What I Learned About College in the Baltic Countries

I arrived in Vilnius, Lithuania, after spending 10 days in Jordan with my son, Sam. I loved Jordan, which provided so many different sensory experiences. There were the sounds of the calls to prayer five times a day which I found soothing (except the one that happen before 5 am…). There were the smells of spices and grilled meat. There were amazing sights I could not have even imagined in Wadi Rum (the desert) and Petra. There was the Frogger-like experience of crossing the street each time (even at crosswalks) and then there were the ups and downs of traveling with a teenager, which included good bonding conversations, as well as seemingly constant “advice” (not criticism I was told…).

College in Europe

Though the experience was absolutely incredible, I didn’t realize how much energy it took until I got to Vilnius. I was a bit grumpy when I arrived. I flew Ryan Air-which I always say I will never do again but then get sucked in by the low price. The boarding process reminds me of the old days with Southwest Airlines-sort of a mob mentality and then the flight attendants spend the entire flight peddling their goods. The person who came up with the idea to allow passengers to sample perfume in an enclosed space is not on my good list…We got to Vilnius late, and the cold fresh air when I walked out of the airport helped improve my mood almost immediately.

I had the weekend to explore the town before my meetings at universities began on Monday. I like visiting places in winter, as if you like a place as it’s worst weather wise, then you can imagine how great it would be at other times of the year. There are some places that felt depressing to me in the winter, like Sofia, Bulgaria and Warsaw, Poland. Though the skies are just as grey in Vilnius winters, I didn’t have that same feeling. “Hygge” is a Danish word, that has been entirely worn out internationally now, but really applies to Vilnius. The simplest way of describing it is a really cozy feeling. There are a ton of coffee shops with comfortable seating and lit in a certain way that make you want to go in with a book. There are wine bars-again with the warm lighting-with signs for mulled wine. The streets are clean, the architecture is beautiful, the people are friendly. I felt like I wanted to listen to classical music as I walked around the city (which is not something on any of my playlists). It just felt nice, and calm, and cozy.

Now, what I appreciate as a woman in my forties is very different than I would have liked as a college-aged student! This made me especially curious about student life in the city. I noticed that I didn’t see a lot of college-aged students out and about. Of course, it’s quite possible that the hours that I am out are not the hours in which college students are out (or awake). Certainly there are cafes, bars, nightclubs, theaters and more. It did get me thinking about the international student experience though.

One thing to note is that when a school reports their international student number or percentage, it includes all levels of study (bachelor’s, master’s, doctorate) AND almost always includes exchange students. This makes a huge difference! The international student percentage at Vilnius University, for instance is right around 9%. While that’s not a huge number, it’s not alarming. When you look at the percentage of degree seeking international students, however, it’s less than 3% and, again, that includes all levels of study!

So, why does this matter? For one thing, it can impact whether or not there are sufficient resources for international students. Vilnius University does not have an international student association or an international student office. They do offer an orientation week for international students (which includes exchange students) and they have an ESN office, but these are more directed at the exchange student experience. Further, one of the great benefits around studying in Europe is that students form friendships with people from all around the world. If half of your peer group leaves after just one semester, those meaningful bonds are harder to form and maintain.

Academically, Vilnius University has some strong programs and may be a good fit for some students. A student who is a little older may have the independence required to get their academic and social needs met. A student with a Lithuanian background may know enough of the language and culture to socially integrate with local students. These are just important considerations when looking at a school.

The international student population at Vilnius Technical University is similar to Vilnius University when you include exchange students, however it’s right around 5% when you look only at degree seeking students. It’s still small percentage, but they do have resources in place for their students. There is an office staffed with four people who work specifically with international degree students reading problems, questions, where to find resources, and more. Since they are a smaller university, they do this as the university level so all international students get the same information. There is an international coordinator in each academic department who helps students with the academic piece of things. They also have a mentor program for new degree seeking international students. Additionally, they reserve the newly renovated student residences for international students, which cost under 150 euros per month!

After recharging in Vilnius, I enjoyed the energy in Riga! It’s more urban, with people of all ages out and about at all times of day. It’s also remarkable beautiful with striking Art Nouveau architecture and abundant green space. Though the population is under 650,000 (similar to Portland, Oregon) it is the largest city in the Baltic region and, thus, provides an active night life. It’s an incredibly affordable city, even more so for students. For instance, students pay just 16 euros a month for an unlimited public transportation pass (the regular price is 50 euros). I really fell in love with Riga and it’s now on my list of favorite cities in Europe.

Of all the schools I visited on this trip, I was most excited by what I learned about Riga Technical University. Their total international student population is 15% which is at 10% when you subtract exchange students. The international student body is diverse, representing 87 countries. Not only does the university have an office that assists international students, but they also have an International Student Council which represents international student interests and arranges social events.

Unlike most universities in Europe, the university has a true campus, just a 25 minute walk (or 15 minutes by bus) from the city center. The campus houses the different academic departments, dorms (which cost 65-180 euros per month), and an Olympic size pool (there is a large recreation center off campus). There is a large shopping center directly next to the campus which includes a grocery store. The buildings were very well maintained, inside and out, which is not always the case with public universities.

Each program is split into groups of no more than 50 students for lectures with much smaller groups for labs and computer classes. Students are always taught by professors (not assistants) who are accessible for help outside of the classroom as well. All of the four year programs are very hands on, with lots of labs and internships in order to prepare students for the workforce. They evidently do a good job at this, given their strong reputation with employers. When I visit schools I look for strong academic programs and educational outcomes and an environment that supports international student life-academic and otherwise. Riga Tech checked all of these boxes.

My visits to the other schools in Riga helped me realize other questions students should ask when exploring a particular school or program. The majority of the international students in the other schools I visited are in just two programs (the integrated Medicine and Dentistry programs). There are only a handful of international students in each of the English-taught bachelor’s degree programs, and these students represent just a few countries. At one of these universities, classes for international students in the English-taught programs are separate from Latvians in the English-taught programs so it’s almost like private classes taught by the professors. While there is something to be said for the personalized attention in the classroom, I’m concerned about how isolating this would feel.

Though I absolutely love the Baltic area, I don’t think that Lithuania and Latvia are as far along with internationalization as Estonia is. That shouldn’t rule out the two countries for students. I would absolutely recommend Riga Tech, and there are certain types of students who the other schools may be a good fit for. More than anything, this trip helped me realize that there are some important questions students should look into when exploring a particular school or program. These are:

What is the number of degree seeking international students?
How many countries are represented by the degree seeking international students?
What is the percent of degree seeking international students in the program of interest?
Is there an international student council?
What types of international student associations are at the school?
Is there an international student office at the university level? Do they work with degree seeking student exclusively or also exchange?
Is there an international student coordinator at the program level?
Is there a mentor/buddy program for international students?

