Tag Archives: Cambridge

LIVE BLOG: The Universities of the UK and Amsterdam

TUESDAY, June 18 2019 – The Myers Briggs Company

 I was thrilled to visit the global office of the Myers Briggs Company, located in Oxford.

A bit of background… For many years, I have been extremely engaged with the personality and interest assessments of The Myers Briggs Company, learning as much as possible about these tools and administering them to my clients. These assessments include the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), based on Jungian psychology and used to determine innate personality; and the Strong Interest Inventory, which identifies interests in academics, activities, and career paths.

I have administered and interpreted these assessments with hundreds of individuals from 14 years of age through 50, and have conducted workshops with organizations on how to use the MBTI assessment to strengthen teamwork, communication, and collaboration at their company.

I regularly meet with the marketing and product directors of the Myers Briggs Company in the United States. On Tuesday, I had the great opportunity to meet with Liane Hawthorne, the Director of Marketing for the global division of the Myers Briggs Company.

As you may know, the MBTI looks at four dimensions of personality, with each having two preference options:



Each individual’s preferences for these four dimensions produces a 4-letter personality “type.” For example, my type is ENFJ, including a preference for Extraversion, Intuition, Feeling, and Judging. Identifying an individual’s 4-letter personality type is considered Step I.


There are 16 potential personality types. Each type has its own strengths and potential blind spots; as well as preferences for learning, communication, teamwork, and managing conflict and stress.

The front of the Myers Briggs Company headquarters displays the diagram below, summarizing a few salient features of each of the 16 types:

Liane presented a fascinating metaphor, that we can each imagine that we live in an enormous 16-room home. We have our favorite room (which corresponds to our particular personality type), but we need to go into the different rooms to perform different activities. For example, a research activity might require an ISTJ approach. It’s beneficial to learn how to function in the different rooms, but we always want to come back to our “home-room,” where we feel most comfortable, to recharge.

It’s possible to take a more advanced examination of an individual’s personality type, in which we look at “facets” within each personality preference to further differentiate the person; this requires a Step II analysis.


Here are the five facets within each of the eight preferences:

I always administer the Step II MBTI because these facets can reveal so much about a person, and can help individualize his or her personality. For example, I am an ENFJ, with “out-of-preference” Thinking facets of Logical and Questioning. For my other preferences of Extraversion, Intuition, and Judging, all my facets are within preference. My resulting personality type is: Logical, Questioning, ENFJ

 It was very gratifying to feel part of the MBTI community! At the Myers Briggs Company’s global headquarters, I felt surrounded by people dedicated to helping others increase their self-awareness and personal effectiveness! 


TUESDAY June 18, 2019 – Balliol College, Oxford University

As you may recall from my previous blogs, the University of Oxford is comprised of about 30 individual colleges, each run as a separate, distinct entity and each with its own culture.

Prospective students apply to a particular academic “faculty,” or degree program, within a specific college. Each college chooses which academic fields to offer based on the faculty members, or tutors, affiliated with the college. Not all academic fields are offered by all colleges. For example, the very popular PPE program (Philosophy, Politics, and Economics) is offered by 32 colleges; more Prime Ministers have a PPE degree than any other. In contrast, Earth Sciences is only offered by six of the Oxford colleges, and History of Art by eight.

Students’ academics are a combination of lectures offered by their department to all students pursuing a degree in their “faculty,” and tutorials offered by their college by the faculty affiliated with their college. For the first year, students participate mostly in tutorials in their own college; and in years 2 and 3, may take courses in other colleges.

This blog will focus on Balliol College, “arguably the oldest college in Oxford, founded in 1263. It has stood on a single site longer than any other college in the English-speaking world,” according to the current Master, Dame Helen Ghosh.

When I visited, I chatted with three students. One student was from a small town in northern England, and was studying Maths (the British term for Mathematics), and did his thesis work in theoretical number theory (such as imaginary numbers). After graduation, he was going to pursue a PhD. from the University of Durham, where I visited several years ago. Two other students were friends from Germany. One was studying PPE; he visited Balliol and chose it based on its central location and the warmth of the student body. The other was studying history; he never visited but learned about Balliol from virtual tours.

With about 400 undergrads and 400 grad students, Balliol is a relatively medium-sized college within Oxford. It consists of several beautiful quads, including Front Quad below, bordered by two libraries and the chapel.


The Old Library was built in the 15th century, originally for Fellows’ use only.

The “New” Library was also built in the 15th century, originally as a dining hall, and converted to the humanities part of the library in 1877. Both libraries are very popular for residents of Balliol, but they are free to use other libraries around campus as well.

Below is a photo of the Chapel, which is the third one on the site.

Students and faculty eat in the Hall, reminiscent of Harry Potter’s school facilities! Surrounding the tables are portraits of Masters and alumni. Balliol alums have included nine Nobel Prize winners and three Primer Ministers.

At the far end of Hall is the Faculty table, where the faculty dine every meal. The elevation of the faculty table is intended to convey the higher stature of the faculty and the respect they deserve.

Master Ghosh described why she chose to join Balliol: “The reputation that Balliol has – of academic excellence, a sense of social responsibility, and intellectual independence – perhaps especially suited me most of all.”


Monday, June 17th – Bioengineering at Imperial College



Since Imperial is devoted to the study of STEM, and bioengineering is an interdisciplinary STEM field, the combination of bioengineering and Imperial is powerful!

While many undergraduate fields of study at Imperial (and in fact throughout England) are 3-year programs, the Bioengineering degree is available only as a 4-year MEng degree or 5-year MEng degree, including a Year in Industry. As such, you graduate with much stronger credentials.

Imperial’s bioengineering program houses state-of-the-art facilities. The first two years include required core courses, with a deep coverage of the life sciences.



Imperial’s state-of-the-art life sciences lab.

The tissue regeneration lab.


The bioengineering program includes a significant research component. In the third year, students work on a group project to solve real-world problems. As described by Lorna Stevenson, the Admissions and Outreach Manager for Bioengineering, “engineering is a team sport!” In fact, the interview plays a large role and students are encouraged to interview in person on the Imperial campus; in addition to an individual interview, applicants are given a group task to see how well they deal with solving engineering problems within a group. The photo below shows a backstroke device developed by a bioengineering team for Andrew Mullen, a Paralympian swimmer.



In the fourth year, students conduct an individual research project and take electives in their specialized field of interest. The seven fields of research illustrate the interdisciplinary nature of the program:

  • Biomechanics and Mechanobiology
  • Biomedical Sensing, Diagnostics, and Imaging
  • Computational and Theoretical Modeling
  • Medical Devices
  • Molecular and Cellular Bioengineering
  • Regenerative Medicine and Biomaterials
  • Neurotechnology and Robotics

A tour through the Bioengineering labs illustrates the exciting scope of research projects designed to improve the lives of human beings.



