Admissions in Europe

So the first major difference we’re going to talk about in terms of college in Europe is admissions. And I have to tell you that other than the cost, this is the most dramatic and significant benefit, if you will.

Slide 1: On Your Mark

Lesson 2: Admissions

So the first major difference we're going to talk about in terms of college in Europe is admissions. And I have to tell you that other than the cost, this is the most dramatic and significant benefit, if you will. I mean, for most of you, the cost benefit is going to more directly affect your parents. 

Slide 2: Erase This Belief

The harder it is to get in, the better/more desirable/more prestigious the school is.

Yes, it affects you as well, but they're going to really feel it in their pocket more than you. But the difference in the admissions process is going to majorly affect your life. So before we get into this too much, I want you to erase the following belief from your brain, even if it's one you only subconsciously have because you hear it so often. So the belief is that the harder it is to get in somewhere, the better the school is, the more desirable the school is, the more prestigious a school is. This is just not true when we're talking about higher education in Europe. 

And one thing I'll tell you about, about the reason why, when you look at the US News rankings, when you look at the college rankings that are just about American schools, they factor in a ton of different things, and it changes every year. But selectivity is one of the things that's factored in to rankings in the US. So there's sort of an incentive for schools to game that system. 

Slide 3:

Global rankings based 100% on research related criteria

In Europe, you're talking about global rankings, and global rankings are based 100% on research-related criteria. So I have my issues with that too. We'll get to that later. However, that's just to say that there's no incentive for European schools to game selectivity. People just — they're just not looking at that. But it's also about this really different philosophy about access to higher education. 

Slide 4: 

Different philosophy about access to higher education

It's about assessing whether or not the student has the qualities — academic qualities, by the way — and motivation that's needed to succeed in the program. It's not about who's the best, who has the best GPA, the most extracurriculars, the highest SAT or ACT scores, the most AP scores. It's about meeting whatever it is that they define as the admissions requirements. And they're almost always 100% transparent, which means you pretty much know if you'll get in when you apply. 

So I'm going to talk about those requirements in just a minute. But I want to touch on a word that I'm going to be explaining in a lot more depth in later lessons, but it's important here too. And that's the word “program.” 

Slide 5: Program = Major

Apply directly to the specific program

Because when you apply to a school in Europe, you're not just applying to the school, you're applying to a particular program at that school. And that program is going to have its own admissions procedures, and admissions department, and everything else. But it's like knowing your major ahead of time. So as we get into this, you're going to hear me talking about programs, and that's what it means. One school may have, you know, 20 different English-taught programs. They might have one in international business and they might have one in international relations. That's what you would call a program at a school. So we're going to talk more about programs in the next lesson, and then the entire next module next week is about choosing a program. 

Slide 6: General Admissions Requirements in Europe

  • IB Diploma
  • 1 year college credits (or full associate’s degree)
  • 388
  • 1,517 no AP

So the core requirement for admissions in most countries is that you have a high school diploma that's the equivalent of their high school diploma. Now, the problem is that the US high school diploma is not the equivalent in a handful of countries. Now, before we get into this, don't freak out. There are so many that don't have these extra requirements. I'll tell you about the numbers in just a little bit. But let's talk about those that do have these extra requirements. For those, you need either an IB diploma, or one year of college credits, or a certain number of AP scores. And I'm saying AP scores because you don't need the actual class. If there's something that you really excel in, or if you feel like you could self study and take the AP test and get a 3 or higher, then that's an option as well. 

So let's talk about where you need those. You need those in Denmark. You need 3 or more in Denmark. You need them in Norway, you need them in Italy and you  need them in Germany.. And the reason the Netherlands is pink is because their high school sort of has two tracks. One of their tracks is the equivalent to our high school diploma, and the other is not. And so, it's the research universities in the Netherlands that require four AP scores of 3 or higher, but the universities of applied science don't have those. 

So again, I want to just remind you not to worry if you don't have APs because you can still go to college in Europe. Can you go to school in Denmark? No, but you can go to school in Europe. So there are 1,900 programs — actually, 1,905 programs in our database. Only 388 have these extra requirements. There are 1,517 with no AP requirements. So you are absolutely fine if you don't have that. So it also means that you don't have to apply to a ton of different schools. Because why would you apply to more than one if you know it’s your top choice school and you know that you're going to get in? And why would you apply to more than two, if you have your top choice, and you have a safety school? so sort of getting out of the mentality of more, and finding a mentality that works towards meeting your goals, and also having some sort of balance in your life. 