After gathering that information, you can consider the impact each area would have on your own personal experience.

Sam’s (Mostly) Low Stress Junior Year

Ahh…..the end of the school year.  Sam is completing his junior year of high school and Ellie is finishing 8th grade. It’s hard to believe that it was this time three years ago that I learned about the possibilities for college in Europe.  Man, I can only imagine how different the last three years of our lives would have been (as well as the next four) if we didn’t know about these alternatives.

Many of you know that I believe that the benefits provided by the transparent admissions processes in Europe have as much of an impact on our lives as the incredible amounts of money we will save.  I’ve been hearing all sorts of stories about students who are “perfect applicants” not getting into their top choice schools, which also creates stress among the kids in Sam’s grade. Our year has been pretty relaxed (at least as it pertains to college admissions).

Before Sam knew exactly where in Europe he wanted to study, we knew that in order to keep his options totally open he would need four AP scores of 3+*.  It would not help him any if he had ten AP scores of five, he just needed the three or four scores to make his US high school diploma the equivalent of the diploma needed to attend universities in Italy, Norway, Denmark, and the research universities in the Netherlands  Though the vast majority or schools in Europe do not require AP courses, our game plan was to plan his high school courses to keep as many options open as possible.  Sam took one AP course last year, he is taking two this year, and he is registered for two his senior year.  He has found this workload to be reasonable, and he has registered for the fifth AP course next year in case he does not get a 3 or higher on one of the tests he will take this month.

By the summer before junior year, Sam had zeroed in on what he wanted to study, so we came up with a list of programs that would be a good fit for him (a service we also offer to members). Of the possibilities, one stood out far ahead of the others. Sam has a huge interest in the Middle East and Arabic.  Because he hasn’t had to spend his high school years playing the US admissions game, he has been able to cultivate this interest on his own. Leiden University, in the Netherlands, has an International Studies program that allows students to choose a region and related language to specialize in their second year. Given that the Middle East/Arabic was an option (of eight regions and 22 languages), Sam preferred this program over the other more general International Relations programs we were looking at.

Sam has traveled with me a good bit in Europe and has been to the Netherlands before.  Since he has had this exposure and knew he liked enjoyed the country, he didn’t feel the need to visit more than one school. We signed up for the Experience Day at Leiden (which conveniently fell over Thanksgiving break) and decided that if he felt differently afterwards we could plan another trip to visit more schools. I’ll tell you, that is a trip I would have been on board for since another school he was considering is in the South of France!  Sam was incredibly excited after the Experience Day-about what he would learn, the types of kids who would be his classmates, where he would live, and more! No French Riviera for me this year…

Most of the programs at Leiden-and in the Netherlands as a whole, have a completely transparent and non-competitive admissions policy.  If you have the qualifications that are defined, then you are in. Period.  Leiden requires a 3.5 GPA and 3 AP scores of 3+.  Sam’s GPA is in good shape and he’s on track for the AP scores. They open their rolling admissions period in October.  Sam will apply then and have his admissions decision before Thanksgiving.  If he has his AP scores, there is no question as to whether or not he will get in, so he doesn’t need to apply to  a number of universities.  His first choice school is also his safety school!  I’d like to caution you against thinking that this admissions process is indicative of a lower educational quality.  It is not.  Universities in the Netherlands are extremely reputable worldwide.  They have a different philosophy to access to higher education and students have to prove that they have what it takes to succeed the first year of study, passing a preset number of courses or they are not allowed to return the second year.

Later this month, I will share  a few examples of choices we have been able to make to opt out of the problems with the US path to college admissions.  Spoiler alert-opting out feels great!!

*As of October 2018, Leiden now requires US students to have three AP scores of 4+, with four scores of 4+ for the university college.

To Stay Out of the Rat Race, You May Have to Insist!

As I’ve mentioned before, I founded Beyond the States after exploring the possibilities for my own kids. This was three years ago and they will now be entering 9th and 12th grade this fall.  High school has been an incredibly different experience than it would have been, if we didn’t know about college in Europe.  If you are new to our the journey, be sure to check out the blogs on the admissions process because Europe’s transparent admission criteria make as much of an impact as the savings in tuition!

My son, Sam, had a few concrete opportunities to opt out of the US admissions rat race and we were quick to grab them!  When registering for his senior year classes, Sam elected to take two non-credit opportunities. One is a study hall, which helps him stay on top of his work since he has an after school job.  His job as a cashier at a grocery store has been of tremendous value and taught him lessons and skills he would not gain at school.  He also arranged to be a teaching assistant (TA) for one of his teachers.  Though not a credit opportunity, this entails new types of responsibilities and learning. After submitting his registration, his counselor emailed him and told him that he needed to choose one or the other and sign up for another credit class. She said that if she didn’t hear from him in a week, she would choose a class for him. Seriously?

I’m a big fan of having Sam handle this type of thing on his own.  We had already dealt with having his counselor automatically saying “No” to anything outside of the box and then having to go up the chain of command to get accurate answers. For that reason, I shot her an email inquiring about this policy. As it turns out, it wasn’t necessarily a true policy and all I needed to do was fill out a form to have this approved.  His counselor cautioned me about taking this path. She said “Sam will likely have to explain to colleges why he is only taking 4 credit classes when his peers are taking between 5 and 7. It will be a disadvantage to him when it comes to admissions and based on his GPA, I am assuming he will be applying to more competitive colleges that will be looking critically at what students have done in high school.” I can’t tell you how much pleasure it gave me to explain Sam’s college situation and ask her to send the form!

SAT/ACTs are another way we benefited this year.  The university Sam is applying to does not require a certain score for these tests.  Most schools in Europe don’t require the test at all but again, in order to help Sam keep his options open, he did take them.  The overall communication from Sam’s high school is not the best in the world.  I had emailed them to find out if/when they were offering the ACT. Since nobody got back to me, I signed him up to take it on a Saturday at a nearby high school. Shortly after he took the test, his school sent an email saying that they were administering the test and that it was mandatory for all juniors. I let his counselor know that Sam wouldn’t be taking the test, since he already had and we were fine with his scores. I was told that taking it at the school was mandatory and that “taking the test again could benefit him as most students scores increase the second time they take a test simply because they are more comfortable and know what to expect.”  Sigh. Guess what it took?  I just had to push back enough to find out that I could opt out if completed another form.