Finally, Imperial College is committed to supporting women in STEM, and participates in the UK Athena Swan program. 54% of students in the bioengineering program are women, and Imperial received a silver Athena award this year in recognition of its support of women in its student and faculty population.



Stay tuned for more updates from my trip, including information on Oxford University, Kings College, University College London, and the Myers Briggs Company.

Monday June 17th – Imperial College

I was very excited to re-visit Imperial College, one of the top STEM universities in the world! Imperial can credit its existence to the vision of Prince Albert, a big believer in the power of STEM; he helped establish the Royal College of Chemistry in 1845, the earliest school of Imperial. Over the years, the university has grown steadily and incorporated other educational institutions, and at present includes three streams of study: Medicine, Engineering, and Natural Sciences.

Imperial’s main campus is in South Kensington. As part of its continual expansion, it recently opened the Francis Frick Institute, a partnership with Kings College, University College London, and several governmental science institutes, to form the largest biomedical research center in Europe.


Unlike in the US, medicine can be studied on the undergraduate level at UK universities. As such, learning about the UK Bachelors degree in medicine provides an interesting glimpse into an alternative approach to medical education. In America, medical education on the graduate level is required, preceded by pre-medical education in the undergraduate year in the form of 8 required science and math courses.

Typically undergraduate education in England consists of a 3-year Bachelor’s program, but Medicine at Imperial totals 6 years; this includes a 4-year course of study for the BSc degree (Bachelors of Science) followed by a 2-year program for the MBBS degree (Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery) with a complete cycle through all medical and surgical specialties.

A unique feature of studying medicine at Imperial is that the program is steeped in basic science and research-based, so you are fully qualified to become a scientific researcher and/or clinician when you graduate. In addition, the hospitals affiliated with Imperial serve a wide variety of patient populations, from St. Mary’s, where the royal babies are born, to the the Surrey Hospital, which serves rural populations.


The medicine curriculum at Imperial has recently undergone a complete review, and a new curriculum will be implemented shortly, consisting of 3 “phases” of study:

Phase 1 (Years 1-3)

The first 3 years of study will be non-clinical science based, but students will be exposed to relevant clinic work; for example, when studying the cardiology system, students will observe a cardiology ward. In the 3rd year, students will have longer clinical “attachments” (rotations) in various hospitals and clinics, during which they will take histories, go into wards, and shadow doctors. They will be exposed to a variety of environments, including primary care in communities, in-hospital clinics, and out-patient clinics.

Phase 2 (Year 4)

In the 4th year, students complete a research project to obtain the BSc degree. There are 11 different pathways from which to choose. Management and bioengineering are among the more popular pathways. New options this year include surgical innovations and cancer frontiers. For example, a student team in bioengineering developed a rowing sleeve for Pam Relph, diagnosed with Psoriatic Arthritis at a young age, in order to assist her training on the ergometer; this enabled her to achieve her dream to become a World Rowing Champion.

Phase 3  (Years 5-6)

Years 5 and 6 are the senior clinical years, and include “preparing for practice” longer rotations. During this period, students can pursue clinical attachments in elective areas in which they wish to specialize during their careers. At each point of the attachments, students are required to do practical assessments such as medical procedures or reflective pieces.

After graduation, students do two Foundation years, in which they practice medicine, and are paid; in the second Foundation year, they can begin to specialize.


Imperial is moving from the traditional structured interview to the MMI (Multiple Mini-Interview). There will be seven stations; at each station, students receive a question, have 2 minutes to prepare, and 5 minutes to speak with an interviewer in response to the prompt. The stations will cover the following topics. A current medical school would lead the last station:

  • Work experience – 2 stations
  • Teamwork and leadership
  • Empathy and ethics
  • Value-based scenarios – 2 stations
  • Contribution to Imperial Medical School community

Increasing numbers of US students are applying and attending medical school at Imperial, due to the ability to study medicine on the undergraduate level. US applicants can subsequently practice medicine if they pass the Step 1 and Step 2 USMLE medical boards (US Medical Licensing Examination). While it’s possible to return to the US after the 1st Foundation year, it’s recommended to complete both Foundation years in order to have the flexibility to practice medicine in the UK in the future.


Stay tuned for future blogs about Imperial’s Bioengineering degree, Oxford University, Kings College London, University College London, the Royal Central School of Drama, and the Myers Briggs Company! For more information on applying to the Medicine program at UK universities, see our previous blog.

Saturday, June 15th – Departure!

Starting today, I’m off on my fourth trip to the UK to visit universities—and I’ll be sharing my knowledge and insights here, in this blog, from start to finish.

On this trip, I will return to top universities including Oxford, Imperial, King’s, and University College London. But this time, I’ll be focusing on unusual degree programs unavailable in US undergraduate institutions like medicine and law. While in Oxford, I will also meet with global directors of The Myers Briggs Company, to discuss worldwide applications of personality and interest assessments. I’ll then continue on to visit a variety of unique and prestigious schools, including the Royal Central School of Drama.

Finally, I’ll also be traveling to the Netherlands to visit the University of Amsterdam for the first time.

Stay tuned for daily updates, and check out our previous UK live blog, as well as our blog on how to apply to UK universities.

LIVE BLOG: UK Universities



Central Saint Martins is one of the six constituent colleges of the University of the Arts London.  UAL is Europe’s largest specialist university for art, design, fashion, communication and the performing arts, and currently educates 14,000 undergraduates (about two-thirds of the total), 2,700 postgraduate and research students, and 2,250 further education students.  About 53% of the students are international.

Central St Martins, with its 4000 students and 1000 staff, moved to a glorious new landmark location in 2011, designed by architects Stanton Williams as part of a 67-acre redevelopment of King’s Cross.


I had the honor of spending three hours with Dr. Jo Wheeler, Head of International Development, responsible for exchange programs with universities throughout the world. CSM places a strong value on international partnerships.  CSM strives to develop formal 1:1 exchange programs. Prime examples are SVA (School of Visual Arts) and Pratt in NYC for art, Carnegie Mellon in Pittsburgh for Drama. In addition, CSM students do Student Abroad and international students come to CSM.  Parsons has a strong history of sending students to spend a term at CSM.

The features of the four-level open design can best be captured through photos.

Openness and transparency:


CSM ground floor


CSM 3rd floor view into Architecture class


Glass-walled classroom


Grad School of Advertising Design

Workshops: Emphasis on “Making”

CSM does not offer Art History, because it is concerned with the development of new approaches.  Architecture, for example, is intertwined with social issues such as the public use of space.  Teddy Cruz, an architect and academic from UC Santa Cruz, is doing a “Practitioner Residence” at CSM; he studies the impact of border crossings on architectural innovation.


