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What does it take to get into top UK schools?

TheAverageNerdTheAverageNerd 16 replies18 threads Junior Member
Hi. Does anybody know what it takes to get into top UK universities such as Manchester or Bristol? Because on their website it seems too easy, and less competitive than the Ivy League. Thanks! (I am an American applicant BTW). Also, how do they weigh their applicants' GPAs?
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Replies to: What does it take to get into top UK schools?

  • collegemom3717collegemom3717 7200 replies69 threads Senior Member
    edited March 2019
    UK university admissions (except Oxbridge and a couple of other tippy tops, and certain courses, such as medicine) are typically very straight forward for international students: if you meet the admissions requirements, have a decent Personal Statement (essay about why you are a good candidate for the specific course that you are applying to) and a decent Letter of Reference, you are likely to get an offer. So, yes it is 'easy' (and easier for internationals, who bring useful $$, than for locals). Note that although Manchester and Bristol are fine universities, they are more like state flagships than "Ivy League"- think UMi, UMd-CP, etc.

    Most UK universities don't ask for GPA; if they do it is usually a pretty low number- and they do it b/c US students expect it, not b/c they really care that much (except St Andrews in Scotland, who are very attuned to Americans). They won't care about weighted or unweighted.

    What they *will* care about is your specific standardized test scores. You need to cross-check the requirements for international students with the requirements for the specific course you are going to apply to: typically the APs/Subject tests either should or have to align with the course. So, if you are applying for a STEM course, quantitative subjects; for a humanities course, essay based exams. Very often there will be 1 or more specific subjects preferred or required.

    Which brings up the course: you apply to study a specific subject, and (especially in England, vs Scotland) that is *all* you study. What you study, in every year of every course, is laid out in detail on university website. Although there is overlap (especially in core stem courses, obviously), there are often big differences between universities, so it is important to read the course descriptions very, very carefully before choosing what you apply to. Depending on the university and the course, it can be hard to change once you have started. So, you need to be very sure what you want to study before you apply.

    Then there are the differences between university in the US and UK. In first year you will have few- if any- choices in what classes you take (they will all be directly related to your subject) and most likely 100% of your grade will be the final exam (in 2nd / 3rd year the % may be lower,). Your lectures will take up about 20% of your time- the rest of the time you are working independently. So, it requires a high degree of motivation and self-discipline. They won't mind you. Also, while UK universities typically do have housing (especially for international students), it is not the same campus-centric experience that the US is. There is nothing like Big 10 or 'greek life'.

    Finally, there is no financial aid (though most major UK universities are accredited for the FAFSA $5K loan). You typically have to demonstrate that you have the means to pay for university in order to get the student visa. Compared to US prices, it can be good value (esp as it is usually only 3 years), but important to know up front.

    From your other post you are in Grade 9, so you have a lot of time to think about this.
    edited March 2019
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  • TheAverageNerdTheAverageNerd 16 replies18 threads Junior Member
    So which grades would they see if they do not care as much about my GPA? Are my standardized test scores more important than my overall grades?
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  • collegemom3717collegemom3717 7200 replies69 threads Senior Member
    Whatever grades are on the transcript your GC sends.

    Standardized test scores are critical; GPA is either less important- or not at all important.

