Admissions in the Netherlands

So we’re now on Lesson Six and we’re going to talk about Admissions. And we’re going to start with a little bit of a review, in case you forgot.

Slide 1: All About Netherlands – Lesson 6: Admissions

So we’re now on Lesson Six and we’re going to talk about Admissions. And we’re going to start with a little bit of a review, in case you forgot.

Slide 2: HAVO/VWO

  • HAVO
  • 4 year programs at universities of applied science
  • high school diploma
  • VWO
  • research universities or UAS in addition to 3 years UAS
  • IB diploma, 4 AP scores of 3+, 1 year college credits, associate’s degree

If you listened to some of the lessons a long time ago, again, it’s good to go through this again, so that you really start to understand how the admissions process works. So it’s incredibly transparent. We touched on this earlier. We’ll get into it a bit deeper now.

So you remember how we talked about HAVO and VWO? These are basically two types of high school diplomas in the Netherlands. Students with a HAVO diploma are qualified for universities of applied sciences. And students with a VWO are qualified for research universities and universities of applied sciences. Remember, most university of applied science programs are four years, but students who have the VWO, they qualify for three year programs which are offered at some universities, sort of fast track programs. If you have a regular high school diploma from the US, then you have the equivalent of a HAVO. You don’t need APs, or SATs, or anything else. If you have an American high school diploma and four AP scores of 3 or higher, you have VWO equivalence. If you don’t have the AP scores, you can also apply if you have an IB diploma, one year of college credits at a university that grants bachelor’s degrees, or an associate’s degree.

Slide 3: 

  • Exceptions
  • Possible additional requirements
  • Selective/non-selective/numerus fixus
  • Rolling admissions

There are a few exceptions to that. Leiden, for instance, now requires a 3.5 GPA, unweighted, and three AP scores of 4 or higher. There are some programs that may have requirements around specific courses. Usually, these are math-related. There are often, but not always, more than one way to satisfy math requirements. It might be that you took a certain course that might require an AP score, a certain math SAT or ACT score, or a math entrance exam at the university. Further, the university colleges usually require additional qualifications, be it an extra AP, or a certain GPA, or standardized test scores, things like that.

So here’s the thing, there are some programs that are selective. This may be because they have an enrollment cap, or that there are honors type programs like the university colleges. For these programs, students have to meet the admissions requirements, which usually include some sort of extra scores. And they’re also assessed on some subjective criteria, like a motivation letter or interview. Selective programs though, are in the minority. The majority of programs are what I call non-selective. Though it’s not even called that, it’s just the way things are done. For these programs, if you meet the admissions requirements, VWO or HAVO equivalence, depending on the program, plus any other program-specific requirements, then you’re in, period. You’re able to tell on the program website whether it’s selective or not. If it doesn’t say anything about being selective or numerus fixus, then it’s not. So you don’t need to apply to a long list of schools. Further, the schools use rolling admissions. They start accepting applications in October, and most schools issue their acceptance in four to six weeks. Of course, it’s conditional if you’re in your senior year, based on graduating or if you have AP tests to still take. There are a few programs like the selective ones that use variations of rolling admissions where applications are assessed and decisions provided at different points throughout the year.

Slide 4: Do you need a Plan B?

  • Do you really meet the admissions requirements when applying (except graduating from high school)?
  • Are you taking an AP that is required for admission?

So we’re going to get into the logistics of applying in just a bit. But first, let’s talk about strategy. If your first choice program is one that does not use selective enrollment, and you meet the criteria when you apply, then there’s no reason to apply to more than one school. Your acceptance will be conditional only on graduating from high school. So this would be the case, for instance, if you’re applying to a university of applied science and you don’t need AP scores, or if you’ve already obtained the required AP scores before starting your senior year when you’re going to apply. Because it’s a non-selective program, and you meet the criteria, you’ll know that you’re getting in. So if you’re applying to a selective program, or you don’t have the admissions requirements achieved yet when you’re applying, I think it’s a good idea to have a plan B.