Fabric design workshop


Digital media design


Photography workshop


Wood workshop

Group Work


CSM Library



Highly visible installation and performance art, seen from multiple perspectives:




From ground floor


View from 3rd floor


CSM has 3-year BA programs in:

  • Acting
  • Architecture
  • Ceramic Design
  • Criticism, Communication and Curation (CCC)
  • Directing
  • Fashion
  • Fine Art
  • Graphic Design
  • Jewellery Design
  • Product Design
  • Textile Design

2-year MA programs are available in:

  • Communication Design
  • Creative Practice for Narrative Environments
  • Ceramics, Furniture or Jewellery
  • Textile Futures
  • Fashion
  • Fine Art (1-year)
  • Industrial Design
  • Innovation Management
  • Acting, Directing, Writing

Foundation Program

Many UK institutions offer a pre-University “foundation” program, in which students can satisfy the entrance requirements. For example, students may not have had access to rigorously sufficient art programs in which to learn basic approaches and develop a portfolio.  Or, for academic courses of study, US students may be attending a high school that does not have offer AP or IB programs, and would therefore not be able to provide required entrance exam scores.  In such situations, students can take a 1-year foundation program, and then apply.  At CSM, there is an admissions advantage to taking the foundation program here, because professors become familiar with your approach and quality of work.

Interdisciplinary approach

CSM puts enormous stock in the benefits of interdisciplinary proximity in the open-ly constructed environment.  As Jo says, “Fashion here is within an art context; it has to bounce off fine art and architecture.” Similarly, the Graphics Program is broad and not commercial: typography, advertising and the moving image are all together.

Fashion Program

CSM is renowned for its focus on fashion. Top designers have emerged from the program, including Stella McCartney, Alexander McQueen, John Galliano and many others.  CSM is the only fashion school that exhibits at London Fashion Week, on the same stage as top international designers.

Fashion is the only program that prohibits visitors from taking photography because of the keen competition for new approaches. But I was permitted to walk through the long high-ceilinged, light-filled design rooms filled with bustling students and hundreds of mannequins being outfitted.


CSM Library, highly sought-after Vogue magazines


CSM Fabric library


In Jo’s words, “Here the benchmark is your portfolio, except for writing-based courses (such as Communications), where scores and writing samples are taken into account.”  A key difference between what CSM seeks in a student’s portfolio versus a US school is that CSM is extremely interested in the development work that leads to the outcome, whereas the US art schools want portfolios to include finished work.  At CSM, a portfolio could include 30 pieces, of many of which are the sketches and stages of one particular project. The work should show the ability to edit your work, and a clear visual aesthetic.

The Personal Statement plays a large role as well, and should have a rigorous focus. Students should discuss why they want to come to UAL, and CSM in particular, what they want to study, and how CSM will benefit them. In addition, discuss your work and who you’ve studying in developing your own artistic vision.

The SAT and AP scores, as well as references, play a secondary role.  For each program, the minimum requirements are listed on the website.

National Gallery of Art


Manet Diptych

I visited the National Gallery the day after CSM. I had the pleasure of seeing the new Impressionism exhibit, providing a befitting contrast with the modern, cutting-edge approaches of CSM! The exhibit focused on the role of Paul Durand-Ruel, a nineteen century Parisian art dealer, in relentless supporting and promoting the works of a broad group of Impressionists, including Manet, Monet, Renoit, Sisley and Degas.  While there was enormous critique and resistance in Europe, he finally found a receptive market in America.

Tuesday, March 3rd

Delighted to return to London yesterday. At night, I saw a gripping, profound drama at the storied Haymarket Theater called Taken At Midnight, set in Germany in the 1930s.  Penelope Wilton (Lady Crawley in Downton Abbey) was spectacular and riveting.


Today I’m off to the University of Cambridge to meet with professors and further explore campus life. I spent a day last July visiting several of the constituent colleges, as well as summer programs.  Stay tuned for further exploration of this historic university town.


Tuesday, March 3

I had the pleasure of returning to St Andrews last Thursday and Friday for an organized College Counselor tour.


University Hall

As you may recall, last summer, I visited St Andrews on my own, and spent a lovely day becoming acquainted with this ancient university.  For those of you who think I may be tossing around the world “ancient” arbitrarily, allow me to explain…

Classifications of UK Universities

The United Kingdom groups its universities into categories based on when they were founded.  The most revered group is considered the “ancient universities,” consisting of the seven universities founded before 1800.  I have now visited five, including Oxford and Cambridge in England; and St Andrews, University of Edinburgh and University of Glasgow in Scotland.  The remaining two are Aberdeen (Scotland) and Dublin (Ireland).  This group has been compared to the Ivy Leagues in the US because they are the most historic and perceived to have the strongest academics.

The remaining universities are divided into the following categories:

  • London universities, including the vast University of London system, as well as Durham and the former University of Wales system
  • Red brick universities, founded in the first few decades of the 20th century
  • Plate glass universities, also known as the “new” universities, chartered after 1966

In addition, there is a self-selected association of 24 public research universities known as the Russell Group, which cuts across all the categories discussed above, and is made up of very large research-intensive universities. As a collective, the group receives most of the public research funding, and awards most of the Ph.Ds.  The Russell Group consists of Queens University in Ireland, Edinburgh and Glasgow in Scotland, and 21 British universities, including Cambridge, Oxford, Durham, Imperial, Kings, LSE, University College and others.

2014 Visit to St Andrews

When I last visited St Andrews, I met with members of the international admissions team, had a delightful and informative lunch with Ivar Moller at A Doll’s House in town, enjoyed a comprehensive student tour, met with career services, and chatted with a Physics Professor.  This visit provided an excellent introduction to the unique Scottish approach towards undergraduate education, as well as a comprehensive look at what makes St Andrews unique.


St Andrews street The Scores looking out to the sea

2015 Visit to St Andrews

In contrast to my 2014 visit, this trip to St Andrews was organized by the university, and allowed me to deepen my knowledge of academics, campus life, and institutional priorities.  I was joined by about 40 high school guidance counselors and five other independent educational consultants.

Principal Louise Richardson

We were honored to be addressed by Louise Richardson, the first female Principal and Vice Chancellor of a Scottish university.  Ms. Richardson also serves as Professor of International Relations with globally recognized expertise in terrorism. She formerly taught at Harvard and served as Executive Dean of the Radcliffe Institute of Advanced Studies.  Currently Professor Richardson teaches an undergraduate seminar on terrorism to a small class of 12 students from different countries.