So I want to tell you for a minute about how this impacted one member’s life. He knew from his freshman year that he would go to college in Europe.  He didn't know what he wanted to study, clearly, at that time. But he knew he would take four APs so that he would have the requirements needed to keep his options open. And he knew that at that point, Germany — I should say that, actually — Germany used to take SAT or AP scores. They stopped doing that. Anyhow, at that time, they accepted SAT scores so we said we'll get you the requirements needed to keep all these doors open. 

So around the end of his sophomore year, beginning of junior year, he decided that he really wanted to apply to Leiden University in the Netherlands. Now Leiden only required three AP scores of 3 or higher at that time, but you also had to have a GPA of 3.5. So he had taken one AP course his sophomore year, and his teacher got fired in like February. If you've taken an AP class, you know that so much of the test review happens in that March, April time period, and they were stuck with subs. So luckily, he still managed to get a 3 that year in that test. And then he took two AP tests his junior year. And he got 4s in those. 

And so, he felt like, oh, we're going into senior year, the application period starts in October. And he's going to go into that and his acceptance will only be conditional on his keeping his GPA at 3.5 or higher, and graduating high school. And those are two things that are well within his control, as opposed to these testing situations. Well, wouldn't you know it, in October Leiden changed their admissions requirements, with no warning, and they changed it to it’s still only three AP scores, but they required scores of 4 or higher. So that meant that he was missing one AP score. He was taking two AP classes already senior year, and his acceptance, which he still got a conditional acceptance, but it was based on him getting a 4 or higher in one of those two classes. 

There are just so many variables that are outside of our control when it comes to these testing situations that he definitely wanted to have a Plan B. So Leiden University, the program that he ended up attending, , International Studies, is in The Hague. And there's another school in The Hague, The Hague University of Applied Science. If you remember, I said these universities of applied science don't have the AP requirement. So he applied to the Security Studies program there with the plan of if he didn't get the APs, he would do a year at The Hague University of Applied Science, at which point he would have this one year of college credit, and then could go to Leiden the second year. Now, it wouldn't be transferring. It would be doing something additional to meet the admission requirements. 

So he got into The Hague. So he felt like we could relax a little bit until July 5th, which was the longest wait ever for the AP scores. But he did end up getting the AP scores he needed and went to Leiden, but he had a back up plan just in case.

So what was really awesome about that is that, you know, yes, he did what he needed to do. He didn't have to retake the SATs. He was able to pursue interests. Like he's really into Arabic, he taught himself Arabic. He did a program in Morocco, a summer program in Morocco. He was able to hang out with his friends, he had an after school job, he had plenty of time for video games. But more than that, just kind of time to explore what was important to him, what was interesting to him, to make mistakes without worrying that this was going to mess up his whole entire future with the college admissions process. And to make choices based on his interest and such, instead of how's this going to look on a college application.

So it was really, really meaningful in his life. I hope you get to experience that difference as well. If you don't believe me, because I know this is a total like kind of mind — it’s just something we're not accustomed to, the whole thought of if you meet the academic requirements, then you're in. I mean, that's just kind of mind blowing. So if you don't believe me, which would be okay. Even if you do believe me, there's a podcast episode I'm going to link to where I interviewed somebody in Admissions at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands, and he talks about this mindset and the differences, and what does and doesn't matter when they're looking at applicants. And it's just so refreshing, I can't even tell you. 

So the action step this week, I want you to think about if you knew that you already met the admissions requirements, what would you do differently with your time? Also think about what mindsets you need to shift around this. Is it the mindset that you have to apply to lots of schools? Is it the mindset around quality and selectivity? Is it sort of the mindset of keeping up with the Joneses? You know, so and so is taking five AP classes this year, so I should too. You know, kind of keeping up in that way. Or just a different mindset you might have that you might not even realize that you have, because so much of this is just ingrained in us and in the messages we hear every day. But what can you shift? Because I'll tell you, if you're able to shift those mindsets, just your life is going to be different, I promise you. 

So in the next lesson, we're going to talk about academic life and some of the differences that take place once you actually get into school. See you then.