The Official St Andrews University FAQ

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Hello all,

Welcome to the The St Andrews Applicants Thread 2022. Below I have compiled an FAQ which I have tried to make as unbiased as possible, which is difficult as I obviously chose St Andrews for good reasons!

Every year there is a 'bloodbath' of Rejections and we are still trying to understand how and why so many strong applicants are rejected. So to help, please fill out the below Googledocs form once you have received St Andrews' decision on your application if you wish.

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  • Extra curriculars relevant to your subject:
  • UK region or country you are from:
  • University choices, in order of preference:
  • Why St Andrews?:


St Andrews FAQ:

  • Degree structure
  • Distance/size
  • Student body and diversity
  • Nightlife
  • Traditions
  • League tables
  • Expensiveness
  • BSc/MA degrees
  • The weather

Note to current student lurkers on this forum: please message me so I can add your contributions to this FAQ as it is vital prospective students have access to different perspectives.

What is the degree structure like?
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In St Andrews, undergraduate degrees last four years and the Scottish degree structure allows you to explore two other subjects outside of your degree in your first year. This gives you more time to decide on your future (both academic and career-wise). Also, the extra summer holiday is potentially an additional opportunity to get internships.

Fresher’s year

  • You take 3 subjects each Semester, one of which must be the degree you applied for. I applied for Biology but I got to study Economics and Psychology modules too which were really interesting

  • Avoid taking unnecessarily difficult subjects for your optionals (which tend to be subjects that require prior knowledge)

  • Your grades do not count towards your final degree – you only need to pass with a 7 on the 20-point scale.

Second year

  • You can continue to take three subjects depending on module sizes in your department, but students normally focus on only one or two at this point, as second year modules will be prerequisites for the third year modules in your chosen degree subject

  • You no longer have to continue with the subject you originally applied for so you can change your degree

  • Your grades still do not count towards your final degree – you need a grade 11 out of 20 (a Lower Second or “a 2:2”) overall to progress to Honours and specifically in modules that are prerequisites for the following year.

'Honours years' three and four

  • You only study your degree subject; or two if you take Joint Honours. There is also a Triple Honours language degree

  • Your final degree grade is taken from the weighted average of third and fourth year modules

  • One of the reasons for high Student Satisfaction ratings at St Andrews is that by fourth year you can expect your class sizes to only be 5-12 students and your dissertation supervisor will only have one or two other students at most.

Three year degrees

  • If your A level grades are good (at least AAA usually) you can apply for Direct Entry to Second year. You will miss out on the social aspects of Freshers year but this is an option for people who want to save on costs. Direct Entry is in fact the standard route for English students studying Physics and Maths, so you will not be alone but is rare for all other subjects.

  • Undergraduate Medicine is only a 3 year degree, after which you complete your three clinical years at a partner university – this is because although St Andrews has a fully equipped medical school, the town does not have a teaching hospital.

Will St Andrews be too remote, too far from home or too small for me?
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Is St Andrews remote?

  • St Andrews feels fairly remote to people used to city life – but for a town without a train station it's surprisingly well connected: from the centre of St Andrews there’s a bus that leaves every five mins or so and takes only 10 mins to get to Leuchars railway station. And then from Leuchars there is a regular train that gets to Edinburgh in 45 minutes. Also, there are buses every five mins from St Andrews to Dundee in half an hour, or a bit less coming back after a night out in Dundee

Should I be worried about the distance St Andrews is from home?

  • Around a fifth of the students are from the US and I’d guess around a fifth of them are from California and Seattle – so they made me feel ridiculous complaining about how far St Andrews is from London when they have come that far! If you need to come home every two weeks then St Andrews will not be the uni for you, as most people can only really come home during half-terms

  • To get from London to St Andrews you can either take the East Coast train or you can fly by Easyjet or Ryanair:

    The train journey takes 6 hours and either goes straight from London Kings Cross to Leuchars or via Edinburgh. It's a really comfortable journey and even feels a bit of an adventure with the picturesque Scottish East Cost along the way

    The flight takes just 1 hour and you can go from either Gatwick or Stansted to Edinburgh. Then you have to get the St Andrews shuttle to the uni in 1.5 hours. The Shuttle is just a shared student taxi to and from the airport, which costs £20 and can be nice for meeting other students who also have late night Christmas or Easter flights home to catch.


Is St Andrews too small for me?

