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How to get into the University of Edinburgh from the US

How to get into the University of Edinburgh from the US

Edinburgh is a hidden gem for many Americans looking to go abroad: its educational system is a more similar fit to the US compared to the intense specialization expected at many other European universities. It also had a generous admissions policy for North Americans.

Kevin Newton
Kevin Newton
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Why study at the University of Edinburgh?

When most students think of studying in Scotland, they think of St. Andrews; however, the better fit for many students is often the University of Edinburgh. Located in Scotland’s capital, with a history almost as long as that of its more rural competitor, the University of Edinburgh offers a practically unrivaled range of options for study.

Edinburgh is a hidden gem for many Americans looking to go abroad: its educational system is a more similar fit to the US compared to the intense specialization expected at many other European universities. It also had a generous admissions policy for North Americans.

How many international students are at the University of Edinburgh?

International students make up a surprising percentage of Edinburgh’s student body, comprising 44% of students. A shocking number of them come from the United States, due to its similarities to American universities. Over the past ten years, students from over 180 countries have studied at Edinburgh. All of this works to further cement the University’s place as one of the elite institutions for higher learning not only in the United Kingdom, but also globally.

University of Edinburgh Ranking

The University of Edinburgh is one of the most highly ranked universities in the world. Few global rankings leave Edinburgh out of the top 50; according to the QS rankings, it is 22nd. Even USNWR, which has a heavy American-centric bias among international rankings, places it at 36th. These rankings put it ahead of many Ivy Plus universities in the United States, though Edinburgh is not comparable to many of them. Instead, it is more helpful to think of the University of Edinburgh as an elite, research-intensive, public university within a moderately-sized city; it’s more like UC Berkeley or the University of Michigan.

University of Edinburgh Notable US Alumni

Perhaps the most famous US alumni of Edinburgh is Alexander Graham Bell, inventor of the telephone. More recently, congressmen, cabinet officials, and others with an international bent have spent time at the University.

Its UK list of alumni is perhaps more impressive, especially in terms of writers who changed the world: Charles Darwin, Adam Smith, and JK Rowling.

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What does the University of Edinburgh Specialize In?

The University of Edinburgh is unique in that, given its size, it is a world leader in just about everything. Upwards of 80% of its research is considered ‘world-leading’ by the UK government, meaning that no matter what a student chooses to study here, they’ll have plenty of opportunities to learn from the very best.

One thing worth noting is that the University of Edinburgh, despite having one of the best law schools in the Western world, does not teach the common law that is used in the United States and the rest of the United Kingdom. Instead, it teaches Scottish law, a blend of common and civil traditions more like what is taught in Quebec or Louisiana. If you’re intending on an undergraduate plan of study in Pre-Law, this is worth noting.

University of Edinburgh Programs for International Students


While undergraduate programs at the University of Edinburgh are longer than average for the UK, graduate degrees are often the same length. Additionally, many are offered via distance learning. These include not only masters degrees, but a growing number of PhDs.


For those looking to complete a PhD, the University of Edinburgh offers a variety of options in a number of different subjects. As is the case with most UK PhD programs, applicants will be expected to have largely designed their research in advance, and will spend most of their time researching and writing their dissertation, rather than attending advanced classes. This can be advantageous for students who know exactly what they want to pursue, but can be an issue for students whose interests are still rather broad.


As a nod to tradition, most undergraduates leave Edinburgh with a Masters of Arts degree as their undergraduate qualification. However, the university still offers more traditional masters degrees by taking a year of further study, often called a Masters of Science or a Masters of Studies.

Summer Schools

Edinburgh offers some of the most robust options for high school students wanting to study during the summer, with programs in art and design, social sciences, the humanities, and STEM. Edinburgh is rather unique in doing this, as many UK universities focus their summer programs on attracting university-level students who might be considering the campus for graduate-level study.

What exams are required to study at the University of Edinburgh for US students?

Like many elite British universities, Edinburgh expects students to submit AP, IB, or A-level qualifications. IB and A-level requirements are listed on the website of each degree program. For those students offering AP exams, the requirement is for three scores of four or above. One of these can be replaced by an ACT of 29 or an SAT of 1290.

For students whose high schools don’t offer AP exams, a GPA of 3.3 will be considered. Edinburgh is currently testing a US admissions approach that removes the emphasis on AP exams. That said, students who have the opportunity to take AP exams will find that their scores will often help more than hurt.

University of Edinburgh Acceptance Rate for International Students

While every program has different acceptance rates, Edinburgh tends to make offers to just under 50% of students who apply. There are a number of reasons for this, but one of the biggest is that British universities do not have any concept of yield protection, meaning that they are inclined to offer admission to anyone who meets criteria, space permitting. Speaking of space, British universities, like the University of Edinburgh, also have considerably larger student bodies, meaning that they can take more students each year.

Is it hard to get into the University of Edinburgh for US students?

For American students with strong test scores, Edinburgh can be one of the least problematic admissions offers that they will receive. Crucial to this is making sure that the personal statement is a UK-style statement (in stark contrast to a Common App style statement), and having strong test scores.

University of Edinburgh International Tuition

The University of Edinburgh is one of the more expensive options in the UK, largely because it is a four year program for most students. Tuition is around 26,000 GBP per year, with around 18,000£ necessary for living expenses and travel. This comes out to 44,000 GBP, or about $57,000 per year for four years.

Scholarships for International Students

Edinburgh has a relatively small list of scholarships and financial aid opportunities for American students at the undergraduate level, but becomes much more willing to provide aid for those pursuing a graduate qualification.

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How to Apply for the University of Edinburgh from the US

The University of Edinburgh, like most other UK universities, uses the UCAS application for all of its undergraduate admissions. The application allows students to select up to five programs throughout the country for a single application fee. Students then write a single personal statement and submit a single letter of recommendation; test scores are self-reported, but official reports must be sent upon confirmation of the offer.

The application deadline for equal consideration at the University of Edinburgh is in mid-January, but some programs continue to have spots open for Americans into June. That said, it is absolutely preferable to apply by the January deadline.

How to be Accepted to the University of Edinburgh: 3 Tips From Experts.

  1. Let Edinburgh know of your interest - Unlike many other UK universities, Edinburgh cares that students are interested in applying to it. While there is no need to read every email or attend every webinar, making sure that someone at Edinburgh knows your name can help.
  2. Understand the Ancient Scottish system - Your degree will almost certainly be four years long, with the first two years being ‘sub-honours’ (where you can study more widely) and the last two being ‘honours’ (where you focus on your degree). Make it clear in your communications to the University that you embrace that.
  3. Be open minded to different courses - Edinburgh is one of the few truly high ranking universities that goes into Clearing with any consistency; as such, Americans can often find a closely related degree option if they don’t get their first or second choice.

For students who are looking to study at one of the world’s great universities without the stress of single-digit acceptance rates, the University of Edinburgh is one of the absolute best places to consider. Its flexibility with regards to study paths, as well as the generous acceptance policies towards Americans, make it ideal for many. Of course, Ivy Tutors can help make the process even more stress free. With dozens of subject-specific experts, all enthusiastic about their fields, Ivy Tutors can help make sure you get the 4s and 5s on your AP exams that will prove to Edinburgh that you have what it takes to succeed.


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