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Getting into Scottish schools? (St. Andrews, Edinburgh)

fuzzyblanketfuzzyblanket 15 replies17 threads Junior Member
edited July 2014 in United Kingdom
Hi, so I'm a rising high school senior
I'm in the midst of college searching and have become increasingly interested in Scottish schools.
St. Andrews I think is the more difficult one, acceptance similar to a US ivy league whereas Edinburgh is a little under 40% yeah? Most likely I would lean towards Edinburgh which would be more within my GPA/SAT range.

Just wondering if anyone has any experience or insight on applying/acceptance/acclimation to either St. Andrews or Edinburgh?

A couple questions I can think of off hand are:
-How do you declare your major? From the very beginning you apply to the focus/major you want? (meaning, in the US you have a year or two to test the waters, in the UK you gear yourself to whatever from application and then on?)
-In the States your GPA and SAT scores are really- is it mostly the same over there or do they place more importance on other things?
-Does college life differ that differently from that of US schools?
-Do you think visiting is important? Or will pictures suffice?
-What fields/majors are they best known for? (like, NYU has a great film program, Harvard is assoc. with law, etc.)

Thanks so much!!
edited July 2014
25 replies
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Replies to: Getting into Scottish schools? (St. Andrews, Edinburgh)

  • fogcityfogcity 3171 replies57 threads Senior Member
    edited July 2014
    St. Andrews is no where as competitive as one of the Ivies or equivalent. They actively recruit US students. They had a booth last year in a Northern California college fair.

    Definitely visit. Do so in mid winter. The weather is not for everyone.
    edited July 2014
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  • fuzzyblanketfuzzyblanket 15 replies17 threads Junior Member
    Really? Oh! I looked online and saw 10% acceptance rate-perhaps that's for UK students
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  • LAMunivLAMuniv 1433 replies71 threads Senior Member
    edited July 2014
    EDIT: Disclaimer: I am not a student at either of these universities, but I am looking at both of them for postgrad study, so I've done a bit of research.

    Unlike English unis, which I've heard are much more focused, the Scottish uni system is much more similar to the system in the US - in fact, the liberal arts college system in the US was partially based on the Scottish system of education. You have your first two years to study a broad range of subject, and your second two years to focus on a single subject.

    I'm not sure how they weight certain factors int he process, but be aware that British unis typically have minimum requirements for GPA/test scores, unlike in the US. They also really look at your AP scores/SAT subject scores, unlike universities in the US, which hardly even consider AP exams and hardly ever require SAT subject tests.

    While I usually tell people not to look at rankings, seeing where these colleges rank in certain subjects versus others can give you a sense of what their strengths are. You can check this site http://www.university-list.net/uk/rank/univ-12001.htm for some programme-specific rankings.

    Also, this Tumblr (http://theuniguide.****/) is pretty helpful for answering questions about Edinburgh and UCAS/applying to British unis in general.

    If it's possible for you, I would HIGHLY recommend visiting. I would recommend that for any colleges, American or foreign. I think it's important to get a feel for the campus and student body - there have been many times when I thought I would love a college, and after visiting I removed it from my list because I just didn't feel that I "fit in." I haven't visited the colleges themselves, but I've spent time in both Edinburgh and St. Andrews (the city and town) and both are wonderful... they definitely have different feels, but I loved them both. I was so surprised to find that I loved Edinburgh as I am from a small farming town and generally hate cities. The history of both towns is fascinating, and I would highly recommend spending some time in both if you end up visiting the schools :)

    I don't know if this is true, but I've read that both schools - especially St. Andrews - have much higher acceptance rates for international students and even specifically recruit international students, largely due to the fact that you will not be getting a lot of financial aid as an international applicant, so your tuition is a lot of what funds the school. I read someone on another thread claiming that, at least for Edinburgh, if you meet the minimum standards, then you're in.

    I know I'm not an authority on these schools by any means, but I hope I've helped a bit :)
    edited July 2014
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  • collegemom3717collegemom3717 8376 replies91 threads Senior Member

    St. Andrews I think is the more difficult one, acceptance similar to a US ivy league whereas Edinburgh is a little under 40% yeah?

