Does anyone have any experience of students applying to LSE and /or UCL for Geography? How competitive is it?

(27 Posts)
decisions2021 Mon 04-May-20 09:44:50

Hi, hope it’s on to ask this on here but with schools closed, admissions offices closed and uni open days cancelled for the summer, I’m hoping there might be some advice on this forum.

DS is still only in Year 12, but as he’s also likely to be applying to Oxbridge, he needs to have his UCAS form ready by the end of Sept (this is what his school require - I realise the deadline isn’t until mid- Oct).

The LSE Geography course is all human geography and it appeals because there’s considerable overlap with economics, sociology, politics etc as well as the option to continue with a language (as a module within the course). He likes the international, dynamic vibe, however, we only live a couple of miles from the campus so not sure if he’d get the “going away” experience?

Same with UCL, except they offer a 4 year programme with a year abroad (uni or in industry, if I remember rightly).

Both courses require AAA (possibly UCL is A*AA for the International Programme).

Does anyone have any idea how competitive these courses are - eg how many applicants per place? Obviously there is a high proportion of overseas applicants and so we have a suspicion these courses might actually be just as, if not more competitive than Cambridge for this subject?

Any advice would be very useful in helping us to think about “insurance unis” in the absence of being able to visit anywhere..

- Not keen in Bristol as there’s no campus. Same with places like Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham - for that kind of city / large town experience where they live all over the place, he’d rather just stay in London.

- Not sure about Durham as again, they want A*AA anyway which is the same as Cambridge, so not really an “insurance” and also he gets the impression it’s er.,, a bit less “diverse” than other unis (this is only his initial impressions from the website though).

- Exeter looks good, but similar concerns to Durham and they want A*AA too so hardly an insurance.

- Warwick and Bath don’t offer Geography

Maybe York or Cardiff?

Many thanks if anyone can shed any light, particularly on LSE or UCL. smile

OP’s posts: |
Needmoresleep Mon 04-May-20 10:51:30

Not a huge contribution, but from the little I know, geography is seen as one of LSE's less competitive courses, perhaps because it is not a subject that overseas students focus on.

The BA geog, unusually does not require maths, though general observation is that, whatever the course, the LSE does like students who are comfortable with maths, or rather statistics.

One useful thing is that LSE does not, at least before Covid 19, enter clearing. This means that they can and will allow people who firmed with them, to miss the odd grade as they have no other means of filling their course.

The geography department is relatively small. In my day they formed quite a bonded group. After all who else wore wellies in the Aldwych, other than LSE geographers heading off on a field trip. I understand that is still the case. I also had friends who went on to successful careers by emphasising the University rather than the course, and pretending they had studied economics.

SeasonFinale Mon 04-May-20 10:55:11

Is your DS doing an EPQ as my DC applied for an A*AA course at Exeter and got an ABB offer there if they had either an A* or A in their EPQ.

Although Bristol does not have a campus as such the uni buildings are very clustered together as are some of the halls so it does give a campus vibe even though in a city.

SeasonFinale Mon 04-May-20 10:55:51

Also many unis are having virtual open days on their websites so worth checking out.

decisions2021 Mon 04-May-20 11:03:45

Thanks Need. Well, let’s just say, he’s not the green wellies type grin If you look at the Year 1 “field” trip, they go to Manhattan, so no wellies required! It’s all urban geography, not a physical course and the modules cross over with Economics or other departments. Actually, Economics is his strongest A-level, but he’s not doing maths. He’s doing Geography, Politics, Economics and Spanish.

OP’s posts: |
decisions2021 Mon 04-May-20 11:13:34

Season - yes he’s doing an EPQ on a subject combining geography and economics.

He got the impression that the Bristol course was more physical / science orientated, but good to know about the location of the buildings - thanks!

Also very interesting that Exeter may reduce offers if there is a strong, relevant EPQ. Hmm..., Was the lower offer for a place at their Cornwall campus though, do you know?