So in addition to being able to opt out of these problematic mindsets and systems, Sam has had time to gain skills and cultivate interests outside of school.  He is currently spending a month in Rabat, Morocco through a program with CIEE, an opportunity we were able to afford since we don’t have the financial worries that accompany college in the US!

Bucking the Status Quo

Now that we’ve been around for a few years, the word is getting out and we have a substantial group of members who will be attending universities in Europe this fall. This is so exciting to me. I’ve been thinking about the members who I have met through through consultations, best fit lists, member calls, and the member Facebook group and considering unifying qualities among them. Certainly, the cost savings elements of college in Europe appeals to all of us first, but it’s there’s much more to it than that.

college in EuropeI’m reading a great book right now, The Five-Year Party by Craig Brandon, that started me thinking about these member qualities.  The book is written by a former professor who exposes many of the academic problems that are occurring as administrators attempt to appease and retain the tuition paying student.  It’s really a page turner and I highly recommend it.  I’ve been trying to find a way to contact the author to come on the podcast but have thus far been unsuccessful.  I’ve wanted to pick his brain about why so many parents are resistant to believing the research  about the problems with  US higher education and outcomes. Is it because many of the problems did not begin until after people in our generation graduated?  We didn’t experience it so we don’t believe it?  Is it because they don’t see other options, thus choose to turn a blind eye to problems? Is it because the propaganda created by the universities that are run like big business are more successful at convincing some than others?  I really don’t know the answer to this.

One quality I believe is true of all of our members is that they don’t feel the need to accept the status quo.  They seek alternatives to what they see as problems even if it goes against group norms.  Like our members, I am not someone who could be described as “going with the flow”.   I need to see where the flow is going an determine whether or not it’s aligned with my values and goals before I go with it. If this describes you, I recommend listening to Malcolm Gladwell’s podcast about threshold theory. This episode gave me a lot of insight into myself, and may provide you the same.

Going back to the shared values and goals, our members do value education, but not the often meaningless work that is involved in “winning” at the US admissions game.  They recognize that this work often limits meaningful learning and experiences that assist with growth and independence and are eager to identify quality higher education options that allow them to opt of of the rat race.

These families have values related to global citizenship. They want their children to identify as a member of the world community and provide experiences and education with that end in sight. They realize that international experiences are a part of global citizenship and cultivate independence in their children so they can find success, even if temporarily far from home.

If you are/you have a college bound student and the above resonated with you, I encourage you to join our community of families who are exploring the English-taught bachelor’s degree programs in Europe.

Visiting Colleges in Italy – One Really Stands Out

The duomo is near colleges in ItalyI have much to report about my visits to colleges in Italy! I stayed in Milan, visiting schools in the city as well as in Bologna and Turin. It was my first time in Northern Italy and I really enjoyed it! I have always loved to visit Italy, but these northern areas feel much more livable and less touristy than the other places I have been. Milan is extremely easy to get around-both as it pertains to the city and getting elsewhere in Italy and Europe. I was able to get to Bologna and Turin in an hour by train. You can get to Lugano, in Switzerland, in under 90 minutes and Rome in under three hours. That said, the train travel is not inexpensive. My flights from Paris to Milan and Milan to Sofia, Bulgaria, were both less expensive than my train travel within the country. There are three airports in the region with many low cost airlines.

More than any other country I have visited, I was struck by the differences between the public and private colleges in Italy. The public colleges in Italy charge tuition based on family income to all students, including international students, with a maximum tuition at most schools of under 4,000 Euros per year. While this may seem attractive, the facilities of the public colleges in Italy I visited were quite basic, and large lectures are customary. I was told that students have to be prepared for less services directed towards their growth and development, as the main focus of these schools is educational. Certainly the trade offs are worth it for some, but not for all. I want to emphasize that this is not the case in most other countries. In fact, I am often more impressed by the public universities than private ones elsewhere.

There are unique obstacles when applying to colleges in Italy. The first applies to master’s and bachelor’s degree students applying to both private and public universities. It is a headache called “pre-enrollment”. This procedure was put in place in the days before internet and has not changed with the times. First, a student applies to a college in Italy. The school then issues a pre-acceptance letter (or rejection). The student takes the the pre-acceptance letter along with a ton of other required documents to the Italian embassy in their home country for pre-enrollment. This also begins the visa process. The student is officially enrolled once they are in Italy in the fall and turn in their documents to the school.

But wait-it’s potentially even more complicated! Some undergraduate programs have an entrance exam. SAT and ACT can substitute for many of them, but not for all. For instance, all the medical programs require entrance exams as do programs like architecture. Private universities tend to offer their entrance exams in the spring and often offer them in cities around the world. Public universities generally offer theirs on campus in Italy in September. And by September I mean a mere month before classes begin. This would personally make me really anxious from a planning perspective!

Finally, the Italian government requires that American students have either an IB or 3 AP scores of 3+ to enroll in bachelor’s programs. This is because Italian students have 13 years of education, while we have 12 in the US. A full year of college can substitute for the AP requirement and some schools allow 3 academic college courses to substitute. Word on the street is that the government is considering getting rid of the pre-enrollment process and looking at other ways to assess educational equivalence besides the APs. Fingers crossed!

While I learned a lot at each of the colleges in Italy I visited, one school really stood out and colleges in Italyexcited me. The school is University of Bocconi in Milan. Bocconi was founded in 1902 and focuses primarily on business and economics related programs. They offer English taught bachelor’s, master’s, and MBA programs. The majority of the programs are taught in English and the longer term goal is to have all of their programs taught in English.

What really struck me about Bocconi is the international approach they take to education. This is something that is easy for schools to say they do, but Bocconi really backs it up with resources. Traditionally, higher education in Italy has revolved around lectures with little interaction between students or students and the professor. This is still the case at many public universities. For the past 15 years, every professor that has been hired at Bocconi is fluent in English and is either a non-Italian or an Italian who received their Ph.D in an international program. This creates a team of professors who are not resistant to an alternate educational model and are more international in their approach, as opposed to strictly Italian.

Each entering class of the different programs is split into classes of no more than 100 students so even the largest lecture does not exceed that number of students. Even for lectures, the classroom layout was intentionally designed to be conducive to an interactive environment. Each department has a dean, program directors, and course directors to serve as resources to the students. In addition, each student has an academic advisor. Because Bocconi has strong connections with the business community, guest speakers from the field often speak in classes which provides a bridge between theory and practice.