    -In the States your GPA and SAT scores are really- is it mostly the same over there or do they place more importance on other things?

    As others have said- that's not correct. Most of the UK unis look only at standardized test results - SAT plus SAT subject tests and APs in subjects relevant to the subject that you want to study. However, St As is nearly American- you can apply via UCAS and they take GPA into account (but nothing startling- nowhere near Ivy levels).ECs are largely irrelevant, except to the extent that they demonstrate an interest in / ability for the subject that you want to study

    If you have the stated requirements for the university *and* the subject that you are applying to study, and you don't make a total mess of your personal statement and recommendation you are very likely to get an offer. Edinburgh won't be interested in your GPA- St Andrews is an exception.


    -How do you declare your major? From the very beginning you apply to the focus/major you want? (meaning, in the US you have a year or two to test the waters, in the UK you gear yourself to whatever from application and then on?)

    It is true that the Scottish unis are broader than UK unis, but they are not as open as a US university. You apply to a subject (or set of subjects), and you study in that 'family' of subjects for your whole course. For example, if you want to study english literature, the courses you would study each year are: http://www.ed.ac.uk/schools-departments/literatures-languages-cultures/english-literature/undergraduate/prospective/course-information

    You will find the same information for each course offered, at each university- it is worth taking the time to look at the course description carefully. Even though it is broader than England, the point is that you are supposed to love the subject that you are applying to study. If you apply through UCAS, the "personal statement" (PS) is the essay that you will write about why you want to study that subject and why you are a good candidate for the course.



    -Does college life differ that differently from that of US schools?

    Yes and no. It's still largely a group of 18-21 year olds doing school, but:

    1. You will be able to drink legally. This is a very relevant difference.
    2. UK universities do much less hand-holding than US universities. You will be expected to be resourceful and figure a lot out on your own. The upside is that the students watch out for each other more.
    3. Typically, your results are based on exams at the end of the year, and your overall degree is based on your final year marks. That puts a pressure on exams that is greater than most US students have.
    4. No Greek system.
    5. Depending on the university, student housing is less of a thing- that is, more student live out than at a typical US LAC. St Andrews would be the closest to the US- you choose from various housing units, with various numbers of meals available. Edinburgh has dorms, but (especially after 1st year) a huge number of people live out.


    -Do you think visiting is important? Or will pictures suffice?

    St Andrews and Edinburgh are strikingly different experiences. St As is deep in the heart of nowhere, Edinburgh is in and of the city. Visiting both is highly recommended, but if that isn't possible, go visit someplace like Grinnell or Kenyon and then NYU. Not exact comparisons (for a start Edinburgh is WAY smaller than NYC!), but better than nothing.






    http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/world-university-rankings/2013-14/world-ranking
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  • AznCanadianAznCanadian 31 replies2 threads Junior Member
    Both schools are top notch. Yes they are easier to get in for Americans. Edinburgh and St Andrews acceptance rates depend on your subject. Different subjects have different acceptance rates. So while Edinburgh does have a 38% acceptance rate overall, its humanities acceptance rate is in the 20s and its medicine acceptance rate is in the low teens. Keep in mind the UK also only allows up to 5 choices in UCAS and 4 for Medicine. So you can't just compare UK acceptance rates to US acceptance rates. Acceptance rates are higher in the UK but their matriculation rate is also much higher. This is different from the US where everyone is accepted and then choose their major.
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  • darkray2000darkray2000 97 replies8 threads Junior Member
    Hi fuzzyblanket! I just got acceptances to University of St. Andrews and University of Edinburgh a couple weeks ago.

    To answer your second question, I got into both schools with a 30 on the ACT and 680, 720, and 780 on SAT Subject Tests (as well as a personal statement and UCAS application, of course). St. Andrews requested my transcript, but Edinburgh didn't. So GPA, for me, didn't matter at all. If you have high enough SAT/ACT scores for them, your application would be considered.