  • For day-to-day shopping and eating St Andrews is amazing and you honestly couldn't ask for more... but for fashion and big stores it is very lacking and you'd need to head to Dundee or Edinburgh. The centre of town has two full-size High Streets which are connected by two mini High Streets: there are probably over a hundred shops and food places with a 50:50 balance of chain stores and independent shops; the same goes for the food places – so you have your familiar Starbucks, Pret and Subway but then lots of niche coffee shops and restaurants. There is also a Tesco Metro, a mini-Sainburys’ and a bit further out an Aldi and M&S Food. On the edge of the town is a very large Morrisons

  • The town is compact, with mainly townhouses in the centre and it takes 30 minutes to walk from the edge of town (where Morrisons is) to the coast at the East Sands beach – so it is certainly not a tiny village as you might imagine, but obviously not a metropolis. In a Facebook poll, 45% of students said the town was bigger than they expected before visiting, 20% said smaller and the rest said it was around as expected. Unlike the idea of a ‘small town’ in many countries such as the US, it is densely populated and constantly busy so you will feel claustrophobic if you do not take regular trips to Dundee, Edinburgh and maybe beyond. St Andrews certainly never feels isolating as the town is dominated by students (which is how I imagine I would have felt as a student in London) but you cannot spend 16 weeks without venturing out once

  • Other than shops, there is an aquarium (featuring penguins, seals, native sharks and meerkats!); the golf course where the sport began, which holds events with celebrities every year (we've had Obama, the Clintons, singers, Hollywood actors..); beaches (where the opening to Chariots of Fire was filmed); there is a medieval castle and cathedral ruins with vaults and a tower overlooking the town you can climb; a 13th century chapel, museums with medieval relics; a cinema, botanical gardens; an observatory; a leisure centre with a swimming pool, a small natural history collection, new music and sports centres and a nearby country park

  • On the edge of the town, opposite Morrisons there is an integrated hospital, GP surgery and dentist practice.

How diverse is St Andrews and what are the students like compared to other unis?
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St Andrews is the #1 most diverse uni in the UK in terms of internationalism, but one of the least diverse top unis in terms of domestic students, however, it heavily depends on your degree and halls of residence. At somewhere like Durham or Exeter you would spend three years mostly just other English students, which is fine, but St Andrews, despite being a remote Scottish town felt more like a mini-UN – half of the students are internationals (the largest contingent of which are Americans), Europeans, Australians, and 'third culture kids' from international schools, but they are balanced out by the Scottish, Northern Irish and Northern English students there. There are also lots of students from India and South East Asia.

International students

  • International students from outside the EU make up 35% of the student population which is the third highest in the UK. They have a higher offer rate than any other contingent of applicants.

  • Although LSE and Imperial have a higher % of international students, they tend to come from a small number of countries and at every uni, there is a reputation for international students to be poorly integrated; that they tend not to mix with other students (through no fault of their own). St Andrews is arguably the only university where the internationals are known for being genuinely integrated which is due to the inclusive traditions the uni life is built around: academic families, Raisin weekend, May Dip, Gaudie/pier walks, Ceilidhs, as well as the tight-knit community of the student town.

Americans

  • It can’t go without mentioning that a significant proportion of the foreign students are from the US, who make up around a fifth of the student population when you include study abroads. Although Will & Kate did bring additional recognition to the university, the number of Americans is actually mostly due to the fact that St Andrews recruits heavily in US High Schools; has historic links to America dating back to the Founding Fathers (who received honorary degrees at the time); also the fact that St Andrews is the home of Golf where Hollywood celebs descend upon every year so it is very well known over there. Also, in particular, the university’s International Relations programme is held in very high regard in the States, which is what a plurality of Americans come to St A to study

  • Under the US liberal arts system, you can only get around 1/3 of your degree credits from your major – the rest must come from optional subjects outside of your major and mandatory General Education subjects/a Core Curriculum...conversely, with English degrees you only study one subject for all three years so you have to drop out of uni and reapply if you change your mind about what to study. Scottish degrees are therefore seen as a half-way house between the US and English systems.

Europeans

  • 10% of the student population are EU students. This is much higher than at almost any other university due to the fact they don’t currently pay tuition fees in Scotland – but the university is extremely selective for them (for some degrees the offer rate is as low as a 1.5% offer rate for them)

  • In the future it appears EU students will have to pay International fees due to Brexit so expect the numbers to fall significantly

  • Check out, Adela from the Czech Republic who vlogs on Youtube about her experiences at St Andrews.


Domestic students

Many of the British (and EU students) have actually come from International schools in places like Beijing, Singapore, Rio de Janeiro and Dubai. While this may distort the Overseas statistics a little bit, they all have wordly experience to contribute to the university’s culture. Regardless, 55% of the student body are registered as domestic students:


  • 65.5% of students are from State schools; 34.5% are from Independent schools (a few years ago it was closer to 50:50)

  • 12.3% of students are from ethnic minorities which is more than at Durham (11.7%) and around the median of UK universities; yet is tiny compared to many city universities such as Queen Mary (70.5%) and Aston (82.4%).