Though the campus environment is international itself, with over 90 nationalities represented, Bocconi sees the value of providing students opportunity for further international exposure throughout their studies. In addition to the opportunities through Erasmus, Bocconi has 275 bilateral agreements with schools around the world. This allows students to study outside the EU for no additional tuition fees. Their partner schools in the US include Princeton, Columbia, Duke, Georgetown, NYU, Northwestern, and University of Chicago, in addition to 47 others in the US and equally impressive names throughout Latin America, Canada, Asia, Austrailia, New Zealand, and the Middle East. Students are advised strongly to study abroad and it is mandatory for some of the programs.

Bocconi offers seven English taught bachelor’s programs (3 years), eleven master’s programs (2 years), three specialized master’s programs (1 year) and eleven English taught MBA and post-experience education programs. Almost all of the programs are related to Economics and Management, with program options that integrate these areas with social sciences, computer science, finance, arts, culture and communication, government, fashion, healthcare, and more. In addition, there is a bachelor’s degree in International Politics and Government and a L.M program in the Law of Internet Technology. They also offer a four year World Business Bachelor’s degree programs in which students spend the first year studying at USC, the second year at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, the third at Bocconi, and choose where to attend their fourth year. Students graduate with a full degree from all three universities.

The tuition for the bachelor’s degree programs is $14,150 per year (other than World Business which varies based on the school), master’s degree programs are $15,347 per year and MBA/post-experience programs start at $28,300 per year. Bocconi offers need based scholarships of full tuition for the length of the entire program. There are also merit based scholarships offering a full tuition waiver and with free housing for the first two years and one option that provides a 50% reduction in tuition. Applicants are automatically assessed for the merit scholarships upon application. The need based scholarship requires a separate application. In addition, Bocconi has a FAFSA number! This is a huge advantage to American students as it allows them to utilize US funding options for college in Italy and use their 529 savings without penalty.

Bocconi has resources and structures to support their students growth and development outside of the classroom as well. It is a centralized campus that even provides housing-most of which is on campus! They currently have seven student residences with an eighth opening the summer of 2018. Rooms are single occupancy and range from 600-700 Euros per month. They are also building an updated rec center which will be complete in 2018. Bocconi currently has a lacrosse team and soccer team as well as intramural and other options for track, hiking, judo, basketball, volleyball, boxing, rugby, skiing, snowboarding. and tennis. There are a number of student associations pertaining to various interests outside of academics as well as a student media center which includes student radio, web TV, and newspaper. Bocconi offers extensive student services including a counseling department that provides individual counseling as well as support around acclimating to a new country, time management guidance, and other challenges students may be facing.

Bocconi has a dedicated department of other 70 employees who work on job and internship placements. This department size speaks to the focus Bocconi puts in assisting their students in finding internships and jobs. Though the majority of students who graduate from the bachelor’s degree programs go on for a master’s degree, the job placement department has a dedicated team to help undergraduates with internships and job placements. 96.4% of the graduate students are employed one year after graduation, with 51.2% of them employed abroad. Top recruiters include Accenture, Goldman Sachs, Google, L’Oreal, J.P Morgan, Microsoft, Morgan Stanley, the United Nations, Deloitte, Ernst & Young and many more!

As I have mentioned many times before, it is crucial that we look at quality indicators beyond rankings-whether looking at schools in the US or colleges in Italy. I believe that these quality indicators include a classroom environment that fosters interaction and cultivation of critical thought, international exposure, development of skills needed for employment, student supports, and outcomes pertaining to employment. Bocconi checks all of these boxes and more. Though it is not one of the least expensive schools in Europe, it is still comparable to in-state tuition fees when you factor in the difference in duration. Further, there is a very favorable probability of a high return on investment as it pertains to learning, employment, and personal growth.

College in Europe: The Escape Plan From The Madness of US Admissions Process

I just read that there are over now almost 40 schools in the US that charge more than $65,000 per year.  SIXTY-FIVE THOUSAND DOLLARS PER YEAR!  That is absolutely mind blowing to me. What is just as shocking to me is the cut throat admission process which is actively hurting our kids. A recent Psychology Today article notes that it is this aspect of the high school experience that is creating a mental health crisis on campus.

I’ve talked recently about what I’ve learned about the crazy US admissions process. I’m not even living this and thinking about it stresses me out! Why don’t more people opt out of this costly, stressful, and arbitrary system? I think it’s because many don’t know that there actually is a better way! Let me tell you about how things can be different.  When we founded Beyond the States, our son Sam, knew that he was interested in studying in Europe. Going into his freshman year, he knew some countries required US students to have either an IB diploma or up to (but no more than) four AP scores of 3+.  He decided to take the four AP courses throughout sophomore, junior, and senior year in order to keep all his options in Europe open. Though I have issues with APs, spreading the four courses out over three years seems very doable.

Sam knows that he is interested in studying the Middle East, specifically the various conflicts in the region.  One school in the Netherlands has two programs he is interested in; an International Studies program and a Security Studies program. The International Studies program allows him to choose a regional focus area from their offering of seven, one of which is the Middle East. This focus is chosen after the first semester of study. Students study the history, economy, culture, and language of their chosen region, along with general courses on international economics, politics, and globalization.  During the third year, students can do an internship or do a semester abroad in their region of study. The final semester is spent in a practice course, which teaches them to apply the knowledge from the program through case studies with international organizations. A thesis is also completed in the final semester.

Students in the Security Studies program “learn to analyse contemporary security and safety issues and devise strategic solutions”. The first year introduces students to the threats and the vulnerabilities through looking at Syria and Iraq as well as the threat of natural disasters that affect infrastructure like Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plant.  The second year, students learn more about strategies for protection by studying the challenges of terrorism and counterterrorism, cyber threats and risk management, as well as war and peace building. The third year student can specialize through a minor, study abroad, or do an internship.  The third year ends with an integrated project and thesis.

Sounds pretty cool, doesn’t it? Both of these programs are at Leiden University, in the Netherlands, which is ranked in the top 100 schools globally. As you may know, I’m not that interested in rankings. I only mention it because once I tell you about what the admission process looks like, you might make the incorrect assumption that it’s not a good school.

At many schools in Europe, including Leiden, the focus is on the fit between the student and program as opposed to the “holistic” process in the States.  Neither of these programs has an enrollment cap, which means that if an applicant applies by the deadline and meets the admission requirements, then he is admitted. The Netherlands is one of those countries that have an AP requirement for their research universities.  Sam should be able to meet that requirement.  He will need two reference letters, one of which is academic.  These are not shielded in secrecy like they are here. He uploads them to the school himself. That way if, by chance, one of the recommendations is not as strong as he would like he can either talk to that teacher or ask someone else to write one for him. He will also need to write motivation letters-a separate one for each other programs he applies to.  These do not have to reveal any emotional revelations or talk about any trials and tribulations he encountered through his life. He will just need to write about his interests and future goals as they pertain to the program and speak to why he is interested in the particular program, specific school, and specific city and country.  Given that he has spent his high school years exploring his interests (the Middle East is one of them along with -full disclosure- playing video games), this should not be particularly challenging.

