. I guess I better get going :).

Thank you, I’ll take that into consideration!

I’m British and attended St Andrews back in the day. My sister attended Durham.

St Andrews - 4 years, slightly more choice of classes, lots of Americans, lots of traditions, much smaller uni and tiny town. Psych is highly rated. Just came top of Times best unis. Access can be difficult as even the train station is a bus ride away… buses to Dundee (20 mins) and Edinburgh (60 mins+) though. Lots of outdoor stuff.

Bristol - in the city, which is a super progressive city with 2 unis. Good access to Europe via airport and rest of Britain by train, plus easier to get to south west for surfing and outdoors stuff. Uni is popular with wealthy, educated, private school kids, and academics will be hard.

York - a campus uni, meaning the campus is outside the city, so newer buildings. After 1st year you’ll live in York itself and have to commute to the campus. Used to be well known for English and Law. 2 hrs to London by train. Nearby Leeds is a vibrant college city too.

Warwick - another campus uni, but this time the campus is nearer the towns of Leamington Spa (hardly a college town) and Coventry, than it is nearer to Warwick. Well known for Finance. Popular with private schools.

Durham - you are based in a college (similar to a dorm) even if you only live there for one year so strong community feel. Like St Andrews and Bristol, uni is merged into the town. VERY private school orientated, despite attempts like St As to branch out. Very good for psych. Newcastle (big college city) is 20 mins away by train.

Bath - campus uni, on a hill outside the city. Students all live in student area called Oldfield Park in Bath after year one. Bath is a great city, small and 15 mins to Bristol and 75 mins to London. Well known for business. Home (alongside Loughborough and Edinburgh) for some of GB’s elite athlete squads (esp swimming).

For all - housing will be off campus after year one, and except with St As where the town is fairly small, expect a bus ride to campus. Students at all of these will trend towards middle class, private or highly performing state/public school. Lots of societies and club sports. LOTS of drinking.

Do you want larger or smaller? Being in a city, or on a campus? Where in the country - Scotland, SW England etc? There will be many more Americans at St Andrews than the others… do you want that comfort?

There will be no hand holding at any of them, and you’ll be expected to be an adult from the start.

I would visit in November when it is cold and dark - that will give you a good idea of what to expect weather wise!


Wow, thank you! That’s very helpful.