How to get into the University of Edinburgh as an American

The University of Edinburgh is currently ranked 12th in the UK (Complete University Guide) and 22nd in the world (QS World University Rankings). It’s even associated with 19 Nobel Prize laureates! If you’re looking to attend one of the best British universities, Edinburgh is up there.

The UK follows a specific university application process that differs from other countries. So, if you’re applying from the US or another country, it’s worth taking some time to understand what’s expected from you. 

Whether you’re a US applicant or another international applicant, this article will guide you through how to apply to Edinburgh University, and better yet, how to get an offer! 

You can also check out our previous article:

Here at The Profs, we have an experienced and talented team of admissions experts who can guide you through college or university admissions. Over 95% of our students get into their first and second-choice universities! So, if you want to maximise your chances of getting into Edinburgh, we’re who to call.


Edinburgh’s acceptance rate for international students

Edinburgh University had more than 18,000 international students from over 167 countries in 2020. In terms of undergraduate students, 16,435 are from the UK, 2,715 are from the EU whilst 6,800 are from outside of the EU. 

Today, roughly 1,525 US students study at the University of Edinburgh. It’s particularly worth noting that Edinburgh attracts more students from North America than any other UK institution.

Interested in Edinburgh’s admission statistics? Check out the table below, based on overseas (Non-EU) tuition fee status admissions statistics, 2020:

Subject areaApplications OffersAcceptances
Business Studies1,8721,247 253
Architecture466 28976
Economics1,519 1,250216
English Literature 1038310
Psychology 775539106
International Relations48939395
Biomedical Sciences59059056
Medical Sciences1158012
Veterinary Medicine447237134
Electrical Engineering670560106

You can find the full list of subjects and more information regarding Edinburgh University’s non-EU admission statistics here.

Intimidated by Edinburgh’s acceptance rates? Don’t be. Our expert admissions team specialises in both Oxbridge and US to UK admissions. If you’re looking for someone with the know-how to guide you to success, it’s us!

Understanding Edinburgh’s requirements for US applicants

Edinburgh sets high academic standards for its applicants, usually ranging from AAB-A*AA. These grades are similar to a GPA of 3.60-4. It’s best to aim for the highest grades possible to boost your chances.

Edinburgh states that US applicants are expected to complete three standardised tests, which can be various combinations so long as they are in different subjects. Edinburgh’s minimum entry requirements in the standardised tests are:

  • ACT score of 27 plus two AP scores at 4+
  • SAT score of 1290+ (650+ in Evidence-based reading and Writing and 620+ in Math) plus two AP scores at 4+
  • 3 AP scores at 4+

Standardised tests will be discussed in more detail further down. 

If you do not have access to standardised tests, don’t worry. Edinburgh’s Admission Office may consider alternative academic evidence based on your High School transcript. 

More information on Edinburgh’s grade requirements can be found on their US and international entry requirements pages.

Your grades will likely be considered in the context of your school’s performance. So, if your peers have high grades, try to achieve even higher

Even though the UK considers the grades in your final two years of high school with far more weight than the rest of your high school grades, you should still ensure that your previous high school grades are as high as possible (in the UK this would mean scoring 6-9 in your GCSEs, which is equivalent to B-A*). This is because top UK schools might evaluate your whole academic history. 

Remember to check your chosen course’s page on Edinburgh University’s website because it might have stricter grade requirements than the average entry requirements or stipulate subject-specific requirements. 

Many of the courses at Edinburgh require you to have a particular background in that discipline. Ensure that you check whether you’re expected to have subject-specific qualifications.

You should also note that it could also boost your application to highlight any exceptional academic achievements or awards. 

If you are worried that your grades aren’t high enough to get into Edinburgh, reach out to our team. We have excellent tutors in the US and UK curriculum, as well as the SAT and ACT, and much more. We also have skilled subject-specific tutors in every topic! Just let us know what you need or the result you’re seeking, and we’ll take care of you.

Please note: Typically, UK students are given ‘conditional’ offers, meaning that they must achieve their predicted grades or a set of grades specified by their chosen university in order to attend. For international students, offers are more likely to be ‘unconditional’, meaning you have a place so long as you accept it. However, Edinburgh states: “If we make you an offer before you complete all your qualifications, we will make a conditional offer.” So, you should work under the assumption that your offer will be conditional if you’ve not yet completed your qualifications or you’re waiting to hear back about your grades.

Scholarships and financial aid for international students

Edinburgh offers a range of scholarships and financial aid. You could be eligible depending on your subject and/or level of study, as well as the region that you’re from. 

Read this page for further information.