If you want to stay in the Netherlands, this could be a non-selective program at a research university, even the same university, or a program at a university of applied science. You can either accept the spot at the Plan B School, and then decline it if you get into the selective program. You don’t have to pay a deposit so you’re not going to lose any money doing that. Or you could wait to apply to the Plan B school, only if you don’t get in to the selective program.

I’ll tell you how this is played out for one of our members.  She had her heart set on the business program at the University of Gronigen but was taking some of her last required APs during her senior year. So she also applied to the International Business program at HANZE University of Applied Science. It’s also in Groningnen but, since it’s a university of applied science, doesn’t require the APs. Well, it’s a good thing she did because one of her AP scores fell short of Groningen’s requirement!  She started at HANZE, with the intent to use her first year of credit there to apply to Groningen after a year.  Since student life is so integrated into the city, she wouldn’t be starting from scratch socially either. She ended up liking the practical approach at HANZE so much that she ended up staying there though!

Slide 5: Studielink

  • Create an account on Studielink and choose the programs/universities you want to apply to
  • Max of 4 programs, only 2 numerous fixus, one physiotherapy or medicine
  • Deadline is generally April 1st or May 1st

So let’s look at the how tos when it comes to applying. Almost all schools begin their application with something called Studielink. And this is basically the Dutch student registration system. You enter your data into Studielink to create an account, you choose the programs that you want to apply to. And then Studielink sends that information on to the admissions programs, the admissions departments at those schools, who then contact you to let you know how to apply to their program.

A few things to know — you can only apply to four programs total. And then, if you’re applying to numerus fixus, there can only be two numerus fixus programs. Also, if you’re applying to physiotherapy or medicine, or dentistry — there’s actually not any English dentistry — you can only apply to one of those. So only one physiotherapy program. Most application deadlines for non-EU students are in April. But selective programs like the university colleges, that’s usually in January.

Slide 6: After Studielink

  • Program contacts you with instructions to set up an account with the university applications portal
  • Upload requested documents
  • Application fee
  • Watch email and status online

So once you complete the Studielink piece, you’ll get correspondence from the school — usually the same day, but it could take up to a few days. And they send you a series of emails that confirm that you’re applying and tell you how to set up an account on the school application portal. So you create your account on the school application portal and it’s going to guide you through what’s needed. And most of it is uploading documents like transcripts, test scores, things like that.

They might also ask for a CV or a motivation letter, which will be used in the admissions decision if it’s a selective program. You’ll find a walkthrough for writing a motivation letter and CV in the Admissions course. And then you pay the application fee and you sit back. If there’s anything else they need, they’re going to email you. And you also should watch the portal for progress. You know, such and such document you uploaded is accepted, or they’re still waiting on a particular document. After the information is received and reviewed, assuming it’s a non-selective program and has rolling admissions, you get your acceptance. Again, which is conditional based on whatever still needs to occur; graduating, test scores, whatever. And you’re asked to confirm that you’ll accept the spot, but it’s not binding and no deposits required.

Slide 7:

  • Glitches
  • No visa needed for US students to enter
  • School starts the residence permit process

So you will almost definitely hit some sort of glitch along the way. This is to be expected and administrators totally know this. It’s absolutely okay to ask for clarification with the admission department of the school you’ll be applying to. Just make sure to be really concise and direct with your question. For instance, perhaps you’re being asked for English proficiency scores. You would send an email that says, “I’ve received requests for English proficiency scores. I’m an American applicant and English is my first language. Please let me know how to proceed.” So after that, you just really have to wait since the school starts the student residence permit process.

It’s a good idea to get a list from the school as to what you’re going to need to provide them and by when for the student residence. It’s usually in spring though. And we’re going to talk about the financial pieces around this with tuition and such in our next and final lesson.

Take a listen to this podcast episode I did a year or so ago with an administrator from University of Groningen. He’s a great guy and we talk about the difference in the philosophy about admissions, and things that matter and don’t matter. And so, I suggest that you listen to that to kind of really start to embrace this new mindset around admissions.