Scotland – University of St. Andrew’s

A train ride from Edinburgh, Scotland takes you into the charming town of St. Andrew’s. Known for the birthplace of golf, it’s only fitting that you drive right past the old course on your way into town. But what really makes up St. Andrew’s is the university. The University of St. Andrew’s has a total of about 8,800 students, of which 7,000 are undergraduates. With 19 academic schools including studies such as medicine, biology, math, computer science, history and languages, students have a variety of subjects to explore. Named teaching university of the year with it’s high quality teaching and low student to staff ratios (one of the the lowest in the UK) S. Andrew’s is a place that breeds strong relationships between student and staff.

The town of St. Andrew’s has a population of about 17,000 people, which means the students make up a good chunk of the city. One thing about U.K. universities, is that there isn’t a sense of “campus” like we’re used to in the states. The buildings are scattered throughout the city and depending on how big the city is that means the social sciences could be a decent 20-40 minute walk from the science buildings. But what I liked about St. Andrew’s was that it was placed in a smaller town, meaning even through the buildings were scattered, the town became the “campus.” In comparison, a student who wasn’t quite ready to tackle navigating a massive city and living on their own (literally with little sense of campus) could thrive at a place like St. Andrew’s.

One of the biggest themes of the University of St. Andrew’s is diversity and internationalism. A hefty 45% of students come from outside the U.K. The faculty comes from all over. So while you may be the new kid in a small town, you certainly will be accepted no matter where you come from. You have the ability to grow from others with varying religions and cultures and you can do it in an intimate environment.

Who is the type of student who could thrive at the University of St. Andrew’s? Someone who is okay being in a smaller setting and one that I’ll call a rural-urban environment (small town, take the train away from the city to get to it). Someone who wants to study in the U.K. but wants a little more flexibility in majors (I’ll explain below). Someone who wants to experience something different, be challenged, and meet people from all over the world. Admissions are competitive.

Please find the following facts below and if you’re interested, take a look at their website for all of the information:

In contrast to the London universities, students in Scotland will earn their degree over the course of 4 years. This gives the students a lot more flexibility in terms of studying. Students can choose up to 3 subjects (majors) to study in their first year, year two students choose 2 subjects and their final two years students are either choosing their one subject (major) to study or are able to complete a joint degree (2 subjects). This gives students the ability to pair things like languages with economics and computer science with math. A plus for students not able to pick just one subject right out the gate.

Quick facts (again, I encourage you to check the website for full details):

  • No music degree, but has a music center, and any student can add some music studying to their coursework
  • New marine laboratory
  • 97% retention rate (percentage of returning students…highest in the U.K.)
  • One of the few in the U.K. to offer Sustainable Development
  • Observatory accessible to students to utilize on campus within the Physics and Astronomy departments
  • You can often consider two tracks with your math/science degrees (arts pathway or science based degree)
  • Offering veterinary studies (accredited with American Vet Association)
  • Can live in residence halls first year (with meal-plan option or not) have organized social events, wardens (residence advisors for the building for support/safety)
  • Art and design need a portfolio for admission
  • Small group discussions are paired with the lower-level large lecture halls
  • Fixed tuition rate all four years, will work with your FAFSA
  • Average student (A/B+ in high school) with about 4-5 AP classes, at least 600+ on SAT Subject tests
    • (note, you are reviewed within the context of your high school, admissions are holistic and will be looking for a challenging curriculum and stronger math/sciences depending on your major)

If you’re a student who has considered studying abroad, but aren’t ready to choose one area of a study, are wanting a smaller environment, interested in diversity and want a completely new experience, you may want to do some research and check out St. Andrew’s and similar universities in Scotland.

Remember, it is YOUR job to research different universities/colleges and find a right fit for YOU. Ask questions, reach out for more information and armor yourself with information! Happy exploring! 


Published by Casey Barneson

Author of The College Wellness Guide. Beverly Hills High School College Counselor.

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