    Note that you have to report *all* your test scores, and if you are scheduled to take any tests during Senior year your offer *might* be "conditional" on getting those scores (which is a drag if it is APs, b/c you have to wait until July to be sure that you make your offer). BUT: if you have all the necessary scores when you apply, you can get an "unconditional" offer.
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  • HedgePigHedgePig 27 replies0 threads Junior Member
    As collegemom3717 said, they care about AP scores in subjects relevant to your course - so your Calc BC score isn’t very relevant if you are planning to study English Literature. If you are planning on taking the IB instead of AP, that’s fine as well. If you’ve completed enough (relevant) AP courses before your senior year, you might even be able to get an unconditional offer.
    Your SAT / ACT results are also of interest.
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  • MYOS1634MYOS1634 42352 replies455 threads Senior Member
    edited March 2019
    They don't care about grades (except St Andrews or Oxbridge). At all. Like, you could have a 2.8 and Manchester, Bristol, Dundee, Aberdeen, Durham, York.... Wouldn't care.
    However they would very much care that you have 3-4 AP 5s in specific subjects.
    Typically if you apply for Stem, it means calc BC and AP physics (c?) + Others (chem or bio or CS). If you apply for Economics, BC+ economics. For Humanities/social science, AP lit and/or lang, AP History. Note that for econ you need both micro and macro, for gov you need both comp and us.
    Anything "joint" with a foreign language would require the AP in that language.
    edited March 2019
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  • TheAverageNerdTheAverageNerd 16 replies18 threads Junior Member
    That's the thing though. I want to study Computer Science, but I won't be able to take AP Calc in high school. I also want to study business, but cannot take AP Economics until senior year. Would this hurt my chances of admission?
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  • Conformist1688Conformist1688 1172 replies26 threads Senior Member
    No, it just means that if you get an offer it would be conditional on getting the score by the end of the school year. The down side is that you will be quite late knowing if you have made it or not, so will probably need to have a US acceptance as well as a fallback. Your academic recommendations should include a prediction of the scores expected.

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  • SybyllaSybylla 4321 replies56 threads Senior Member
    Bristol and Manchester are not in any way comparable to US Ivy league schools LOL.
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  • Twoin18Twoin18 1838 replies18 threads Senior Member
    If you can't take Calc BC in high school then you'll have to take it outside school (e.g. at community college) if you want to do CS. Or if it's just that you are not far enough ahead in the math sequence at your school it might be best to take a summer course so you can advance a year in math.
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  • Conformist1688Conformist1688 1172 replies26 threads Senior Member
    Oops, I skipped a line and thought you said you couldn't take BC until senior year, not that you couldn't take it at HS at all. Yes, you really need a strong math background for a real CS degree; there are some less demanding course which are not CS but called things like Computing or IT which you could get into. But if a British university wants Maths A level for domestic applicants, you need Calc BC AP.

    Can you clarify: are you specifically looking at CS and Business combined/joint honours, or open to either one area or the other; and what about CS appeals?

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  • Conformist1688Conformist1688 1172 replies26 threads Senior Member
    (NB the less math-based computer/IT type degrees are a lot less theoretical/rigorous and would give you fewer career options, but it really depends on what your career plans might be.
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  • TheAverageNerdTheAverageNerd 16 replies18 threads Junior Member
    Mainly Computer Science and Business. Can I submit AP and SAT scores on Calculus, and still get credit for them if they are not on my transcript?
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  • collegemom3717collegemom3717 7200 replies69 threads Senior Member
    They don't care about your transcript- they care about the scores. It's not uncommon for US students to self study for APs / Subject tests (note: not all UK unis accept subject tests).
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  • MYOS1634MYOS1634 42352 replies455 threads Senior Member
    Also, you don't get credit for them - those are just he basic minimum classes classes to get into a first year there. (aA levels are actually more advanced than APs?).
    You can also apply for an international foundation year if you won't have the required AP classes&scores.
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  • PurpleTitanPurpleTitan 12777 replies29 threads Senior Member
    edited March 2019
    Yep. The AP tests would function as entrance exams in to the UK system, essentially. And if your HS doesn't allow you to study enough math, you should take classes in CC (maybe in the summer) so that that you reach a level where you can get 5's on AP's.

    BTW, I have heard of Scottish unis giving a year's credit for A-levels (so that you can graduate in 3 years instead of the usual 4 making it in line with the 3-year undergrad degrees that are common in England), but not of them giving credit for AP's.
    edited March 2019
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  • VickiSoCalVickiSoCal 3428 replies33 threads Senior Member
    @PurpleTitan yes. St. Andrewa has what they call direct entry into second year in chemistry, physics and math for sure.
    It can be a bit rough at first according to daughter, some students end up dropping down to the first year classes after a few weeks. I would look very carefully at the fall second year modules and the released finals from the first year classes before deciding on that plan.
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  • TheAverageNerdTheAverageNerd 16 replies18 threads Junior Member
    Alright, thanks a lot for the help! However, would you by any chance have an idea if top UK schools such as Oxbridge, UCL, ICL, and King's College London look at transcripts?
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