7 tips for Edinburgh’s application process: US applicants edition 

To get started, familiarise yourself with Edinburgh’s application process. 

For undergraduate studies, US students must apply through the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (the UCAS application form). This is an online application for five UK universities of your choosing. 

The UCAS deadline for Edinburgh, as well as the majority of UK universities, is in January. Try to start early and be organised. Pay attention to the course code and college choice within the UCAS form. 

There could also be further deadlines for extra requirements, so always check your course page carefully e.g. written work or portfolio deadlines.

Don’t forget that The Profs are here to help you every step of the way. If all of this is overwhelming or confusing, just contact our admissions team and we can support you through the whole process. 

Ensure that you:

1. Start early:

Give yourself ample time to research, prepare, and complete your application. You might struggle to meet certain requirements or be surprised by some expectations. So, it’s best to allow yourself lots of room to complete everything to the best of your ability as Edinburgh hosts a competitive admissions process.

It’s a good idea to notify your high school in America that you intend to apply to a UK university so that they can offer you some support and guidance with your application. 

Begin at least one year in advance to ensure you have enough time to study for any standardised tests/admission tests, write a compelling personal statement, and gather supporting documents.

Also note: There are no specific dates to expect to hear back from Edinburgh. So, if you’re waiting for months, don’t panic or assume the worst. However, you should not hear back any later than May. 

Starting early can also allow you to consider options like taking an international foundation programme or completing a course at Summer School, both offered by Edinburgh. Programmes like these could boost your chances of getting an offer by proving that you’re committed to Edinburgh and that you’ve already got some experience with university-level study and Edinburgh’s teaching style.

Another great thing about starting early is you can explore Edinburgh’s campus, whether that’s online or in person. You can also browse through the clubs and societies that Edinburgh offers, in all kinds of different niches. 

The University of Edinburgh offers over 60 sports clubs and 290 student-led societies to choose from. Perusing your options could be a good way to decide if Edinburgh appeals to you. You should note that Edinburgh is one of the UK’s leading sports universities, so it’s relevant to mention it if sports is a huge part of your life.

If you see a cultural or musical society that you would want to get involved in, or you swim competitively and you’d like to join the swim team, it could be good to mention this in your application as it will tell Edinburgh that you’re a good fit and would contribute to their community.

UK undergraduate courses work differently from the US. You cannot minor in a mix of subjects and choose your major later down the line. Usually, you choose one subject as a BA (Bachelor of Arts) or BSc (Bachelor of Science) course, unless you select a double-subject course (a joint honours degree). 

Hence, you need to be certain about your desired discipline as there is often little room to venture outside of this discipline within your degree (excluding interdisciplinary options). 

Edinburgh offers a wide range of undergraduate and postgraduate courses across various disciplines. Begin by exploring their official website and familiarise yourself with the different programmes available. Reflect on your academic interests and career goals to select the course that aligns with your aspirations. Consider the subject and grade requirements as well as any additional admission tests or interviews that may be required for your chosen course (these are different for each course).

You might also want to consider taking an undergraduate course at an American university that offers a year-abroad programme at British universities, including Edinburgh. You would still need to apply to Edinburgh and meet entry requirements, but it could be a little less competitive. For instance, Edinburgh partners with universities all around the world to offer exchange programmes and study-abroad opportunities. Check out this page for more information. 

Unsure about what the right course is for you? Our knowledgeable team offers friendly and dedicated support.

3. Meet the academic requirements

As previously mentioned in the table, you must meet Edinburgh’s academic requirements which range from AAB-A*AA. Check out this page to see Edinburgh’s entry requirements per country.

Aim for the highest grades possible, especially in your two final academic years of high school. Also, try to study subjects related to your chosen discipline. Unlike the US, the UK expects your grades to be in subjects related to your discipline. 

Edinburgh does not typically interview applicants unless they’re applying for one of the following courses:

  •  Medicine
  • Nursing
  • Oral Health Sciences
  • Teacher Education
  • Veterinary Medicine

If you are applying for one of these courses, prepare for the interview! You don’t want to fall at the last hurdle. Your interview performance is crucial! We have a useful video and article on interview preparation. 

Oh, and even better if you can reach out to our experienced interview coaches for expert guidance.

If you’re not applying for one of the aforementioned courses, Edinburgh’s main criterion for you will be your grades and personal statement, so your academic performance is of utmost importance.

Ensure that you know the grade and subject requirements for your specific course at Edinburgh.

If you are worried that your grades aren’t high enough to get into Edinburgh, reach out to our team. We have excellent tutors in the US and UK curriculum, as well as skilled subject-specific tutors in every topic! Just let us know what you need or the result you’re seeking, and we’ll take care of you.