    I didn't (and will not) visit the schools because I live in the West Coast US and my family can't afford to go there right now. However, from what I've heard, the campuses are great and there are quite a few international students if that's something you're looking for.

    Hope this helps!
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  • ssswimsssswims 197 replies11 threads Junior Member
    edited January 2015
    Overall St Andrews is easier to get in for Americans, but keep in mind certain courses such as IR and Art History are exceedingly difficult because they are the most competitive. If you look in those fields at St Andrews you're certain to find Ivy-level, driven, academically inclined students. If you don't believe me just check out the St Andrews Class of 2015-19 Facebook groups... These are people who are highly qualified and seriously dedicated to their studies.
    edited January 2015
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  • gigglebot3gigglebot3 97 replies18 threads Junior Member
    @darkray2000 Congratulations! What are you planning to study? Also what are your SAT II scores in? Are they all prerequisites? I'm worried that I won't get into St. Andrews IR without a high World History score, but I took AP World way back in my freshman year..
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  • gigglebot3gigglebot3 97 replies18 threads Junior Member
    Also, does St Andrews consider the ACT at all as replacement for their SAT prerequisite? I have a composite of 32, a 35 in CR, 33 in English, and a 10 on the essay, much more than the SAT equivalent that they require. However, I don't test as well with the SAT and only have a 700 on CR and 630 on W. I don't think I'll ever get two 5s on APs, are Subject tests my only option?
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  • collegemom3717collegemom3717 8376 replies91 threads Senior Member
  • sattutsattut 1038 replies94 threads Senior Member
    32 is a good ACT score. I would try to show them 3 SAT IIs in areas related to what you are going to study, or maybe AP exams even if not 5s. They may accept you anyway, but it is better to simulate 3 A-levels with decent scores.
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  • gigglebot3gigglebot3 97 replies18 threads Junior Member
    @sattut thanks for your reply!! I have a 730 in Literature, do you think that plus US History and maybe World History would be related to the field enough? I've taken 4 years of Spanish but that SAT II is so difficult with all of the native speakers.
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  • Conformist1688Conformist1688 1306 replies31 threads Senior Member
    Lit and history are both good; but I'm not sure that two histories would be acceptable as separate subjects.
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  • sattutsattut 1038 replies94 threads Senior Member
    Yeh, they have just one A-level in history, so you would probably need a SAT II or AP in another subject also.
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  • collegemom3717collegemom3717 8376 replies91 threads Senior Member
    @gigglebot3 , @Sattut is mistaken. For IR World & US are good choices- they are relevant. First hand experience here.
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  • gigglebot3gigglebot3 97 replies18 threads Junior Member
    @collegemom3717 @sattut @Conformist1688 thanks for the helpful replies! I'll go ahead and take both the history, if they only take one I already have a decent score in a math subject test which isn't relevant but if they want something else I have a backup.
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  • sattutsattut 1038 replies94 threads Senior Member
    I assume the math is level 2. There might be an issue of level 1 not counting as an A-level. That seems like a good plan, but if you can get a decent score in another related SAT II or an AP Exam, it might help to simulate 3 related A-levels. You might not need a 5 on the AP Exam, since you aren't applying to Oxford.
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  • espenserespenser 72 replies0 threads Junior Member
    edited May 2015
    Three responses to post 4:

    1. St Andrews is not “in the middle of nowhere.” In fact, it is only about 50 miles from Edinburgh via inexpensive, public transportation readily accessible to the students attending St Andrews. By comparison, roughly the same distance separates Princeton, New Jersey from New York City.

    2. Nor is St Andrews comparable to Kenyon or Grinnell. St Andrews is a medium-sized 600-year-old British university with a highly structured curriculum excellent for an independent student seeking academic specialization, not a small, American liberal arts college that offers a more nurturing environment and greater academic freedom.