Bath do the same with EPQs. They have a course called something like “Economics and Social Development” and when you look at the modules, it’s basically the same as the kind of options you find on a human geography course.

OP’s posts: |
SpiderPlantSally Mon 04-May-20 12:53:31

Cardiff is not a campus but all buildings in one area of the city. The human geography and physical geography courses are run by separate faculties so there is no crossover.
Don't know much about York.
Also teaching pure Human Geography are: Lancaster, Queen Mary London, Reading, Swansea, Kingston, Keele, Aberystwyth, Leicester, Royal Holloway and plenty of the newer post-92 universities.
Lancaster is a campus and probably the most highly regarded of these places. Swansea won Welsh University of the Year this year and is on the up, but not Russell Group like York and Cardiff.
Most other geography courses have an element of physical geography in at least the first year but you can choose to aim for a BA or BSc, depending on where your interests lie.


SpiderPlantSally Mon 04-May-20 13:14:28

I don't know about the Exeter Cornwall course content but have visited the campus. Falmouth is a gorgeous but tiny town with quite an alternative vibe. Shared campus with Falmouth University (mainly creative arts courses) gives a very artsy feel.
I cannot imagine someone who thinks they would be happy at UCL or LSE, thinking that life in remote West Cornwall would equally well be right for them!

SeasonFinale Mon 04-May-20 13:17:40

No it wasn't. It was the Exeter campus in Exeter. They didn't even realise that Exeter made such offers until they got it. Also they do not qualify for any type of contextual offer based on postcode or school, ACORN or POLAR.

decisions2021 Mon 04-May-20 14:38:10

Spider - Thankyou do much for the info. He’s not averse to doing some physical geography (obviously the human and physical are often interlinked anyway), but he would prefer more options on the BA side, rather than the BSc after the first year.

Very interesting about Exeter offers, Season. If that’s the case and they can be flexible, he’d probably apply there, rather than Durham. It’s a very confusing website (we were just looking) as they seem to have different layers of offers. There’s the 4-year International Geography Programme at A*AA and the 3-year programme (without the overseas placement year) at AAA - both at the Exeter campus. Then they also offer Geography somewhere that’s hours away from Exeter, but for this they are asking AAB if I remember rightly, (probably as the location is less popular). It does say on the website that if you don’t make the conditions of your offer, they reserve the right to make you another offer on a relevant course. We had assumed this meant they would try and shunt you down to Cornwall (which would not be happening as far as DS is concerned grin), but I hadn’t realised they may give flexible offers for the actual same course, still on the Exeter Campus. Maybe they offer people in the 3 year course if they miss the A*? Or maybe they just have higher entry criteria than they can realistically fill? Who knows? I had wondered about this.

He wouldn’t be eligible for lower offers based on his school and he would contextually probably need to get four A* to even get a look in at the more competitive unis. His school said to not even bother applying to Oxbridge unless you’re predicted at least A*A*A*, even though this is above what courses ask for, particularly humanities ones.

OP’s posts: |
Needmoresleep Mon 04-May-20 15:01:41

Hmm, I am not sure what they would mean by the more competitive universities.

Certainly from recent observation, geography is one of the easier ways into LSE and to some extent used by students keen on attending a high ranked University but without tip top grades. As I said they can be forgiving about dropped grades.

One advantage of the Exeter/Falmouth thing is that if you bomb your A levels you can be offered Falmouth. Your degree will still say University of Exeter, and some courses will allow you to switch back to the main campus if you do particularly well in your first year exams. So a sort of Plan C/D/E if everything goes pear shaped.

The wellies were back in my students days. I had several friends studying geography. They also seemed to play University sport, which again the rest of us thought was odd. Its probably more urban nowadays.

Maths is not required. But be warned, if the LSE can find a data set, they will. So students need to feel comfortable with numbers. LSE don't interview so the PS becomes all important.