Principal Richardson’s descriptions of the unique identity of St Andrews was very similar to how you might hear Princeton and Yale described: “we combine the ethos of a small liberal arts college with the reality of a major research institution… We are the ideal size: big enough to be interesting, and small enough to have an influence on every life.”

Her institutional priorities are decidedly academic: “focus on good-quality research and personalized high-quality teaching.” Principal Richardson said she has an old-fashioned approach towards interdisciplinary study, in that “scholars need a strong grounding in separate disciplines first,” and then can explore interdisciplinary collaborations. Some of the new fields for St Andrews include International Legal Studies and War and Security, a combination of history, philosophy and international relations.


The admissions team at St Andrews is exceptional.  In addition to being warm and welcoming, whether on American or Scottish soil, they are extremely knowledgeable and articulate about the nuances of both admissions and academics.  The team is headed by Julie Ramsey, Director of Admissions; Beth Shotton, Director of International Admissions, and Ivar Moller, Director of North American Admissions.


Ivar Moller, Director of North American Admissions. Starting with the basics!


Beth Shotton, Director of International Admissions, biking through the Scottish highlands (in a Kansas t-shirt!).


The admissions process at St Andrews is holistic, and all components are reviewed.  The most important factors are the transcript, AP exams, Subject Tests and SAT/ACT. The transcript is reviewed heavily, with more emphasis on 11th and 12th grade, and on courses that relate to your intended subject(s). The GPA is becoming less important, since the scales differ widely by secondary school.  A competitive applicant would typically have an A- average in a high-quality college preparatory program, AP scores of 4s and 5s, and Subject Test scores over 600. 

Admission requirements for individual subjects are clearly stated on the St Andrews website.

Unique Features of St Andrews

In addition to St Andrews’ top-quality research and teaching, here are a few unique features of the University:

  • University and town are fully integrated
  • 600 years of history and tradition
  • Ocean and beaches are close at hand
  • International exposure to a global student body, with 160 countries represented

US students in particular feel at home amidst the strong US presence. Americans are the #1 international group, followed by China, Canada and Hong Kong.

Although the university is relatively small, with 6,400 undergraduates, the philosophy is for students to develop their independence.  Students do not receive session-by-session assignments, but instead know what is due for the entire course and must pace their work on their own. Dr. Chris Lusk, Director of Student Services, wants St Andrews’ students to develop “agency”: the qualities of being resilient and solution-focused.


The 4-year academic model of St Andrews includes:

  • Years 1 and 2: “subhonours” work in which students take three subjects each year;
  • Years 3 and 4:  focus on either one subject, graduating with a single Honours degree, or two subjects, leading to a Joint Honours degree.

Ivar Mollar illustrates a 4-year academic sequence


The United States approach towards higher education had its foundation in the Scottish philosophy of combining broad liberal arts exposure with focused work.  But the founders of the earliest universities in the US wanted students to have an even broader exposure to the full range of liberal arts disciplines throughout all four years.

The education at St Andrews is characterized by deep intellectual exploration, small classes with a premium on discussion, and a senior dissertation.  We were fortunate to hear several talks by academics about their fields and departments.

Philosophy Professor Patrick Greenhough’s talk clearly demonstrated the engaged approach of the faculty at St Andrews.  The Professor asked a series of probing questions, such as:

  • What is philosophy?
  • What is beauty?
  • What is consciousness?
  • What is a language?
  • What is a person?
  • Can war be just?
  • Can you predict the stock market?

St Andrews’ Philosophy Department is considered one of the top in the UK, not only in research rankings, but Student Satisfaction Survey.  (Watch for our upcoming blog on how universities are ranked in the UK!)In fact, the Philosophy Society at St Andrews is the largest society (extracurricular activity).  What are some fields that philosophy grads can enter?

  • Become a comic – Ricky Gervais
  • Found a leading social media company, like Linked In or Wikipedia – George Soros
  • Do groundbreaking linguistics research – Noam Chomsky

Philosophy Professor Patrick Greenhough

St Andrews has a popular joint program with the College of William and Mary, the second oldest college in the United States, in which you spend two years at each school.  You can choose to apply to either St Andrews or W&M as your host college, and if accepted, you spend your first year at the host college, your second year at the other college, and then choose how to sequence your final two years.  Four degree programs are offered as part of this joint degree: English Literature, Economics, History (which includes a large language component) and International Relations (the most popular subject for US students).

The sciences are housed in a separate modern complex, a 10-minute walk from the main campus.


Your Academic Family

St Andrews has a unique approach to providing peer support!   During your first year, you will likely be approached by at least one “academic mother” and/or “academic father” who offer to “adopt” you. You will then de facto acquire a number of brothers and sisters, and possibly cousins. While I am using quotes in describing this system, the students involved do not in any way use air quotes, but instead earnestly share such personal details as “my mother and father are not married, in fact are married to other people, and I have eight brothers and sisters, some of whom have other parents”!  The students derive an enormous sense of support from this long-standing tradition, especially since so many are international and a long way from home.


St Andrews Student Panel

Residential Life

Freshmen are required to live in a hall of residence. There are ten halls, ranging from Victorian to modern style.  Some are “catered” (providing food) and some are not.  There are no specific floors or wings for segments of the population, such as international or LGBT, but there are plans to institute no-alcohol accommodations next year. Remember that the drinking age is 18!

One of the most popular halls is St. Salvatore’s, which has a very Hogwarts-ian feel and is centrally located.


Sally’s has 260 undergraduates, two-thirds of which are first year and one-third “returners.”  Most students share a room, and first year students are carefully matched.  This contrasts with University of Glasgow, which has all singles.  The halls are run by a “Warden” and Assistant Warden, charged with providing social, emotional and academic support. The hall has a Committee of about 18 elected students, who run all the social activities and events.


Sam, the Warden of St. Sally’s Hall, with student leaders 


But St Andrews is by means an exclusively academic experience. Students gain an enormous amount from their participation in “societies,” or extracurricular organizations.  During our final evening, an a capella group serenaded us with their creative vocal artistry – singing a combination of moving ballads and quite humorous songs about romance.  Later on, we were treated to Scottish Highlands dancing.


And then, it was time to say good-bye to the castle on the hill.

Monday, March 2

I have now completed my tours of the “ancient” Scottish universities of St Andrews and University of Glasgow, having also visited the University of Edinburgh last summer. Tomorrow I head back to London by train, with plans to spend Wednesday at Cambridge, and tour Royal Veterinary College and Central St Martins (University of the Arts) before I head back to the States.

My trip has been intense and comprehensive, stimulating and mind-expanding.  The ratio of experience to reflection has been high! As a result, I have not yet blogged on all that I have observed and absorbed, and plan to use the lovely train ride tomorrow to catch up!