So, not only does Sam not have to pad his resume with all sorts of activities and accomplishments in areas that don’t interest him, he also doesn’t have to take ACT or SAT prep course as the scores are not used in the admission decision. Further, Leiden uses rolling admissions which begin in October each year, so Sam will be able to apply in October and receive a decision 6 weeks later – well before Christmas!  Just like the acceptance offers in the US, this will be a provisional offer which requires him to graduate high school and obtain a 3+ on his final AP.   Ready for the kicker?  Each of these programs only takes 3 years to complete and cost just around $12,000 a year -and that’s on the high end of tuition in Europe! What a breath of fresh this all is!

Would you like to learn more about how and why we made our plan to send Sam to Europe for college? Would you like to see the thousands of affordable, English conducted options? If so, then check out our membership options. Members of Beyond the States gain access to our database of over 1,700 English-taught bachelor’s programs. Graduate members have access to 5,329 English-taught master’s programs.

European Study Abroad: How to Study in More than One Country without Going Broke

In our previous blog, we talked about the importance of global citizenship and the role international exposure plays in that development.  We discussed the financial challenges the US study abroad programs present as well as the fact that some of these programs even limit integration with non-US students. Less than 10% of US college students study abroad. In contrast, study abroad is an integral part of being a full-time student in EuropeThe EU sees study abroad as aligned with their policy agendas for growth, jobs, equality,  and social inclusion.  Further, the EU has set a goal that all citizens should have the opportunity to acquire at least two languages, something that the European study abroad programs also foster.

They note that this international exposure leads to “improved learning performance; enhanced employability and improved career prospects; increased self-empowerment and self-esteem; improved foreign language competencies; enhanced intercultural awareness; more active participation in society;”.  These are exactly the reasons we think studying in Europe is important as well!

Unlike the US university system, which views studying abroad as an opportunity to generate high fees from unwitting students, the European study abroad is promoted by the EU who puts money INTO encouraging students to study in outside their home country. This is one reason why the number of English conducted programs has increased over the past couple of decades. Having these programs taught in English encourages European study abroad.

The EU has a program called Erasmus+. This is an umbrella organization that encompasses many European study abroadprograms that encourage mobility among young people. The student mobility program is one that all degree students at participating European universities can participate in, even international students!

So, if you are a student at a European university that participates with Erasmus, (and most do) you have the opportunity to spend up to twelve months of your program on a European study abroad (and sometimes outside of Europe as well). This can be studying at another university or doing an internship in another country or a combination of the two. You can use the twelve months for each level of study (meaning you can participate during your bachelor’s degree program and then again during your master’s program). There are logistical benefits to the Erasmus program, for instance, you are assured that your credits will transfer, there are structures in place to assist with housing and student life, and all internships have a written agreement that includes a clear focus and specific project that will offer the student exposure to an occupation, industry or field (no fetching coffee). I recently worked with a student who really wants to study in Spain, but there were not a lot of English conducted full degree programs in her area of interest.  She decided that she would be fine spending one of the three years of her program in Spain, so will apply to schools in other European countries with the plan to study in Spain through Erasmus.

There is also a financial benefit to European study abroad. Students on Erasmus continue paying the tuition of their main school, even if the tuition at the university they are visiting is more expensive. Think of Jared, who is only paying $1,000 per year.  Almost any other school would have a much greater tuition, but he would continue to pay the KU Leuven rate while studying elsewhere through the Erasmus program.  Further, students can apply for an Erasmus grant which provides monthly stipends of 150-500€ per month depending on the cost of living of the country. Here’s the other great thing – students can do the internship (with the grant) the year after they graduate so long as they complete the application and selection process during their final year of studies. Given that employers hire 50-75% of former interns, this is a fantastic opportunity to get a career off to a strong start.

You don’t hear much in the US about study abroad opportunities in master’s degree programs. In Europe, not only is the student mobility program open to master’s degree students in European study abroadEurope (again, even international students) there is also the Erasmus Mundus program.  These are really interesting and often integrated programs that are developed and implemented by a consortium of higher education institutions in at least two different countries. Students study in at least two countries and receive a joint degree from the universities of the consortium.  There are 94 of these programs that are conducted entirely in English. There are options for just about every field of study that you can think of: Agriculture,  Arts, Design, Humanities, Social Sciences, Health Sciences, Computer Science and Technology, Business, and more. These programs are relevant to today’s issues and often involve professionals from related companies which helps students understand how to apply the knowledge – not to mention network!

Some examples of the programs are:

Journalism, Media, and Globalization

Study in Denmark, the Netherlands, UK, Germany

This program provides “a unique educational experience with students studying and living in at least two European countries. The first year of the degree is spent in Denmark with the entire cohort, and the second year sees students split into smaller groups and move universities to specialize in one of four distinct areas of journalism: War and Conflict, Business and Finance, Media and Politics, or Journalism and Media Across Cultures. Students learn to combine academic, theoretical knowledge with journalistic skills, and to analyze, interpret and generate knowledge about the global changes that increasingly challenge traditional boundaries.”

Food Science Technology and Business

Study in Belgium, Portugal, Germany

This program helps “foster innovation and technology in order to cope with the future needs and sustainability in food science, technology, and business? The aim of the program: To foster and develop knowledge and awareness of scientific trends and health issues in food science, technology, and business in a global context. In addition, the course seeks to enhance student’s professional competence in areas such as safety, management, and ethics.”

Medical Imaging and Application

Study in Spain, France, Italy

“Medical Image Analysis and Computer Aided Diagnosis (CAD) systems, in close development with novel imaging techniques, have revolutionized healthcare in recent years. Those developments have allowed doctors to achieve a much more accurate diagnosis, at an early stage, of the most important diseases. The technology behind the development of CAD systems stems from various research areas in computer science such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, pattern recognition, computer vision, image processing and sensors and acquisition. There is a clear lack of MSc studies which cover the previously mentioned areas with a specific application to the analysis of medical images and development of CAD systems within an integrated medical imaging background. Moreover, the medical technology industry has detected a growing need of expert graduates in this field.”

