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San Francisco, CA 94117
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Next Steps Blog


Another College Visit: Scottish Universities

by Susan Lee
Director of College Counseling 

Recently, I was lucky to have the opportunity to be hosted by two impressive universities in Scotland.  Urban students looking for an international college experience should seriously consider both of these schools.    

Edinburgh is a beautiful and vibrant European city with a thriving art and social scene, people proud of their Scottish tradition, and historic buildings spread throughout a hilly, walkable landscape on the “firth.”   University of Edinburgh is a world-class research institution that takes pride in its many Nobel Laureates and international reputation.  Like all Scottish universities it provides an easier academic transition for Americans than British counterparts.   Students spend four years at the university and have more flexibility in choosing what subject to study after they matriculate.  (However, there is not as much breadth or flexibility as most American college programs.)   U of Edinburgh welcomes international students and has support services, activities, and associations that help to integrate all 12,000 of them into the community.  The facilities are impressive and some buildings (i.e. their Student Union) are grand and ancient.   The student population is big--about 30,000 students--and the campus has multiple locations spread throughout the city.  Each class includes lectures, tutorials, and independent study.   “Freshers” have more lectures; those in third and fourth “honours” years have considerable independent study and/or research.  The University of Edinburgh would be a good match for an independent student who wants to have an international/global experience in a beautiful, cosmopolitan, fun and friendly city. Interested students will also want to have a pretty good idea about what they want to study. One also must not mind a bit of rain. 

The University of St. Andrews is a spectacularly beautiful campus in a spectacularly beautiful town.  Golf courses and beaches surround the 16th century architecture and there is a sense of history and tradition that permeates the campus.  The town of St. Andrews feels like a college town with many of the shops, restaurants and pubs catering to the university students.  The Rector (aka President) described the town as “big enough to be interesting and small enough to be intimate” and the university as “having the ethos of a liberal arts college, but the resources of a large research university.”   Because of its smaller size (7800 students), there is more student/faculty interaction here than at University of Edinburgh, yet students are still expected to be more independent than at many American universities.  “Internationally Scottish,” they also welcome students from other countries (16% out of their 32% are American) and have a global outlook.  International Relations is one of their most popular courses of study.  I have not seen a campus in which students are so well dressed!  When I asked students about this, they said that presenting oneself neatly, professionally and stylishly was the unspoken expectation.  Students seem to love the school and are thrilled to tell you about traditions such as the red academic coat that they sometimes wear, the many balls that are part of their social scene, and the annual May 1 plunge into the North Sea.  And, of course, Prince William and Kate Middleton are proud alums.  If you are a golfer, a student can play all of the famous, world-class courses of St. Andrews for about $300/year!  

There is much more to know and consider if you are interested in applying to Scottish schools.  Come on by and talk.

Posted by lgersick on Wednesday March, 19, 2014 at 11:29AM


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Susan Lee
Co-Director of College Counseling
415 593 9511

Lauren Gersick
Co-Director of College Counseling
415 593 9512

Leslie Schaffer
College Counseling Assistant
415 593 9519

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