People often say that when you feel that something’s right, it’s probably because it is. I just knew that St Andrews was my destiny. It had already claimed my heart and it still does! I’d done extensive research on the small coastal town, the university, its values, its world-class reputation and its traditions. The course was accredited and it looked excellent. So I accepted their offer and before I had time to worry about it, I found myself moving into halls and taking direct entry to Year 2 of the integrated Masters of Mathematics (Hons) Mathematics course last September.
I just knew that St Andrews was my destiny. It had already claimed my heart and it still does.
What I Study
This degree programme enables students to work towards a Masters degree by completing an additional “5th year” at undergraduate level. Taking direct entry to Year 2 was a big uncertainty as not many people are offered direct entry (it’s dependent on your exam results in your final year of school), so it was a bit of a gamble. Had I gone into year 1, I would have studied two other subjects alongside Maths, but direct entry meant that my entire focus was on Pure Mathematics, Applied Mathematics and Statistics. I have to be truthful and say that the demands of the course are huge and the initial shock to the system of going straight into Year 2 was quite overwhelming at times, but I still believe it was the right decision for me and I have no regrets. When I return in September, I will be starting Year 3 (my Junior Honours year), which both excites and terrifies me, especially as I’ll be adding two Senior Honours 4th year modules into the mix.
It is often said that students at St Andrews are “the happiest students."
Entrance to St Andrews
I truly feel privileged to be a student at St Andrews. Not only has it ranked number 1 overall in the UK rankings for the previous two years, it consistently ranks top for student satisfaction in the UK and has done so 14 times now, meaning that it is often said that students at St Andrews are “the happiest students”. These outstanding statistics mean that entry to St Andrews is quite competitive, - as only 8% of applicants receive offers. Of those, half are international students, a quarter are RUK students and a quarter are Home students. But the competitive element doesn’t end at the application process - it continues throughout daily university life at the top universities. No one should be under any illusion that it will be fun at all times, as the reality is that you’ll feel under real pressure the vast majority of the time, but it’s so worth it!
No one should be under any illusion that it will be fun at all times, as the reality is that you’ll feel under real pressure the vast majority of the time, but it’s so worth it.
Breaking Down The Stereotypes
There is a feeling among some that St Andrews is only for privileged, posh, rich kids and that the town is small and dead. That couldn’t be further from the truth. It is a wonderful place to study and the fact that everywhere is within walking distance is something to celebrate rather than condemn as it creates a tight-knit community feel. Many students are previously privately educated (and some are even royalty!) but the majority are very keen to make friends especially as half are from overseas and far away from families and friends. The university staff are very approachable too and are on first name terms with their students. Freshers’ week was packed with so many university-run events, Come and Try society meet-ups and taster sports sessions that I couldn’t possibly have fitted anything else in, and I didn’t attend the Fatsoma events which I had bought tickets in advance for after all! I thought that the social scene would quieten as the weeks rolled into semesters, but certainly not!
There is a feeling among some that St Andrews is only for privileged, posh, rich kids and that the town is small and dead. That couldn’t be further from the truth.
For me, what makes the University of St Andrews extra special is its many traditions which all students can take part in. First-year students (known as ‘bejants') are adopted by 'academic parents'. These are students in their third year who take freshers under their wing. Raisin Weekend takes place every October when academic parents entertain their academic children and take them to a huge foam fight on Lower College Lawn at St Salvator’s Quad, right in the heart of the university's ancient buildings. There are also many formal black tie events throughout the year in contrast to the everyday beach fun of surfing, beach barbecues, walking dogs with the dog walking society or digging huge holes with HoleSoc (the university's hole-digging society). Also taking place on the beach is St Andrews’ May Dip. At daybreak on the 1st of May on East Sands, thousands of students run into the bitterly cold North Sea which is said to cleanse them of any academic sins they may have committed prior to their exams such as (almost always accidentally) standing on the infamous PH stones outside St Salvator’s Quad. As legend has it, doing so would curse a student to fail their exams.
There are also many formal black tie events throughout the year in contrast to the everyday beach fun of surfing, beach barbecues, walking dogs .
But the stand-out tradition, in my opinion, is the wearing of the red academic gowns which are worn on pier walks, during the Gaudie torchlit procession, at formal dinners, for hall photographs, and by student ambassadors. The student ambassadors meet and greet prospective students and their families, and give tours around the town and its ancient buildings. You’ll not be surprised to hear that I applied to be a student ambassador myself, and now undertake those duties with an enormous amount of pride, all while earning a bit of money in the process!