Migration and Intercultural Relations

Study in the Czech Republic, Slovenia, Norway, Germany

They “address issues that currently rank highly on the global agenda – and need expertise on transnational, transcultural and transdisciplinary level. Migration and mobility, flight, displacement, and refugee – globally and (supra)nationally discussed primarily on a policy level – touch decisive dimensions in economic and social development, demography, international relations, political theory and cultural cooperation, to name some, not all of the key areas. Sustainable answers bridging the interests of nation states (incl. their welfare systems and labour markets) with human rights, democratic values and globality have yet to be found. Research on intercultural relations and intercultural communication is closely linked to these questions and frequently key to the understanding of problems and conflict.”

Most of these programs cost around 9,000€ per year (convert to $) for a two-year program, but Erasmus offers scholarships for each of the programs. These merit-based scholarships cover 100% of the tuition, 1,000€ per month for living expenses, and even money for a travel allowance (the amount is determined by how far your home country is from your study country). The scholarships are quite competitive, but most of the programs offer other scholarship options as well.

The fact that these EU-funded programs are open to international students really speaks to how highly the EU values globalization. They want students from around the world to study with them because the outcome is positive for the world as a whole and benefits Europe. If you have read our blogs, you already know that you have an incredible number of options for a high quality and affordable education in Europe-conducted entirely in English. You also have the opportunity to study in more than one foreign country without extra cost, all while gaining relevant skills and knowledge for the workforce.  There are over 1,700 English conducted bachelor’s and over 4,200 master’s programs throughout continental Europe. Let Beyond the States be your guide to all the exciting educational options in Europe by becoming a member today.

Are US Study Abroad Programs a Good Path to Global Citizenship?

I’ve talked before about the importance of exposure to cultural diversity and how grateful I was to have it as an integral part of my life growing up in Chicago.  I knew that this was something my kids would not have in their day to day life growing up in our homogeneous town of Chapel Hill, NC. Tom and I made it a priority to expose them in different ways with an eye towards global citizenship. We made it a priority to travel internationally from the time they were young, even when it meant long flights with cranky kids or making financial sacrifices.  As they are older now, we see them developing the qualities associated with global citizenship.

“Global Citizenship” is a bit of a buzz word, but something that is important to many individuals and global citizenshipfamilies. A global citizen is one whose identity includes, but expands beyond, the country in which they grew up. Global citizenship means being aware of, respecting, valuing and identifying with the world community, not just your home country. Since the countries of the world are part of their identified community, global citizens are just as devastated by atrocities occurring around the world as they are about those that occur in their home country.  Thus, the problems occurring in different countries around the world have global citizens attempting to affect change around the world’s problems.

Experiencing other cultures can help lead to global citizenship.  Through travel, you can see similarities and differences of each culture. You can incorporate parts of the cultures into your own life.  In our home, we always take off our shoes like they do in Japan and Sweden and try to include various hygge throughout following the Danish tradition. I love a good post lunch nap (Spain & Italy) and our pantry reflects food discoveries we have made in various countries. Further, I adapt the guidelines of Italy regarding acceptable levels of wine consumption!

Interacting on a personal level with people from different countries enables a greater perspective on world events.  As I mentioned in a previous blog, I had a really eye opening discussion with a 30 something hipster in Prague about his own experiences as a child under communist rule and his thoughts on the current situation in the US. While the qualities associated with global citizenship are important for personal development as well as increasing the problem solving around world issues, it is also highly valued by employers.

According to the Institute for International Education in 2016, 268,910 of the 1,785,452 US college students attended a study abroad program. That’s 15.1% of all students. Many students in the US hope to experience the world through these study abroad and many do. I have to tell you that I think these programs are the biggest rip off of all time. It’s yet another example of the problems associated with universities running like big business. In addition, some of the programs decrease the true impact international experiences can have. Let’s talk about a few examples.

global citizenshipThe University of Illinois (U of I) has many study abroad choices. One is with KU Leuven, in Belgium. Students attend classes at KU Leuven with KU Leuven students learning from KU Leuven professors.  Students doing this exchange can expect to pay over $15,000 for one, single semester!

Here’s the crazy thing- The tuition for an entire year for an international student is right around $1,425-as opposed to the $4,525 U of I charges for one semester of access to the same classes! U of I study abroad students pay just over $600 a month for housing that U of I arranges in a student residence with all the other American students. An international student can find easily find housing in student residences for $375 per month. Then, of course, there are the tremendous number of fees in addition to tuition at U of I (reduced, but still!) you will pay during your semester abroad. A full time international student at KU Leuven will pay less for his entire degree than an Illinois semester abroad student!

Some schools use a private study abroad provider. With many of these, students live a fairly self-contained existence and take classes through the provider, not even on the campus of a university. It reminds me a bit of a cruise and experiencing the semester as a tourist as opposed to a visiting student. There is a reputable provider who offers a semester in Copenhagen for $25,500.  For one semester!  That does include housing and some meals, but not transportation to and from the US. Let’s compare that to a student at Copenhagen Business School(CBS)-a prestigious school with triple crown international accreditation. Yearly tuition at CBS is right around $10,000 and rooms in student residences can be found for $400 per month.  Thus, you could be a full time student for two years with housing for what it would cost for one semester of study abroad.

For students who desire an international experience, I highly recommend exploring the 1,700+ English conducted full bachelors programs offered throughout continental Europe by becoming a member of Beyond the States. Not only are the financial benefits tremendous, but true immersion in another culture provides a path to global citizenship. Beyond the States offers a variety of ways to help students and their families navigate the European programs, admissions processes, housing and more with packages starting at just $89. 

European schools have a number of programs and policies in place to increase internationalization of their students-even if you are already an international student! Next week’s blog will piggy back on this week’s topic.  You see, European schools have a number of programs and policies in place to increase internationalization of their students.  We will look at the programs avaliable that enable students in Europe (even international students!) to study at school’s in more than one country (as a bachelor’s or master’s degree student) with no additional fees-and the possibility for a monthly stipend!

Four Tips to Navigate European College Admissions

European college admissions My 16-year-old son, Sam, recently came home from school and said he needed my assistance choosing his courses for next year. I was intrigued, given that most of my advice is unsolicited and met with resistance, and also because he wanted to talk before he even made his giant bowl of ramen or cereal for his after school snack. It seems that the counselor spoke to his class about the college admissions process and course registration for next year and Sam had fallen victim to some of the fear mongering.  He began asking me if he should take certain classes (that he had no interest in) because they would look good on his applications. Since he will be completing the European college admissions process, his path will be different.