4. Prepare for your admission tests:

The ACT or SAT

Edinburgh’s US requirements are based on ACT and SAT scores, however, as previously mentioned, they do accept high school diploma grades if such tests are not available to you. 

This means that you will not be penalised if you do not take the ACT or SAT, so long as your school does not offer standardised tests (see here for specific information). However, you will need evidence of excellent grades throughout high school. Furthermore, if you can independently pursue the ACT or SAT and achieve a high grade, it could boost your chances. Either way, keep an eye out for changes to the requirements.

Edinburgh’s minimum entry requirements in the standardised tests are:

  • ACT score of 27 plus two AP scores at 4+
  • SAT score of 1290+ (650+ in Evidence-based reading and Writing and 620+ in Math) plus two AP scores at 4+
  • 3 AP scores at 4+

Remember, these are minimum scores so, ideally, you want to exceed them. Achieving a high standardised test score could help prove your academic aptitude and boost your chances of success.

You should also note that Edinburgh University:

  • Accepts SAT subject tests at 650+ in place of AP scores (where they have been completed within the last three years).
  • Does not accept AP Research.
  • Does not double count subjects it deems too similar, for example, Calculus AB, Calculus BC and Precalculus are only counted once.
  • Does not accept AP Studio Art for any degrees other than Art and Design degrees and Architecture.
  • Cannot accept AP Statistics instead of Calculus (Where AP Calculus is required).
  • Does not super score the ACT; applicants must present a score from one test sitting.
  • Requires you to have specific subjects in your test scores for certain courses.

It’s recommended that you check entry requirements for the department at Edinburgh relevant to your chosen discipline as entry requirements can vary. Check out the test and subject scores required for the College of the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, and the College of Science and Engineering.

To get into Edinburgh, you must smash the ACT or SAT. If you need help with this, reach out to our talented team of tutors who have plenty of experience helping students ace these standardised tests.

The English language proficiency test

International students may need to demonstrate English language proficiency through exams like the IELTS depending on their educational background. 

All the accepted qualifications, along with grade requirements and the criteria regarding your eligibility can be found here

If you are an American applicant, it’s unlikely you’ll need to take an English language test as you’re a citizen of an English-speaking country and have most likely attended an English-speaking high school. Having an AP or high school grade in a subject like English is also sufficient evidence of adequate English proficiency.

For the IELTS UKVI, try to aim for a 5.5 minimum for each component. 

Need support smashing your English language proficiency test? We’ve got you covered.

Other admission tests

A few courses at Edinburgh require applicants to take admission tests. For instance, the College of Science and Engineering requires a range of selection tests specific to its courses. Edinburgh’s Medicine department asks applicants to complete the University Clinical Aptitude Test (UCAT). 

Edinburgh might also ask applicants for portfolios, for example, if you’re applying to an Art or Design course. 

Familiarise yourself with the specific requirements for your course and check if you are expected to complete an admissions test or hand in any supplementary material. If you are, start preparing with ample time so that you can apply all your efforts. Always ask a teacher to mark your work before submitting it. 

Here at The Profs, we can guide you through smashing any admission test as we have expert tutors for each niche. 

5. Craft an impressive personal statement:

In the US, you write a statement of purpose. However, in the UK, we write a personal statement. This is much more specific and academically focused than a statement of purpose. 

In the US, the discussion is quite broad and you can usually choose from a set of prompts/titles to guide you. The statement of purpose works as an introduction, where the university meets you, the real you. 

However, in the UK, there are no prompts/titles and our statements are supposed to demonstrate why we are an excellent student for our chosen course at our desired university. Hence, our statements stay on one constant topic: our discipline. Our statements should be subject-specific and remain focussed on our degree throughout. 

The University of Edinburgh points out that although good grades are important, they alone are not enough. Admissions officers want to be sure that students have the skills and attributes required for the programme.

Personal statements differ from the US style in that they are far less personal and much more academic. The UK doesn’t care so much about all your activities and extracurriculars or even your family and home life, they just want to hear why you’re the right person to enrol on this course. So, only mention extracurriculars that prove academic aptitude or your suitability and genuine passion for your course.

Edinburgh values your commitment to your subject area and profession the most. They want to see academic passion.

Similarly, unlike US applications, strong UK applications seldom mention experiences, awards, activities and achievements that are completely irrelevant to your subject or academia. However, in some cases, you might be able to demonstrate your link.

As an American student, it’s a good idea to mention why you want to study at a UK university, especially if the reason is related to your chosen course! 