    3. While Kenyon and Grinnell are great schools, their Midwestern charm won’t teach you anything about the unique ambiance and allure of St Andrews -- an ancient town perched on rocky cliffs above the North Sea that is surrounded by medieval ruins, excellent restaurants, lively pubs, and perhaps the best golf course in the world.
    edited May 2015
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  • darkray2000darkray2000 97 replies8 threads Junior Member
    @gigglebot3 Thanks! I took my Subject Tests during junior year, so there was nothing that was predicted on my UCAS. I'm planning to go to King's College London, but I can tell you that I applied for Economics and Philosophy at St. Andrews and Philosophy and Politics at University of Edinburgh. You don't have to take Subject Tests, but I found them easier to study for and take.
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  • nellybelly29nellybelly29 9 replies5 threads New Member
    I know this thread is a month old but as I´ll be attending Edinburgh this coming term I thought I´d give my two cents:) -

    As far as acceptance rates go, it´s very hard to make an accurate acceptance rate for UK universities because of their system. Since they offer people conditional offers (meaning they have to get certain grades on exams to get in) their "offer rate" is different from their "accepted offer rate". Honestly St. Andrews and Edinburgh are very similar...if you are in range for one, you're in range for the other, I would say. Again, like someone said before, St. Andrews did ask me for my transcript while Edinburgh never did.

    On to the questions:

    1) How do you declare your major? From the very beginning you apply to the focus/major you want? (meaning, in the US you have a year or two to test the waters, in the UK you gear yourself to whatever from application and then on?)

    ---At both universities you will apply to a course, unlike how in the US we apply to a university. Basically, when you apply, you are declaring your major then and there. Since St. A's and Ed are both Scottish, there's more room for changing (for example I have the option to switch from International Relations to Politics if I so desire) in the first two years, but it gets harder each year to switch. So if you are going to go to school in Scotland, you'll need to know what you want to study.

    2) In the States your GPA and SAT scores are really- is it mostly the same over there or do they place more importance on other things?

    ---For UK universities, AP scores, SAT IIs, ACT/SAT are your most important things. APs and SAT IIs are the closest thing we have in the US to their schooling system (A-levels) so they place high importance on them. Take APs and do well if you want to go to St. A's or Ed, they want 4s and 5s. Your GPA is important but it's not nearly as impactful as your test scores are in terms of gettting in.

    3) Does college life differ that differently from that of US schools?

    ---The system in general is different. In terms of actual study, you'll only be in class for a few hours a week, and you´'ll be expected to do lots and lots of self study. They also don't do lots of quizzes and tests during the semester to make sure you're keeping up. Many subjects will have 3 large essays and one huge test per semester.

    As far as social life and such, sports are not huge in the way they are in the US in terms of school spirit. Mascots and varsity sports aren't really a thing they do. However, if you're into soccer, you'll be just fine. Both schools have tons of societies and clubs you can join, so it's not hard to stay active and involved.

    4) Do you think visiting is important? Or will pictures suffice?
    ---VISIT VISIT VISIT. I would reccomend visiting any school you are thinking of attending, but especially the ones that are overseas, if you are able to. Two years ago I went to Scotland dead-set on going to St. Andrews based on what I had seen online. After visiting both schools I came to realize that St. Andrews was far too small for me and that Ed was a much better fit. I would 100% reccomend visiting if you can.

    If you can't visit keep in mind:
    -Edinburgh is a city of 500,000 people and the uni has 30,000 students
    -St. Andrews is a much much smaller city and a uni of 9,000 students
    -However, both schools have about the same amount of American students (2,000)
    It really just depends on what you're looking for in a school.


    5) What fields/majors are they best known for? (like, NYU has a great film program, Harvard is assoc. with law, etc.)

    St. Andrews is well known for International Relations, Divinity, Theology, History...those types of subjects. They are strong in Medicine as well.

    Edinburgh is very strong in the sciences, medicine included. They also have a great English program, business is good, and their law school is very good as well.


    This was a massive post. I apologize. But I was in your shoes a year ago and would have loved to had someone tell me all this before I started haha. If you ever have any questions about applying overseas, don't hesitate to contact me! Like I said, I chose Edinburgh, but I´ve been through the process and have been to both schools as well. Best of luck in your university process!
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