It is quite obvious that privately educated students are massively overrepresented, however:

  1. They are still in the minority. 2. Privately educated people tend to be just as nice as State school students. Snobbery is unheard of in St Andrews and normally you won't know whether students went to a fee-paying school or not without asking them. The only thing that struck me as a Londoner was how many there were from small towns and villages I’d never heard of rather than big cities. Other than that, the posh contingent is mostly a source of banter. 3. It strongly depends on your degree and Hall of residence: your History of Art lectures will be 99% white and middle class whereas Medicine will be very ethnically diverse, and Physics tends to be more state school. Andrew Melville Hall and DRA are very diverse, whereas Sallies Hall is not. 4. Whether or not you agree with this approach, the university is taking huge steps to give contextual offers to offers from those from poor backgrounds, although this is also being done by all top unis bar Oxbridge


  • The uni struggles to attract black applicants, who are in a very small minority. In recent times it has become a major talking point, however, even the most underrepresented of people at the uni are generally really well integrated into the student community rather than outcasted. Perhaps at some unis where there are large minorities of students from a single community they tend to stick together as cliques; on the other hand it is striking how few black students there are on campus, but all of the black students in St Andrews I do know are extremely popular.

What is the nightlife like?
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The St Andrews experience is completely unique, partly because of the 'unconventional' nightlife there, however if you need proper nightclubs, it is not the uni for you.

  • This is one of the most common concerns when applying. When I was applying to unis I asked a student this question, to which he answered “at St Andrews we make our own fun”. At the time this sounded like BS, but I now know what was meant – the St Andrews experience is essentially a student-run 'events culture', societies, flat parties and traditions such as academic families, Raisin weekend, May Dip, Gaudie/pier walks, Ceilidhs. There are unfortunately no ‘proper’ nightclubs aside from the union and occasional trips to Dundee, but St Andrews has a higher density of student bars than any uni town so there are no shortage of places to drink. Students who are big on nightclubs compensate for it with the 'events' culture here, but if clubs are one of your priorities then other unis such as Nottingham, Manchester, Leeds, Bristol, Glasgow and Birmingham will be more for you

  • Some students like Mid Fife Crisis, Kameron Cooper and Sean Gordon have made 'One second a day' videos which condense the social side of an academic year pretty well into short videos and youtubers such as STAR: St Andrews Radio and Hebe Topping have covered the topic.

Societies

  • The social life at St Andrews is very much built around the societies that anyone can set up and usually cost around £3-10 a year to join – most societies will have weekly socials. Societies are ‘a thing’ in St Andrews in a way that they arent at other unis – you could never get people together in that way at Leeds or Manchester. One of the main societies is through the Charity Campaign:

Student-run events culture

  • While students at other unis in big cities have nightclubs, at St Andrews the calendar has regular events that are normally things like fashion shows, balls, polo, gigs etc, and things like On The Rocks festival. Crucially, they are not organised by the Student Union but by students themselves through the Charities Campaign

  • Essentially this means that some of your friends (and honestly at times it feels like most of them) get involved in organising big events that everyone goes to and that is something good they can put on their CVs. For example there are several fashion shows throughout the year (like this), where students volunteer to be fashion designers and catwalk models, but there are also project managers who pull everything together, graphic designers who create banners for people's Facebook profiles and creators of promotional videos (like this). It's part of the St Andrews experience because anyone can get involved and it is not controlled by the Student Union.

What are the traditions?
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Other unis have traditions but at St Andrews the uni experience is built around the traditions (such as academic families). I can't put better what has been written before so I will link you to a couple of articles:

https://metro.co.uk/2018/10/22/nobod...fight-8063408/
www.thesaint.scot/2015/08/guide-to-st-andrews-traditions/
https://www.facebook.com/uniofsta/vi...64820914840811

How should I use uni league table rankings?
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Why is St Andrews usually ranked 3rd in domestic league tables but 80-100 in International league tables, behind other respected unis such as Sheffield?

  • Domestic league tables focus on factors such as academic Student Satisfaction and generally things which impact the undergrad experience. Throughout recent years St Andrews has always been #1 or close as far as Student Satisfaction scores, hence the high rankings

  • International league tables use criteria that interest researchers but would not matter much to undergrads. For example, one criteria they use is Citations per Faculty. Being a small and undergrad-focused university, St Andrews does not output as much research as large institutions such as Sheffield. Does Citations per Faculty matter much to undergrads? I personally think there is merit in choosing a uni like St Andrews for undergrad and a uni like Edinburgh or one in London for postgrad. The London unis and Edinburgh are amongst the biggest research universities in the world but are always near the bottom of the league tables every year for Student Satisfaction.