One advantage of the Exeter/Falmouth thing is that if you bomb your A levels you can be offered Falmouth. Your degree will still say University of Exeter, and some courses will allow you to switch back to the main campus if you do particularly well in your first year exams. So a sort of Plan C/D/E if everything goes pear shaped.

decisions2021 Mon 04-May-20 16:17:54

Interesting that LSE don’t enter Clearing - I hadn’t realised that. DS is predicted 4 A* so the AAA should be doable, but presumably all applicants are predicted these sort of grades so he’s under no delusions and realises grades themselves guarantee nothing, particularly as in the context of his school A* would not mark you as particularly exceptional. Also you are competing with students from around the world. I agree it might be the case that they don’t get so many overseas applicants for geography. I’ve heard they don’t really regard it as a distinct subject? So that’s promising anyway grin
He’s fine with maths really, but he thinks he’s quite crap at it, even though he got a 9 at GCSE, because he was always in the lower maths sets at school so didn’t feel encouraged or confident to take it at A-level amid the kind of cohort he’s in.
It be fair, A-level Economics is more about concepts and he enjoys this, but as a degree it would quickly get much more mathematical and he would find this quite “dry”, I expect.

OP’s posts: |
Hoghgyni Mon 04-May-20 16:53:13

The general rule is one aspirational (Oxbridge) 2 or 3 realistic and 1 or 2 for insurance. Durham won't budge on their offer if you put them down as insurance & don't make the grades (confirmed by a FOI request). Also don't bank on receiving offers from all. One of DD'S insurance choices unexpectedly rejected her on her 18th birthday, despite being predicted grades in excess of their standard offer. There will be a lot of students in the pool of candidates next year, many with grades in hand. I'm relieved DD is in year 13 not 12.

MarchingFrogs Mon 04-May-20 17:13:38

Not keen in Bristol as there’s no campus. Same with places like Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham - for that kind of city / large town experience where they live all over the place, he’d rather just stay in London.

Have you or he actually visited the University of Birmingham, or spoken to any students there? It is most definitely a campus university, a very attractive campus to boot, plus there is a massive amount of student housing rented out by private landlords on the doorstep in Selly Oak. Which is where most people live from second year onwards (or in Harborne, if they're medical students and/or sniffy about Selly Oak). DS1 (who graduated two years ago but has stayed in the area) has lived in three roads within 15 minutes' walk of the centre of campus and now shares a house in a road over towards Harborne which is further away but still easy walking distance for his medic housemate; the house that DD has lined up for second year is about half way down one of the roads off Bristol Road which is more or less opposite one of the entrances to the campus.

The only people who live 'all over the place' at UoB tend to be those who are local enough not to live out in the first place, unless you count choosing either Selly or Harborne as 'all over the place?

Needmoresleep Mon 04-May-20 17:23:14

Hochgyni, is Oxbridge always the ‘aspirational’ choice? Why?

We have seen several instances where applicants have received offers from Oxbridge, but rejections elsewhere. (Indeed that was part of my ‘watch the maths’ warning.) Or have preferred a course elsewhere. Indeed the LSE geography course might be an example, as it is quite specialised. Ditto LSE economics has some very demanding maths content so similarly is often preferred by would be econometricians.

JBX2013 Mon 04-May-20 17:46:34

Hi @decisions2021! ... My daughter is a Finalist at Cambridge, in a different Arts-Humanities subject. And I work with schools.

4A*s achieved would make your son exceptional in his subject at Cambridge. The 'average' for Arts-Humanities is between 2 and 3. ... You can get in with fewer but then, in general, you are more likely to struggle with the breadth, depth and pace of the work there. .... 3A* predicted means, on average, 2-ish achieved; so his school has it about right.

I would also apply elsewhere for the 4 Year Course with a Year Abroad - a fantastic opportunity!

decisions2021 Mon 04-May-20 19:07:00

I think he’s reasonably realistic as he’s been through a competitive process before aka the 11 plus system in London grin where there’s often no particular rhyme or reason as to who gets offers where and it’s perfectly possible to get into one of the schools considered super-competitive and then rejected at your “back up” school. Happens all the time and it’s happened to all my kids already. So here we go again, no doubt.