A few hints of blogs to come:


SOAS (School of Oriental and African Studies)



Kings College



Chelsea College of the Arts (University of the Arts)


University of Durham


St Andrews


University of Glasgow

Sunday, March 1 – Dining in the UK!

Yes, I came all the way to Scotland to have a bagel and lox!  Or, as they call it here…


Breakfast at Blythswood Square, Glasgow

Smoked salmon.  You can have salmon morning (with scrambled eggs), noon (baked with aubergine) and night (raw with flowers).  And I have.

But lest you think, gentle reader, that I am not a food explorer, here are some classic British dishes and where I had them.

“Dressed Crab” in London.  Brits are so proper that even their appetizers need to be dressed. This classic dish is typically served with a dressing of dark crabmeat in the center, and chopped egg whites.


Herring and cream sauce at a French bistro near the Victoria & Albert Museum.  As an island, Britain cannot be outdone for its variety of seafood.


Cullen Skink Soup in Glasgow. This native fish chowder was served at a popular restaurant in Glasgow called Two Fat Ladies!


“Fish ‘n chips” in St Andrews. You would lose all respect for me as a seasoned traveller, so to speak, if I did not include this classic dish.  This is a half-portion of haddock (in England this dish would be made with cod), and a combination of “mushy peas” and small peas.


Dover Sole in London. At the other end of the seafood spectrum, while Daisy is eating fish ‘n chips, Lady Mary would dine on Dover Sole. This well-known seafood dish in England (and considered haute cuisine in the US) comes from Dover, a seaside town in Southeast England that faces France.


Sea Bream at The Vine Leaf in St Andrews.  An amiable husband-wife team runs this small inventive restaurant on South Street, a few blocks from campus.


Toffee pudding.  And if you’ve saved room for dessert, you will be offered toffee pudding nearly everywhere!



Wednesday, February 25

University College London was founded in 1826,  making it the first university to be founded in the city of London, and the third in the UK, after Oxford and Cambridge.


In contrast with Oxbridge, UCL was founded on principles of inclusion by Jeremy Bentham, British philosopher, jurist and social reformer. Heads-up for a gruesome fact: Jeremy’s body is actually embalmed within his likeness in the central building of UCL (see below), and I myself stood but a foot away from a man who lived nearly two centuries ago!


Bentham did not subscribe to the status quo. UCL welcomed students of all backgrounds, and was the first to admit women.  While the founders of Oxbridge were monks, who placed the study of theology at its core, UCL is a secular institution and its library is physically located at its center. See the library dome below.


Most universities in London are affiliated with the umbrella organization of the University of London, which performs centralized functions such as finances and appointing professors.  Over time, UCL has merged with several constituent colleges of University of London, such as the Institute of Education and the School of Pharmacy, and is now the largest college within the University of London system.  U of L does not play a large role at present in UCL’s functioning, but provides a few convenient shared resources, such as libraries and intercollegiate housing.


Bentham’s unconventional and creative approach fostered a spirit of intellectual exploration that continues to this day.  UCL has many notable alumni, from Mahatma Ghandi to Alexander Graham Bell to Francis Crick (co-discover of DNA).  But perhaps the most famous are the band members of Coldplay!

UCL prides itself on collaborative, interdisciplinary programs, including the new “Arts and Sciences” series of majors, which emphasize communication, problem-solving and global cultural skills. Within “Arts and Sciences” are four pathways: two humanities (Cultures and Societies) and two sciences (Health and Environment, and Sciences and Engineering).  If you major in a humanities pathway, you must minor in a sciences pathway, and vice versa; these requirements are somewhat reminiscent of US distribution requirements, and are quite similar to MIT’s requirement that STEM majors must minor in an arts or humanities subject.

Some of the most popular and highly-regarded programs are law, medicine, economics, psychology, neuroscience and the biological sciences.  Studying medicine effectively requires access to hospitals for clinic work, as well as strong research facilities.  UCL recently built a new medical complex, including a hospital and the Wellcome building for research.

The former hospital, located in a magnificent historic building (below) is now used for biological research.



In the UK, there are a variety of higher ed ranking systems, in contrast with the monolithic US News & World Reports for US universities. One of the most respected rankings is the REF (Research Excellence Framework).  REF ranks overall institutions as well as individual subject areas. REF calculates a “GPA” from 1.0-4.0 that combines assessments of the institution’s research in terms of “output” and “impact.” “Output” is the quantitative assessment of the number of research publications at various levels of prestige, with 4.0 reflecting international stature; “Impact” is the qualitative measurement of the influence of the research on individuals, societies and policies.

UCL ranked #8 overall in the 2014 REF (with Institute of Cancer Research #1, Imperial College London #2, LSE #3, followed by Oxford, Cambridge, Cardiff and King’s College.)  In the REF subject rankings, UCL ranked #1 in Computer Science, and Economics and Econometrics. A leading measurement in the UK is inclusion in the “Top 10” rankings for particular subjects, and of 36 subjects measured, UCL has a top-ten ranking in over half, ranging from Clinical Medicine to Law to Aeronautical Engineering to Politics.

Other organizations respected for their rankings of universities include Times Higher Education and the Guardian, two leading newspapers. The Times ranks UCL as #5 in Europe, and #22 in the world. The Guardian ranks it #11 in the UK.


UCL has about 26,000 students, with a bit over half in the graduate programs.  40% are international (outside of the UK). China represents the largest country of origin, with 3,000 students; the US is second, with a combination of exchange, study abroad and full-time undergraduate degree students. 



US students can study at UCL for a semester or full year through either a “study abroad” or “exchange” program. The Partners for Exchange program is based on reciprocity, in which equal numbers of students swap universities.  Since US students typically study abroad for one semester, and UK students for one year, the US sends two students for every one UK student.  Formal US partners include a range of institutions such as Columbia, Georgetown, Hopkins, Penn, UNC Chapel Hill, and the University of California system.

In contrast, the Study Abroad program does not require an equal exchange of students.  Currently, there are 550 Study Abroad students from the US, including 80 for a full year, and the remainder for a semester. Princeton has a unique partnership with the UCL English department, in which US students take three UCL courses and one Princeton-led course on the London campus.  A similar partnership exists with Tufts, and others may follow. The University of Chicago just changed from a study abroad to exchange partner.

By the way, NYU has adopted a different model, in which it invested heavily in numerous global centers around the world, with its own teaching staff; one of its most prominent programs is NYU-in-London.

UCL wants to encourage its own students to participate in study abroad as part of an institutional strategy of encouraging global citizenship. Currently 21% of undergraduates do study abroad, and the goal is to increase this involvement to 35%.