European college admissions If Sam were applying to schools in the US, these would be valid concerns. I recently read “Crazy U: One Dad’s Crash Course in Getting His Kid into College” by Andrew Ferguson, which chronicles his family’s experiences as his son applies to college.  Let me tell you, this is an enjoyable and readable book, particularly if you know that you are not going to have to jump through these hoops. Instead of stressing out about the upcoming process, I was able to read it feeling grateful that we would bypass these struggles. He learned that the typical college admissions counselor spends an average of just five minutes reading each application. With so many highly qualified applicants, admissions counselors often have to look for reasons not to admit an applicant, whether it’s that the applicant doesn’t have enough AP classes, their class ranking is not high enough, their SATs/ACTs are mediocre, there aren’t enough extracurricular activities (with leadership roles preferably), or their summers aren’t filled with sufficient enrichment. But wait! Too many extracurriculars may indicate that the applicant lacks focus. Also, the applicant shouldn’t focus on just one type of extracurricular or it might look he doesn’t have a diversity of interest. The list of reasons not to admit an applicant goes on and on…I can’t even imagine how I would cope if we had to navigate that system. I was able to confidently reassure Sam that his experience would be very different. You see, European college admissions decisions are based on the amount of space in the program, whether or not the applicant has the requirements needed to succeed in the program, and whether or not the program and applicant are a “good fit”. Some programs at very reputable and highly ranked schools are non-selective. These programs don’t have an enrollment cap so, if you meet the objective admissions requirements (be that GPA, a set number of AP test scores, etc.), you’re in.  Is this the “holistic” approach taken by US schools?  No, but it’s certainly less subjective and more transparent. Not only is the holistic approach highly subjective, but it also has led to the highly competitive admissions process.  This competition is not just at the Ivies and their counterparts. Even schools that many haven’t heard of, like College of the Ozarks in Missouri,  Jarvis Christian College in Texas and Rust College in Mississippi accept less than 16%! It is virtually impossible to excel in every category colleges are looking at so students (or their parents) almost always feel inadequate and vulnerable to rejection.Here’s the advice I have given Sam about how to prepare for European college admissions process:

1. Be aware of admissions requirements of different countries have and plan accordingly.  

There are a few countries that require American students to have either an IB diploma of a certain number of AP scores of 3+. Sam knew that he was interested in one of these countries last year, so he is spreading out the 4 AP courses he will need through his sophomore, junior, and senior year and will not take more than two in a single year.  He’s not interested in Germany, which has requirements that pertain to GPA, SAT scores, and courses were taken, so we aren’t focusing too much on the SATs. One of the programs Sam likes has a math requirement which can be met through an AP or a SAT/ACT score. Math is not Sam’s strongest subject, so he would rather not take an AP math.  We will see how he does on the ACT and then if it’s not high enough, we will determine whether he is close enough to raise the math score through some self-study (or a tutor) or not.

2. Follow your interests as opposed to padding your resume

After assessing whether an applicant meets the admissions requirements (which are the indicator of whether or not there are the needed skills/knowledge to succeed in the program) the other thing schools in Europe look at is whether or not the student is a good fit for the program and the program is a good fit for the student. Fit is usually evaluated through a motivation letter. Sam is interested in international relations and area studies, particularly pertaining to the Middle East.  Arabic was only offered for one year at his high school, which he took, and then has continued with self-study.  After the counselor visit, he was concerned about Arabic only showing on his transcript for one year. I assured him that this is something he could address in his motivation letter.  If you are applying to a program that is a good fit, not only in terms of subject matter but also in terms of city and country, you will be able to speak to it in your motivation letter. Choosing to apply to schools in Europe is not the status quo, so you likely have reasons behind it.  Talk about that in the motivation letter. Talk about why that particular city or country interests you whether it’s the history of the area, different outdoor activities it offers that are aligned with your past interests and activities, your own heritage, etc.  Relating these interests to your future goals will be of much greater interest to these programs than an endless list of clubs you were involved in.
And let me mention for a minute how much I prefer this to the essay requirement in the US.  Ferguson talked about the US college essay questions that force emotional catharsis on the applicants with intrusive questions.  His son, like most 17-18-year-old boys I know, struggled greatly with this. Further, how does being in touch with one’s emotional side and willingly expressing innermost thoughts to strangers relate to future success in college?

3. Take Statistics!

European college admissions I know many kids who take the calculus route because they think it looks better to colleges.  Most schools in Europe aren’t looking at your course selection, except those courses that pertain to their admissions requirements. They don’t care if you took earth science over chemistry (unless it’s a requirement of their program). Certainly, there are fields of study for which calculus would be more valuable.  For students studying business or social sciences, I highly recommend taking statistics.  It is often a required course for the first year and is less of a struggle with a little background.

4. Don’t get caught up in the admissions stress around you

I recently spoke with a father whose son is particularly interested in a school that requires 4 AP scores.  The father noted that since they don’t know if he will have the required scores needed for European college admissions until late in his senior year, they will also be applying to American schools as backup.  He wasn’t happy about this due to the cost and admissions process here.  I assured him that there were other programs at schools without the AP requirements that would also be a good fit and encouraged him to explore some of the options. As a matter of a fact, most of the programs in Europe don’t have the AP requirements.  With over 1,700 English conducted options throughout continental Europe, there really is something for everyone’s interests, strengths, and qualifications.

Sam is not planning on applying to any schools in the US.  Of course, now that we know about these affordable high-quality options it would be hard to justify the expense of US schools.  Just as important, though, Sam is super excited about going to Europe and the benefits it will provide not only from an academic perspective but also for the travel and life experience opportunities. Of course, the immediate benefit is that he does not have to jump through the ever moving admissions hoops in the US. Opting out allows him to pursue his interests in and out of the classroom and still have a tremendous number of excellent academic options at the end of the road. And it allows all of us to relax.

University College Groningen: a Deep Dive

I was really excited to visit Groningen again.  When I visited last year, it was just for a few hours.  This time I was there for 3 days exploring the town and meeting with administrators and students from Groningen University College (UCG). Since so many of you have expressed interest in Dutch universities, particularly the university colleges, we are bringing you what we are calling a “deep dive” into UCG.

Let’s start with the city. Groningen is located in the northernmost part of the country, about a two-hour train ride from Amsterdam. It is the youngest city in the Netherlands, with half of the population under 35. Further, 25% of the residents are students. Because Groningen is the urban center of the northern Netherlands and has such a large student population, its cultural scene is remarkably big and diverse with an strong underground music scene, a comics museum, a tobacco museum, and a science museum. It has a vibrant nightlife, dominated by students.