For example, you might say that you want to study History in the UK because the UK is home to far older buildings than the US, and is closer to European countries like Greece which have fascinating ancient ruins. On this note, the University of Edinburgh was founded in 1583, making it the sixth oldest university in the English-speaking world! 

The University of Edinburgh was positioned at the forefront of academia and critical thinking after the Scottish Enlightenment of the 18th century, so it could be worth inferring some knowledge or interest in this. 

Or you might say that you’re eager to study for an undergraduate degree in the UK rather than the US as your course will be far more focussed on your subject of interest from the start. 

Please note: Since you must upload your personal statement to UCAS, it will be shared with your five chosen universities. Hence, it’s best not to specifically name Edinburgh or write directly to Edinburgh as you will alienate your other choices. However, you can allude to Edinburgh.

Another difference in the UK style of writing is that it avoids humour and cliches e.g. a pet peeve of many UK admissions officers is reading the word “passion” in applicants’ personal statements. UK personal statements are much more “straightforward” and less about crafting something literary. 

So, don’t submit your statement of purpose to Edinburgh, if you’ve written one. Write a personal statement, especially for this objective. As you’re writing, try to tick off these points:

  • What is your mission statement?
  • Why have you chosen this course?
  • How do you align with Edinburgh as a university?
  • What’s special about your department at Edinburgh?
  • What’s special about the academic staff at Edinburgh?
  • Does any of your department’s research at Edinburgh stand out to you?
  • Are you in cohesion with Edinburgh’s ethos?
  • What is your precise career plan?
  • Why do you need this degree to reach your goals?
  • What awards and achievements etc prove your academic aptitude and transferable skills?
  • What experience and research prove your passion for this subject?

Another top tip is to show that you complement Edinburgh’s values, ethos and community. For example, Edinburgh claims that it seeks to use knowledge to make the world a better place. How do your goals within your discipline align with this; what’s your mission statement? 

Similarly, as a world-leading research-intensive university, Edinburgh aims to “address tomorrow’s greatest challenges.” Again, how do your interests and aspirations surrounding research in your field complement this goal? How would you contribute to Edinburgh’s wealth of research or why are you inspired by it? 

Another big factor that the University of Edinburgh stresses in its mission statement is being “values-led”; this means being true to yourself, no matter what. So, are you firm in your identity and morals, how have you practised your integrity? It could be worthwhile to include a sentence that demonstrates alignment with the University of Edinburgh’s values.

It’s also important to note that the University of Edinburgh has had an office in North America since 2014, and also hosts lots of events and pop-up campuses throughout the US. Hence, it’s very easy to meet alumni in the US and it’s strongly encouraged to attend these events and network there. 

Whatever you do, don’t underestimate this step. The personal statement is a vital component of your Edinburgh application. It is largely this essay and the quality of your grades that will determine your application success. You can find out about this here

It could be an idea to arrange a meet-up with an Edinburgh representative so that you can learn more about the university and build a connection with it. In your personal statement, you might include a short sentence on this experience and speak more generally about your excitement to study in the UK. 

If you include an Edinburgh-specific factoid or reference, Edinburgh will interpret that they are your number one choice and it could strengthen your application. If you can complete an experience like this with multiple of your chosen universities, you should certainly include a sentence on this.

Worried about your writing skills, or fretting over what to say? We know how to help! Here, at The Profs, we have excellent personal statement and writing tutors with plenty of experience who can help you craft a compelling body of work. If you need any assistance, just reach out.

You can also check out our previous article on UK personal statements which can offer some helpful tips for this step.

The University of Edinburgh has a page dedicated to the UCAS personal statement, where you can clarify what exactly they’re looking for.

Note that all students applying for university in 2023 for courses beginning in 2024 will be required to submit a UCAS personal statement as normal. However, from 2024/25 onwards, there will be changes to the UCAS application process and students will no longer be required to write a personal statement. Instead, all applicants will answer a series of shorter, more tailored questions provided by UCAS. These tips should still be relevant for the new system.

6. Obtain outstanding letters of recommendation:

To be considered, you must submit a recommendation from a teacher or someone else who is qualified to comment on your academic ability (not a friend or family member). 

There will be 3 main sections on UCAS for submitting a reference:

  1. Enter a general statement about your school/college/centre.
  2. If applicable, detail any extenuating circumstances that have impacted the applicants’ education and achievement.
  3. Outline any other corresponding information specific to the applicant and relevant to the course/s applied for that you think universities/colleges should be aware of.

Check out our previous article on the 2024 changes to UCAS here.