This is why I was posting actually because, by the look of it, Cambridge make conditional offers to about 40% of the applicants for his course. This sounds high? But LSE you literally send if the form and you have no idea if there are 30 applicants per place or whatever.

If it looks like 2021 will be a nightmare year because lots have deferred from this year, he might have to defer as well. He says some of his friends have already decided to defer for this reason. I think just wait and see.

Thanks for the info on Birmingham. No we haven’t visited any unis anywhere and I don’t know if this will be possible before Sept, though obviously he knows the area around LSE and UCL very well. That’s about it.

OP’s posts: |
GuyFawkesDay Mon 04-May-20 19:13:31

Birmingham Geog department is great. Had quite a few PGCE students who've been there all through and their geography is good.

To me it all depends on the staff and the modules. Who are the lecturers? What are their interests? Would their specialist areas be interesting?

Like your son, I did economics A level too and then a BA in geography. I find the social and historical geography most interesting. We could shift between BA and BSc if we found our interests change over the undergrad years. That was great and I felt we had a very broad base as we only specialised fully in yr3

Hoghgyni Mon 04-May-20 20:01:54

Needmoresleep because the OP says her DS is going to apply to Oxford or Cambridge. I'm sure you would agree that that is more aspirational for him than the other options mentioned.

Needmoresleep Mon 04-May-20 21:01:46

It depends on the sort of course they want to take.

Oxbridge will be close to the tables for most subject. But there is no rule to say they are always top, or the hardest course to get onto.

Geography in particular is quite a broad church and courses will vary widely.

Also for very able students applying for very competitive courses, the advice can be to apply for the 5 top courses only and
not an insurance. There is always an element of chance, and this increases the odds of a student landing a course suited to their ability. Fall back is gap year and reapplication.

Bowbridge Tue 05-May-20 08:48:34

DD2 is an offer holder at LSE for BA Geography. It is a competitive course with only 60% of applicants receiving an offer. However, courses like Law and Economics only offer about 10% of applicants a place. So in that respect, Geography is an easier course to get on to. The main advice is for your DS to tailor his Personal Statement to the LSE course. If he mentions his interest in tectonic plates and coastal erosion, his application is likely to be rejected as the course contains no physical geography. He must concentrate wholly on human geography which may compromise is Cambridge application.

DD2 attended the online offer holders day last week. The 2nd year field trip is now to Cuba rather than Manhattan. Anyone doing a single honours can take a language option alongside their degree and be awarded a degree of BA Geography with French/German/ Russian etc. There is also a BSc Geography and Economics degree (AAA) however this requires A level maths so rules out your son and he would get an automatic rejection.

As for lower grades, BA Geography at LSE requires AAA. DD2's friend applied last year and got A*AB (and A* EPQ), she was rejected on A level results day and took up a place at UCL for Geography (also requiring AAA). LSE rarely accepts a dropped grade and never takes part in clearing. Most years the BA Geography course has 28-40 students on the course, with about 90-100 students in the dept (Geography and Environment).

Needmoresleep Tue 05-May-20 09:32:28

I found this on acceptance rates

I agree on the PS. It will be scored, so you might consider what might be included in the scoring system, and cover and evidence each point. I assume you would need to show enthusiasm for LSEs particular course and also more general characteristics that suggest you will thrive at the LSE. (Inter alia, it may be worth looking at the LSE’s public lecture series which has now gone on line. DS used to attend regularly when he was in sixth form, and I wonder if this gave him the edge he needed to get an LSE offer, despite rejections from Warwick, UCL, and Cambridge.)