Below are some links to guides and other stats


Is St Andrews an expensive place to live?
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  • While St Andrews is cheap to live compared to any uni in London, it is expensive compared to any other Scottish uni, in particular Dundee which is only down the road. Most students who are head-over-heels about St Andrews would agree this is its Achilles heel. If saving money is your #1 priority, St Andrews is not the uni for you but it also isn’t that bad – the uni offers a range of bursaries and scholarships for those who can’t afford it and there are cheaper accommodation options. If you are fortunate to have flexibility on costs, any difference in expensiveness compared to other Scottish unis will not be so much money in the long term; if not, look at the accommodation options and work out how much your Student maintenance loan will cover – the bursaries will normally offer at least £1k a year
  • Sports clubs are obscenely expensive - usually around £100 a year. It is fine if you only want to join one a year, but prohibitively expensive if you want to join several
  • On the plus side, the town is very affluent (whilst still being very compact) which is associated with the town having a very low crime rate – you can go out at any time of night alone and feel completely safe which really added to my experience there.

What do I need to know about BSc and MA degrees?
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Why are Arts degrees MA instead of BA?

  • Like in England, undergraduate degrees in Science are BSc; but at the four Ancient Universities of Scotland, a Bachelor of Arts degree is an MA instead of BA for purely archaic reasons. This is confusing for sure but a Four year ‘MA’ degree could look good on your CV – just make sure you don't lie about it at interviews!

Should I apply for the MA or BSc Psychology (or Economics, Geography etc.)?

  • For subjects that allow you to do a degree in either the Science or the Arts faculty, there is NO difference between the course content – one course is not more scientific or essay based than the other

  • The only important factor in whether to choose BSc or MA is whether you want your two other subjects in Freshers year to be Science or Arts modules: if you applied for BSc, your other subjects must be mostly sciences and vice versa for Arts – you can however still do 1 or 2 subjects from the opposite faculty. For example, if you choose MA Psychology, you can take History and Biology alongside it, but you can’t take Chemistry and Biology with it.

What is the weather like?
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How cold is St Andrews?

  • St Andrews is nowhere near as cold as you expect but it is cold for longer than you expect it to be.... this makes sense because Fife is not too far north of Scotland, but you arrive in September when the summer is over and leave at the end of May just before the summer begins
  • September and May are lovely, warm months but the rest are fairly cold, although not overly chilly... even in December the temperature is very rarely sub-zero during the day. Scotland does not get the snowstorms and blizzards that places like New York and Boston in the US are known for, and I only saw it snow properly once in my four years in St Andrews. The temperature is usually 2-5°C lower than London and you will notice, but if you wrap up well you will find that you get quite hot walking around the town. Also, central heating in the halls is very good.

Is it very rainy and windy?

  • Fortunately, it's mainly the West Coast of Scotland that is known for the rain, and it doesn't rain any more frequently or heavily than it does in London
  • Being by the coast, St Andrews is pretty windy

I can't visit before applying, can you recommend any sources?
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  • An unoriginal suggestion perhaps, but there really is no better source than Youtube to get a feel for the town. To put some originality (and tongue-in-cheek) in my answer, I would recommend The Other Guys (St Andrews' a capella group) whose videos are great for nosing around the town – I would recommend Royal Romance and St Andrews Girls in particular. More seriously, STAR: St Andrews Radio and Kiki and Tom have some useful Youtube videos.

Why did you choose St Andrews?
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  • Four year degree and getting to study two subjects alongside Biology in my first year
  • Strong for my subject
  • Everything within walking distance – potentially being able to roll out of bed at 8:55 for a 9am lecture whereas at other unis you may have to take the bus
  • Medieval cobble-stoned town with a castle and cathedral ruins
  • Beaches and the idyllic Fife coast
  • Arcane traditions and a genuinely international experience
  • Good choice of bars, societies and events as a substitute for full nightclubs
  • Great reputation, particularly with high Student Satisfaction
  • Only an hour from Edinburgh and 10 mins from Leuchars railway station on the East Coast line.

Attachment 908578
Last edited by StrawberryDreams; 2 months ago
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Anonymous #1
#2
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#2
One thing that may be good about here is that here is an ancient rural town, over the meadows green and wide making you sing in the twilight, better than the hustle and bustle in London, where the population is too big to be riskless whenever a pandemic flares up.

Half an hour of walk to the town centre I'd say it is acceptable, though cuisine choices are strictly limited like you don't have Vietnamese restaurants here but just one Chinese restaurant. I do try to look up for how big St. Andrews is in km^2, but it seems no such data are available, what can be found is the area of the course near the promenade.
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Cat.killeen
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how do you apply for scholarships?
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CAB41
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Update - sports clubs are now £200 a year to join which is shocking.
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