UCL is one of the most prestigious and selective institutions in the UK, indeed in the world.  Keep your eyes open for a future blog on rankings of UK institutions!  UCL receives about 30,000 applications each year for 3,000 places.

By now, you are aware of the UK policy of requiring a specific number of APs with required minimum scores.  At UCL, 5 APs are required, and individual programs range from 54444 (5 in one AP and 4 in 4 APs) to 55555 (5s in 5 APs).  SAT Subject Test scores are not considered, and the SAT General Reasoning Test can be submitted as additional information, but offers will not be made conditional on the SAT.  Of course, IBs or A-levels are acceptable as alternatives to APs.  In addition the BMAT (UK version of MCAT) is required.

UCL offers a “foundational courses” for students who do not have the entrance qualifications. Its UPC (Undergraduate Preparatory Certificate) course includes two options, one for the humanities, and one for science and engineering. Students who wish to apply to any UK institution can take these courses at UCL.

So if your heart is set on attending a UK university, there’s always a way!

Tuesday, February 24

Imperial College

Just like in the US, each university in the UK has its own story.  No two universities are the same, and each school’s story has its own central players.

For Imperial College, the catalyst was Prince Albert, Queen Victoria’s husband, who lived during the mid-nineteenth century. Albert was a pioneer in his devotion to STEM – science, technology, engineering and medicine. By royal charter, he established Imperial College, with the goal of pursuing these disciplines to the fullest extent possible.  Albert would be very proud, since Imperial is now considered a world leader in the research and teaching of STEM.



To fully appreciate the scope of Albert’s reach, it’s helpful to grasp the concept of “Albertropolis” (an amalgam of Albert and metropolis), which refers to the swath of London created and inspired by Albert.  The photo below was taken from the terrace of a business school classmate of mine. You can see the Albert Memorial in Hyde Park at the left, the domed Albert Hall (a major performance venue) in the center, and the Victoria & Albert Museum on the far right.  Such is the scope of Albert’s influence!


In fact, the royal ties to Imperial run deep – Baby George (referring, of course, to William and Kate’s firstborn) was born in Imperial College Hospital, and most likely his sibling will be born there as well.

So if you come to live in London, you will no doubt end up becoming a touch more knowledgeable about England’s political players. You may honor her highness or you may mock the monarchy, but either way you’re not likely to respond to the question “So who’s the Queen now?” with a blank stare. (It’s Elizabeth, and she’s been Queen for so long that 12 Prime Ministers have come and gone.)

But we digress!  On to the unique characteristics of Imperial…


There are three “streams” of study at Imperial, and each has about one-third of the students: Engineering, Medicine and Natural Sciences.

Engineering is the largest of the three, in both number of courses and faculty.  A new program, the Dyson School of Design Engineering, is funded by Jim Dyson and run in collaboration with the Royal College of Art. The mission is to design innovative products, and make them aesthetically pleasing as well. This is the only engineering course at Imperial that does not require physics. There is a lot of overlap with Imperial’s Bio-Engineering department, which recently created, designed and brought to market a Para-Olympic sporting equipment : the “ghost arm,” a glove that trains disabled athletes to initiate effective swimming movements.


Dynamic fracture & forming lab

Medicine is available as an undergraduate subject in UK universities – one of the many significant differences between UK and US undergraduate academia. At other UK universities, medicine is typically a five-year program. At Imperial, however, medicine is six years because of the addition of an “intercalated” 4th year, in which the student researches a specific medical field, such as immunity, infection, global health, or management, and receives a BSc.  Students go into hospitals immediately in their first year, and receive a mixture of problem-based learning and lecturing during their first three years.  Their final two years are purely clinical.

If an American student wanted to practice medicine back in the US after receiving a medicine degree from Imperial, he or she would need to pass the US medical boards.


Cutting-edge medical research is conducted at Imperial such as studies on effects and reconstruction for blast injuries.


Imperial is a member of Athena Swan (Scientific Women’s Academic Network), a national UK initiative to strengthen the participation of women in STEMM, which encompasses the fields of science, technology, engineering, medicine and maths (the UK word for mathematics).  The UK established the Athena Swan Charter in 1999 to advance STEMM, achieve gender equality, eliminate bias, increase management diversity and address challenges in doing so. Universities are eligible to receive a silver or bronze award, and individual departments are eligible for gold, silver or bronze awards, based on efforts to achieve these goals.

Imperial has a Silver institutional award, as well as thirteen departmental awards ranging from Bronze to Gold; Chemistry holds a Gold, and Chemical Engineering, Earth Science and Engineering, Materials, Physics, National Hearta and Lung Institute and Public Health hold a Silver.

You can search the websites of all UK universities for information on their commitment to the aims of Athena SWAN.



The US represents the 12th largest student representation out of 26 countries, and most  US students are in post-graduate study (Masters or PhD) as opposed to undergraduate study. Students can do a 1-year Study Abroad program from October-June as Visiting Students, and are fully integrated with the full-time student body. Most US students who participate in Study Abroad at Imperial do so in Engineering.  An excellent way to experience Imperial is through The Global Summer School, a variety of pre-university programs.


Let’s illustrate UCL’s approach to admissions by focusing on medicine.

Personal Statement.  As you already know from our blog on UK admissions, the Personal Statement should focus on academics. The Imperial international recruitment staff suggests that 90% of the content involve academia, including topics such as influences on your desire to practice medicine, science research papers, related work and volunteer experience.  Try to capture your observations –  don’t just summarize the facts of your experience.  For instance, if you shadowed a doctor examining patients, how did the injured person react? If you watched a surgery first-hand, what was the atmosphere like? What did you see and hear? The other 10% of the essay should focus on extracurriculars. You would benefit from focusing on qualities related to a medical career, such as leadership or ethical values.

Academic Performance. UK admissions typically does not consider a student’s high school GPA!  I know this is shocking news!  Instead, testing is evaluated as follows:

  • Required:
    • A minimum performance level on AP exams, IB courses or A-levels, depending on your school’s curricular system.  For example, acceptance to Imperial’s Medicine program requires 3 AP exams with a score of 5, including Biology and Chemistry, and either Calculus BC or another science. For an IB curriculum, a minimum of 38 points is required, with 3 HL courses (High Level), 3 SL (Standard Level), and minimum scores of 6 in Biology and Chemistry and 5 in SL English
    • BMAT exam (similar in function to the US MCAT for medical school).
    • Interview.  Interestingly, medicine is the only subject for which Imperial requires an interview, in order to assess interpersonal qualities of empathy and communication.
    • Possibly considered but not required: SAT Subject Tests; these scores can be included either in the Personal Statement or through one of your references.
    • Not considered at all:  SAT General Reasoning Test.