The University of Edinburgh states that the reference is supposed to help them determine your suitability for university-level study as well as your chosen degree. It should reinforce and complement the information provided in your personal statement. The reference is not to be underestimated as Admissions Officers use it to help distinguish between applicants. You will not be considered without a valid reference.

It claims that references vary considerably depending on the degree programme you are applying for and your educational background. They may include evidence of some or all of the following.

  • Achievements in relevant areas.
  • Clear motivation and commitment to the intended degree programme or profession.
  • Pertinent skills, whether formally certified or not.
  • Academic potential, beyond predicted grades.
  • Strong analytical skills and independent thinking.
  • Active participation in curriculum enrichment and other related activities.
  • Relevance of work experience to the chosen field.
  • Identification of factors that have influenced or could influence performance.

It is also helpful if referees are able to provide information on how an applicant compares or ranks with their contemporaries. It will help your referee write your reference if you let them know what you are applying to study and let them see your personal statement in advance.

The University of Edinburgh also has a page regarding what they expect from the UCAS references.

Remember to choose individuals who know you well and can provide specific examples of your achievements and potential. Also, if there are things you’d like them to mention for you, ask them! 

7. Seek guidance:

Consider working with one of our experienced admissions tutors who can provide personalised guidance, review your application, and help you polish your essays. 

We have a track record of success in applying to top-tier universities like Edinburgh, St Andrews, Oxford, Cambridge and Russell Group universities. If Edinburgh is your dream, take every step to make it happen and reach out to our expert team.

Remember to check the official Edinburgh University website and relevant scholarship pages for the most up-to-date information on requirements, deadlines, and available scholarships.

Get your UK student visa!

Well done if you gain admission to Edinburgh! It is only now that you can apply for a student visa as you’ll need evidence of your agreement to attend Edinburgh.

If you’re going to study for a full degree, you must apply for a Tier 4 Student Visa. However, if your degree programme is 6 months or less, you need a Student Visitor Visa.

You can apply online, via the visa application centre in your home country.

Remember: apply at least three months before your course in the United Kingdom begins!

Edinburgh offers information on the student visa process here

How we can help

Gaining admission to Edinburgh University as a US student requires dedication, hard work, and careful preparation. By seeking guidance from our experienced and accomplished university admissions team, you can maximise your chances of achieving your dream of studying at Edinburgh. 

We have special expertise in US to UK admissions and our success rate for getting students into their first and second-choice universities is over 95%! If you’re serious about having a future that involves Edinburgh, do all you can to secure this!

We offer a talented team of tutors, including specialists in:

We are here for every step of the process. Call us for an Edinburgh application review and a bespoke plan of action. There’s no reason you shouldn’t succeed! Just reach out to join our winning team.


Do I need to take standardised tests like the SAT or ACT to apply to the University of Edinburgh?

The University of Edinburgh typically requires US students to submit standardised test scores as part of their application. However, St Andrews accepts a variety of different qualifications; it also offers alternatives for those who do not have access to standardised tests. Check the university’s official admissions page for the most accurate and up-to-date information. Also, have a look at Times Higher Education for their report on the University of Edinburgh.

Are there specific scholarships available for US students at the University of Edinburgh?

Yes, the University of Edinburgh offers various scholarships for international students, including those from the US. Explore scholarship opportunities on the official university website and ensure you meet the eligibility criteria.

What are the essential documents needed for the application process?

In addition to your academic transcripts and standardised test scores, you’ll need a personal statement, letter of recommendation, and proof of English language proficiency. Sometimes, courses require written work, portfolios and/or admission tests, so always check your specific course page. Be meticulous in preparing these documents to strengthen your application.

Can I work part-time as a US student in Edinburgh during my studies?

Yes, as a US student, you’re generally allowed to work part-time during your studies at the University of Edinburgh. However, there are limitations and visa requirements, so it’s crucial to familiarise yourself with the regulations to ensure compliance.

How can I immerse myself in Edinburgh culture as a US student?

Edinburgh boasts a rich cultural tapestry, and there are numerous opportunities for US students to engage. Join student clubs, attend cultural events, and explore the city to make the most of your Edinburgh experience beyond academics. See here for further information.

How can I apply to the US as an EU/UK applicant?

Usually, you need to apply through the common app or coalition app to do so. Ensure that you submit a well-rounded application, including good grades, a statement of purpose and references. If you get an offer, ensure you accept it before applying for a visa! Once you pass your visa interview and have everything officialised, you can travel to the United States! Check out our previous articles on how to apply to a US university as a UK student, and how to write a statement of purpose.