As is the case for many European schools, there is no true campus, and buildings are located throughout the city. They’re easy to identify with the red triangle visible in the picture on the left.  In some cities, this seems disjointed but in Groningen, it feels as though the city and university are very connected and the town serves as one big campus. There is a really community feel throughout the town. Almost everywhere I went, I observed people running into people they know.  Like most places in the Netherlands, English is widely spoken. People are also really accommodating and friendly about the use of English. I was in one cafe that did not have an English menu and the waitress offered to translate the menu for me verbally!  Thanks to Google Translate I did not have to take her up on that.

The majority of my time in Groningen was spent learning about UCG in depth.  University colleges in the Netherlands are the liberal arts program within a research university, and they are self-contained. UCG is a department of the University of Groningen, which is a top 100 school in the various global rankings.  Though the overall university is one of the oldest schools in the country (founded in 1614), UCG is still a fairly young program, having started in 2015. They stayed intentionally small with around 30 students admitted each year for the first two years in order to straighten out any kinks that arise with any new program. By the third year, they admitted 86 students and anticipate a larger number next year as well.

UCG requires that each student lives in a student residence for one year.  UCG students are generally placed together in the residences, which consist of a very large single room with bathrooms, kitchen and living area shared with seven other students. Here’s a video tour of the residence. These cost 480 Euros a month. After the first year, students can stay or take advantage of the many other student housing options in Groningen including the new Student Hotel, apartment rentals, or even a houseboat rental!

What’s Your Major?

Each University College in the Netherlands has a different distinguishing quality.  At UCG, their focus is maximizing the integrative aspects of their program, combining more than one area of study.  They take an interdisciplinary approach and use project-based education.  During the first year, student take core credits in Global Challenges, Research and Methodology, and Integrative Projects and Academic Skills.  The other half of the year is made up of credits from Sciences, Social Sciences, or Humanities.

Like American schools, students choose their major in the second year, after being exposed to the various fields of study. UCG has 5 majors students can choose from: Physics of Energy (which includes Applied Physics, Astronomy, Math and Industrial Engineering), Health and Life Sciences (Global Health, Immunology, Human Anatomy, Genetics, Cell Biology and Biochemistry), Cognition and Behavior (Sociology, Environmental Psychology, Biopsychology, Cognition and Decision Making), Philosophy, Politics, and Economics (International Law, Ethics, Global Economics, Political Science, Cognitive Neuroscience) and Reflecting on Culture, History and Criticism (Culture and Media, History, Religion and Diversity, Cultural Geography, International Relations, Philosophy). Students have a lot of freedom within their major.  A student with a Reflecting on Culture, History and Criticism major, for instance, can have (but isn’t required to have) a lot more variety in their courses than a student who is in a pure culture and media program. Students also have the opportunity to create their own major by combining areas of study. UCG students are also able to take courses offered by the overall university (which has 29 English conducted bachelor’s programs) which add to the possibilities and flexibility.

Integrative Projects is a required course of each of the three years, culminating in a 15 credit Capstone Project. Since this is such a key feature in the UCG approach to education, I had a lot of questions about it. The goals of integrative projects is to teach students to communicate across the disciplines, acquire scholarly knowledge, and learn useful ways to apply that knowledge.  The first year, students are given topics such as immigration or global warming and their projects include building communication and presentation skills and developing research approaches. The second year projects focus more on acquiring the scholarly knowledge through a chosen project and the third year students have to set up a project with defined goals for their Capstone Project. Some examples of the projects can be found here

There is a lot of value to having these projects continuously through the years. We already know that the classroom diversity related to the students’ country of origin adds to the educational experience. Now we are adding to that working with students with different academic focuses. Integrative projects also have students working with people who have different academic focuses. In the corporate world, multidisciplinary teams are the norm, so the students are learning skills seen as valuable by future employers. Further, many research universities have a singular research focus at the expense of applied knowledge. The integrative programs provide that applied knowledge component that is often missing.

Support for Students

Students at UCG have a lot of support. Students are assigned a faculty advisor who works with them for the entire 3 years.  The advisors and professors and even the dean serves as an advisor. The advisor helps with course planning, academic struggles, internships, and preparing for future plans.  The dean explained to me that they believe that there is an implied contract between the students and professors to complete the program in three years and faculty is committed to helping students achieve this. The close relationship between students and faculty serves as a personal support as well.  I was told about a regular Dungeons and Dragons night that a group of students and professors participate in!

One of the benefits of attending a university college is that you have the benefits of a small school experience, but also the resources of a large university.  Students at UCG can join any of the clubs of the University of Groningen and also have their own student association just for UCG students, called Caerus. This group arranges social and academic activities including parties (lots of parties), dinners,  and workshops. You can get an idea for some of the things they do on their Facebook page

Any Drawbacks?

If you are a Beyond the States member, you probably know that I look to find and report the challenges or drawbacks of the schools I visit as well.  I had trouble finding many weaknesses here. The ones I did find were pretty small in significance.  For instance, some of the other university colleges have more architecturally impressive buildings. The building at UCG is well maintained and has some wonderful features, but not to the level of some of the other schools.  That said, a new building is being built near the square and is anticipated to be complete by 2020.

The main problem is that the overall admissions department for the university is quite rigid in their interpretation of the admissions requirements set by Nuffic (the Dutch government).  American students who don’t have an IB diploma are required to have 4 AP scores of 3+ to be admitted to a Dutch research university. Nuffic allows schools to determine whether they allow substitutes for the AP tests with things like college courses.  Some schools also have a math requirement that can be met through an AP test, an ACT or SAT math score, or a math entrance exam.  Groningen University College does not allow for any of these substitutions and the math requirement must be met through an AP score. This is something that I hope they will have more flexibility around in the future, but for now, it is what it is. Please note that the University of Groningen does not have the same math requirement as the university college. The positive side of this is that the admissions requirements are totally transparent so if you don’t have the qualifications, I don’t advise applying.  I met with the Admissions Director of the UCG program and you can find more about the admissions process in this video interview.

 

Would You Like to Learn More?

UCG has some great ways to explore the program from afar. First off, their website has some really good videos that speak to students about their majors.  There’s a Day in the Life video here. They also have a virtual student for a day program where you can choose from options like webinars, talking to a current student, a Q&A about an academic program, and attending a lecture – all from the comfort of your own home!

UCG charges 12,000 Euros per year (convert to $) and is a three-year program.  Check out our cost comparison of another student we worked with who is studying at a comparably priced university college program in the Netherlands. Non-EU first-year students can apply for the 5,000 Euro Holland scholarship for their first year of study.