Specific requirements for each academic program at each UK university are specified on the website. Some universities have not developed equivalence requirements for AP exams, since they are a uniquely American form of secondary school education; if you do not find such info on the website, contact the international admissions office.

Keep in mind that in the UK system, students can apply to a maximum of five university programs (one maximum in Oxford and Cambridge combined); and receive either a conditional or unconditional letter of acceptance. The conditional letter would specify the required AP, IB or A-level scores.

The UK university system offers unique features and benefits.  Assess whether the UK approach and the specific features and culture of individual institutions are a good fit for you!

Blogs will be posted in the next few days on our recent visits to:

  • Chelsea College of the Arts
  • Kings College
  • University College London
  • SOAS (School of Oriental and Asian Studies)
  • University of Roehampton

Next up:  University of Durham and St Andrews!

Monday, February 23

What’s on today in London:

Imperial college, Victoria & Albert museum, Kings college London! (More coming soon!)

Saturday, February 21

What’s on today in London: Palaces, Parks, Plays and Pubs!

Weekends will be spent exploring the culture of the cities, and reporting on how US students might enjoy leisure time if they choose to study in the UK.  You’ll hear all about parks, pubs and plays!

Friday, February 20

Today, I visited three very different universities: an arts college, a mid-sized university with four constituent colleges, and a private liberal arts university with dual degrees from the US and UK.

Richmond, The American International University in London

Richmond was founded in 1972 as a private institution, with the unique goal of offering a US-style four-year liberal arts curriculum. With 1035 undergraduates, the school has a cozy, personal feel. Academic programs are divided into the School of Communications, Arts & Social Science; and the School of Business & Economics.


Whenever I visit a college, I try to answer these questions:  What is unique about this college? How does it differ from comparable colleges?  What kind of student would thrive and succeed here?  I speak with admissions officers, faculty and students to get all different perspectives.  I recommend this approach for prospective applicants as well, in order to assess your fit with each college.

Why Do Students Choose Richmond?

I approached various students and asked them why they chose to attend Richmond.  Here are their responses:

  • I wanted to study a variety of subjects in a liberal arts environment – I wasn’t ready to choose a major yet!  At Richmond, you can take a variety of courses in 1st and 2nd years, and then must focus on your major for your 3rd and 4th years.
  • I like having degrees from both the US and UK, which gives me more flexibility for grad school or work.  Richmond is accredited by Middle States Commission on Higher Education in the US, and is validated by the Open University Validation Services in the UK.  Richmond is in the process of acquiring its own degree-awarding powers.
  • I wanted to be in London.  Richmond has two campuses in greater London; one in Richmond, about 30 minutes from the center of London; and one in Kensington, in the heart of London.  Students spend their first two years in Richmond and their 3rd and 4th years in Kensington. Adjacent to the university is Richmond Park, inhabited by deer.
  • I liked the international flavor.  40% of the students are from the US, and the rest from all over the world.  Students can spend a semester in Florence or Rome, and Shanghai will soon be an option as well. About six co-curricular trips to the UK and international venues are arranged each semester – next stop will be Iceland!
  • I wanted to study International Relations. IR is Richmond’s most popular major, and is housed in the Politics and International Relations department. IR students often minor in Politics, and vice versa, because of the overlap in content. But while Politics has more emphasis on political science and the workings of the government, IR has a strong focus on diplomacy, global governance, human rights law and international law. IR grads go on to study at top colleges such as Oxford, Cambridge, LSE, Harvard, Cornell, MIT-Sloan and Penn-Wharton. 
  • Richmond is less expensive than US colleges.  Tuition for international students is L14,500 (about $23,000), and room and board are L8100 (about $13,000).
  • I wanted a small school, with close relationships with faculty.  Richmond has an average class size of 17 students.  Its facilities are small-scale and accessible as well.

fitrecThe Provost of Richmond points to additional strengths of the university.

  • Career Emphasis.  There is a focus on careers from Day 1.  Internships are strongly encouraged, and available to students with a 3.5 GPA. Richmond has established internship programs in London, Dublin, Barcelona, Beijing, Shanghai, Argentina, Cape Town and India.
  • Service Learning.  Richmond provides opportunities for academically accredited learning through volunteering.
  • Global Citizenship. Richmond participates in a variety of study abroad and exchange programs.


Students can apply to Richmond through UCAS (UK’s Universal College Application Service), the Common App, or Richmond’s direct online application.  The Personal Statement should address questions of why you’ve chosen a particular subject area, why you want a liberal arts environment, and why you are specifically drawn to Richmond.  In this way, the Personal Statement is a blend of the UK Personal Statement, which is very academically focused; and the US supplemental “match” essay that asks why you want to attend the particular college.  Admissions decisions receive a 1-3 week turnaround.

Stay tuned for tomorrow’s discussion of my visits to Chelsea College of the Arts and the University of Roehampton!



Friday, February 20th

What’s On Today in London:

  • Chelsea College of the Arts, University of the Arts London
  • Richmond The American International University in London
  • University of Roehampton
  • Theater: The Nether

Day 2 promises to be action-packed with a full itinerary!  Three very different universities, followed by theater in the evening.  Stay tuned!

DAY ONE: Thursday, February 19

The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine is one of the most important graduate institutions in the world for public health research and advocacy.  The motto is “improving health worldwide,” and faculty are particularly known for playing critical roles in identifying and treating infectious diseases such as Ebola and HIV.


LSH includes faculties in three areas:

  • Epidemiology and Population Health
  • Infectious and Tropical Diseases
  • Public Health and Policy

The Masters of Science (MSc) program admits about 650 students each year, and the most popular program is public health, with about 200 students. The university also offers a variety of specialized, interdisciplinary programs, such as Health Policy, Planning and Financing, a very popular and very competitive joint program with the London School of Economics.  The Tropical Medicine and International Health program is the only one that requires a medical degree to enter.

Students take two semesters of courses, the first with required coursework and the second with electives. In addition, all students are required to do a summer project that can take the form of a systematic literature review, policy analysis report, short primary research project or secondary data analysis.

Each student has a “tutor” who supervises the summer project and acts as a mentor and support.  A distinguishing characteristic of LSH is the importance of the close relationships between faculty and students. LSH runs weekly exhibits in which students can share academic work, such as this poster board of the potential effects of mosquitoes.


The fact that the program is only 1-year long is a draw for many US students, who comprise almost 10% of the student body. The program is also notable for its diversity, drawing students from 80 countries.  Most students have several years of prior work experience, and share their perspectives. In fact, the MPIH program requires at least two years of experience working in a lower income country.

LSH has its own application, and does not accept UCAS. An important component is the 500 word Motivational Statement, in which students should describe how they have spent the last few years, why they are interested in their particular academic program at LSH, and how they will use the education at LSH to advance their goals.