On maths, DS was at a similar highly selective London school, with similar predictions, and was never anywhere near a top maths set. He also did not believe he was any good, though took maths as he was not a natural at humanities either. It was a huge surprise in his first year at LSE when he came top in one of the maths papers. He then went on to take a very mathematical masters, and did contemplate focussing on ‘metrics’ at PhD level, except he prefers economics. At the same time some of the maths superstars faded quickly once they reached University.

We are not sure why this happened. He found A level maths more interesting than GCSE, and FM more interesting still. He worked a lot harder at University than he did at school, whilst others worked very hard at school, and some, we later discovered, had gruelling tutoring schedules on top. Perhaps he was just a late developer. Or that statistics requires a different aptitude than other areas of maths.

Very academic schools can be quite damaging for confidence.

SeasonFinale Tue 05-May-20 11:19:52

Yes my DC is at a very selective school and in the event that they are genuine candidates for 3 or 4 x A* then the advice is not the normal 1 aspirational, 2 or 3 target and 1 lower as many schools suggest because actually the targets are all high. Thus they usually apply for 4 at similar grades or Oxbridge (which sometimes is actually lower grades for humanities than other places) and 3 others plus one slightly lower eg. AAA or AAB. Sometimes the candidate gets all 5 sometimes they get 3 or 4. We have Oxbridge offer holders get rejected by Imperial or LSE or Durham or St Andrews but not generally all of them.

There really is no point putting down a lower level uni if the reality is you don't want to go there.

decisions2021 Tue 05-May-20 12:35:34

Thankyou so much for all this as it’s so useful to hear from people who have gone through this process.

For his PS, obviously it’s a bit more tricky this year as his voluntary work has stopped and he was meant to be going in an overseas service trip which has also been cancelled. He did go to a few lectures at the RGS before they closed. Thanks for the tip about the online LSE lectures - will look for that.

What he has been doing in the absence of being able to go anywhere is enter some essay competitions. I think he’s in the process of doing three confused He doesn’t expect to win, but at least it gives him some areas of knowledge beyond the curriculum. They’re all mainly on human geography subjects. Also he has his EPQ.
He’s working very hard actually.

I completely agree that one if the setbacks of very selective schools is that you’re confidence can be a little knocked because you’ll rarely be seen as particularly remarkable in anything. At least it gets you ready for rejections later in life confused But it can be tough when they’re young.

I also am fully expecting a degree of “built in randomness” to this process and to expect the unexpected. This selection process is hardly going to be an exact science. Maybe it is just worth applying where he actually wants to go, with an easier option, The worst that could happen is he takes a gap year. At least, for his subject, there’s a lot you can do in the gap year and hopefully travel will have resumed by then. My attitude is just throw your hat in the ring and then whatever you get, take it and run grin I think DS can see that everywhere would have its benefits. His attitude is that is you have to give things a goor you never know. I think the LSE course probably appeals most, But then if he got into UCL or Exeter and had the option for a year out, preferably somewhere Spanish- speaking, then that would be amazing too. But then Cambridge is what it is and probably not one many would turn down. So I just said to him what will be will be and you can only do your best. Also, there’s always the chance to go a Masters somewhere else later.

Bow - Thankyou for the stats on LSE Geography. 60% - could be worse? Obviously anything with Economics at the LSE is going to be much more competitive. I think the offer rate at Cambridge is about 35% from their website. So much depends on the course, wherever you go.

Good luck to your DS at LSE and lucky him.

OP’s posts: |
MarchingFrogs Tue 05-May-20 13:31:58

For applications to Cambridge, can one not just add non-LSE-specific academic interests when completing the SAQ?

Presumably seasoned reviewers of PSs in many universities' Geography departments, when faced with one which only mentions an undying passion for roughly 50% of their available modules, tend to say to themselves, Here we go, another LSE applicant; oh well, let's have a look at them anyway, even though we're probably second - no, hang on, what's the date? - third choice downwards for them?

Join the discussion

To comment on this thread you need to create a Mumsnet account.

Join Mumsnet

Already have a Mumsnet account? Log in