LSH was created in an art deco style, and has magnificent interior courtyards. At the same time, it’s clearly an urban campus, and shares quads with other constituent colleges of the University of London system.



First evening in London?  I head over to Ronnie Scott’s, the best jazz place in London.  Like Jazz Standard in Manhattan, it’s an intimate space in the basement. Arturo Sandoval delights with an electric keyboard, drums and mostly trumpet (for which he won 10 Grammys), and plays a thrilling set with his band of a pianist, two guitarists and two drummers.



Thursday, February 19



Arriving at the Stafford hotel – with my one bag!

What’s On Today in London:

  • London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine
  • Jazz at Ronnie Scott’s

I have arrived at The Stafford Hotel, a cozy hotel just steps away from Hyde Park, Green Park and St. James Park!  Prince Charles lives a few blocks away, on The Mall, near Buckingham Place.  Regent’s Park is due North, and the Thames River winds around to the south.  Most importantly, I am centrally located for my rounds of university visits.

As I ease into the time zone (5 hours ahead of New York), I’ve planned a relatively low-key day, with a visit to the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) in the afternoon, and a return trip in the evening to Ronnie Scott’s, the top jazz venue in London.  Stay tuned!

Wednesday, February 18 – Departure!


On the plane, about to take off!

I’m off! And with only my one carry-on for an 18 day-trip!  I’ve learned from wise travelers and onebag.com that there are two types of luggage – carry-on and lost!

My plan is to visit universities in London from tomorrow through Tuesday. After that, I’ll travel by train to Scotland and visit University of Durham on the way north, spending two days at St Andrews and two days at University of Glasgow. I’ll then train it back to London (with a stop-over at University of Manchester), and conclude with visits to additional London schools and a return trip to Cambridge! 

That’s 15 universities in all, ranging from ancient to modern, from the art schools to vet schools, to public health and large multidisciplinary research universities.


Applying to UK Universities: A How-to Guide

Have you ever pictured yourself attending university in England or Scotland?  You may be surprised to learn that it’s a more attainable goal than you think.

The United Kingdom includes England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.  This is especially true now, since Scotland recently voted to remain within the jurisdiction of the UK!  All the universities in the UK use the UCAS (Universities and Colleges Admissions Service).

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Are there different categories of UK Universities?

Funny you should ask!  Universities in the United Kingdom (including England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland) are typically grouped in six categories, based on their date of origin.  In the UK, age matters!  The most well-known and distinguished UK universities are considered “Ancient Universities,” founded before 1800.  These include the University of Oxford and the University of Cambridge (collectively known as “Oxbridge”) and the University of St. Andrews.

Another category consists of Colleges Founded in the 19th Century, including those within the University of London and the former University of Wales.  Most of the universities in London are part of the public University of London system, founded in 1836 by Royal Charter.  London University consists of 18 constituent colleges, which operate fairly independently. Several award their own degrees, including King’s College London, London Business School, University College London and LSE. Imperial College London left the University system in 2007.

The remaining categories include colleges founded in the 20th century, such as the “Red Brick Universities,” large public universities founded in the early decades of the 20th century; and “Plate Glass Universities,” chartered after 1966.

Step 1: Become More Familiar with UK Universities

A unique and highly beneficial feature of the application process in the UK is that universities hold several Open Visit Days each year.  For example, Oxford has Open Visit Days in early July and mid-September.  For American students, you may not be considering college visits in the summer, so take note that the best time to go is during July when you are not in academic session. While typically you do not need to register for open days, advance booking may be required for some events.

Students, parents, and counselors can register in advance for a full day of scheduled presentations on admissions, financial aid, student life, and housing, as well as attend talks by professors in different “faculties,” or academic areas. It is advisable to visit at least one college, as well as a faculty talk in  your academic area of choice.  Staff are available to answer questions throughout the day.




Step 2: Choose an Academic Faculty

Attending college in the UK is fundamentally different than in the United States in terms of the high degree of academic directedness.  There is no such thing as “undecided!”  Students apply to specific “faculties,” or academic departments.  English universities have a three-year, highly focused academic program in which students apply for a specific subject or interdisciplinary grouping of subjects; and, if accepted, pursue this course of study throughout the three years.  Scottish universities have four-year degrees and a hybrid system in which students study three to five subjects during the first two years, confirm their preferred concentration(s) and study only those one or two subjects throughout their final two years.

Step 3:  Learn More About the Application Process

 Students apply to all UK universities through a common application called UCAS. Students may only apply to five applications to all UK universities, including only one to Oxbridge (Oxford or Cambridge).

The UCAS application opens September 1.  The application deadlines are as follows:

  • October 15: Oxbridge, and the faculties of medicine, dentistry and veterinary science
  • January 15: Most other UK institutions
  • March 24: Art and Design programs.

Admissions decisions are provided by March 31.  Your acceptance is often contingent on achieving certain academic outcomes at the end of senior year, such as attaining certain IB and AP scores.  For students taking AP courses, final decisions are not rendered until after mid-July, when AP scores are received.


Step 4: Write Your Personal Statement

The personal statement for UK universities plays a vital role in the process.  Since students are considered for particular faculties, the purpose of the personal statement is to establish that you are a good fit for your designated academic area.  The essay should demonstrate why you are drawn to a particular academic area, and what you will contribute to academic life at the university.

Unlike personal statements for US universities, the focus should be exclusively academic, not personal.  As such, the essay is more similar to the US graduate school personal statement.  The UK personal statement has a maximum of 4000 characters (about the same length as the US 650 word maximum).  UK admissions officers suggest that you spend 70-75% of your Personal Statement on academic aspects, such as courses and research. The remainder could discuss outside activities, but only if they are relevant to your intended courses of study.  For example, if you wish to pursue Politics, you could discuss the evolution of your interest in politics, relevant coursework such as AP Government, as well as your involvement in Model UN or Debate Club. Regardless, make sure you always tie your experience directly to your academic and career goals.

Topics that could be relevant to include are:

  • What are your primary areas of academic interest?
  • Why do you have these interests?
  • How would study of these areas relate to your future goals?
  • What are your relevant skills and perspectives?
  • What are your relevant extra experiences, such as outside reading, activities, work and internships?

UK Admissions Officers cannot emphasize enough how important it is to do your research about the universities and the subjects offered, and proofread carefully!  Keep in mind that the same Personal Statement will be read by all the UK universities you are applying to (up to five maximum), so only include information that applies to all the colleges. For example, only discuss courses of subjects that are available at all the universities you are applying to.

To learn more about the UK’s many fine universities, check out our blogs on Oxford, St. Andrews and Cambridge. And of course, contact Collegiate Gateway – we’re always happy to help.