Beyond The States
Beyond The States
What Transparent Admissions Requirements Really Mean

It’s that time of year again… College admissions are on the minds of many students who have attempted to get into their choice schools across the US; it can be a deeply confusing and stressful time for many. Jenn begins the episode this week by sharing a disturbing, first-hand look at the US admissions process through her daughter (Ellie) and Ellie’s friends’ experiences, and provides an update on Ellie’s plans for the fall and how she eventually came to the decision to study in the US.

As well, although it is true that college in Europe is not for everyone (as evidenced by the fact that Jenn’s daughter will be attending school in the states), it is important to understand how the transparent and objective admissions criteria is in surprising contrast to that in the US. With that, we decided to revisit an important episode from 2017 with Maarten Dikhoff, an administrator from Groningen University who explains the admissions approach and process in the Netherlands and Europe. Ultimately, we’ll see how this approach is wholly refreshing, compared to the problematic one in the states. (Spoiler alert – they don’t care about your SAT scores or extracurricular activities!) Tune in and find out more!

“It’s not where you go to college, but how you go to college that matters.” — Jenn

“We basically do our selection during the first year. Students can all get the chance to study at a university in the Netherlands, but in the first year they need to show they are capable of doing so.”, Martin

Podcast Transcript –

Intro: You’re listening to the Beyond the States podcast with Jenn Viemont. Did you know that you can go to Europe and get your entire degree taught in English for less than one year of tuition at many American schools? Jenn will take you on a deep dive into the many benefits and options around English-taught higher education in Europe, helping to make the possibility less foreign.

Jenn Viemont: So I had a different episode scheduled for today, but I really felt compelled to talk about admissions instead today. If you have high schoolers, you probably know that the schools in the US have now completed their admissions decisions and students have been notified. Now this has been trickling in for a while with early decision, early action, rolling admissions or different notification dates. So despair over rejection has been delayed for a lot of students because they knew that they were still waiting for other schools to get their decision. 

So my daughter Ellie tells me a lot more about her friends than Sam ever did. So this whole time of year has hit home more this year. I see with her friends these really smart and accomplished kids. These are kids who played the admissions game by the book, who didn’t get into the schools that they wanted to. And the thing that really bums me out about this, is that they think that it’s because they didn’t do something right or that they could have or should have done something different that would have resulted in being accepted. And what bums me out even more is that they really believe that their life is going to be negatively impacted by attending their safety school. I want to send them all the research we’ve talked about in previous episodes about how it’s not where you go to college, it’s how you go to college that matters. I want to send them book after book I’ve read about the flaws with the admissions process in the US. And even more importantly, I want to send them article after article about why they should dismiss anything the US News and World Report rating say. 

By the way, side note, Malcolm Gladwell has a really interesting take on the recent news about the Columbia ratings. I highly recommend checking it out. However, I know that sending that unsolicited information to her friends would be inappropriate. So instead, I moved the podcast episodes around so I could talk about it here. 

So in just a little bit, what we’re going to do is we’re going to revisit an interview I did with one of my favorite administrators, Maarten Dikhoff, from one of my favorite Dutch universities, Groningen University, because in this one — this is back from 2017, I think — he explains in a really clear way, the most refreshing admissions policy used by Dutch universities in which for most programs, if you meet the admissions requirements, then you’re in, period. And we’re talking about highly ranked universities. 

Before that though, I want to tell you a little bit more about my firsthand experience as a parent in the US admissions process, something I thought I had successfully avoided until this year. So as you may remember from an episode earlier this season, my daughter, Ellie is a senior, and she was admitted to Maynooth University in Ireland. She decided that wasn’t the route she was going to take this fall after she was admitted. And when I had recorded that episode, she was still in the process of sort of gaining insight into what she wanted to do and why. We thought it might be a gap year at that point, but she decided that she did want to apply to some US universities for this coming school year, for the 2022 school year.

And guys, I mentioned in the other episode, I was asked on a podcast many years ago, she was probably at middle school at that time, what I would do if my daughter decided she wanted to go to college in the US. And my response was something like, “Well, I’m sure that would never happen, but I wanted to really explore and explain why she would make that choice.” Yeah, I’ll tell you that came back to bite me in the butt. Anyway, that is the approach we took.

So one of the issues we had when Ellie was applying to schools in Europe, so there were only a few English-taught programs that focused on criminology, which is what she was interested in. So she was left with options for liberal arts, or sociology that sort of included some criminology, but without the true kind of pure focus, or there were a few programs in Ireland that offered it as well. So she knew she wanted that focus. So she looked at the schools in Ireland and was admitted into the arts program at Maynooth, and this would allow her to study both criminology and psychology. 

So she had some interactions with the admissions office that had sort of left a bad taste in her mouth, but they weren’t, in my mind, enough reason to disqualify it entirely. But we also knew that there was a program in Cork, one of my favorite schools, that she could apply to and get into if she decided to go back to the European route. But first, she had to explore the US route. So my parameters were that the school had to have a criminology-specific major, because she’d get that elsewhere, and that was something important to her. And that the tuition would need to be comparable to what we would pay for school in Ireland. So she was in luck there because Irish schools are the most expensive in our database and we would be paying about $15,000 a year in tuition, US dollars, and the program is about three years. 

However, Cork was going to be more expensive and had a four year pathway. So instead of saying $15,000 per year times three is her budget, since Cork was more expensive and had a four year pathway, I said I was willing to go up to 15,000 per year for tuition. 

So my other criteria for her was that she would need to be able to articulate why these particular schools would be a better or even just a comparable choice for her to make. So like her mother, she’s very project-oriented, so she jumped right on it. Luckily, I mean, in terms of scope of the project, her budget limited her to in-state, or possibly schools that gave a high amount of aid. And her major isn’t the most popular, so those two criteria narrowed it down a lot. And she did gain the insight that I was hoping she would get, she narrowed it down to four schools, two in-state and two out-of-state. And the criminology programs had more of the specific focus she was looking than the Maynooth program, and she was not even deterred by the Gen Ed requirements. I was sure that the PE requirement would be a deal breaker for her, but no such luck. So let’s even call it academic content comparable. 

For Ellie, it turned out to be sort of more of an emotional need that attending in the US with me. We lived out of the country for more than two years of her high school life. And there were some experiences she really feels like she missed out on. She just recently went to her first college basketball game, which in this part of North Carolina is unheard of. And among the friends she has a history with, she really spent her time in high school, much of her high school years, doing something incredibly different than them. She has a real desire to have this like shared experience with her friends of applying to US schools. Yeah, it might sound silly, but I certainly remember how valuable those shared experiences were as a teen. She also had already had the experience of living abroad and she achieved many of the skills and the awareness and the overall growth that I think is so important as an outcome of living abroad. 

So fine, we decided to apply, but we weren’t attached to any outcomes yet. I actually wasn’t confident that she’d get into any of the schools. She hadn’t been prepping for this game at all. She had four APs because that’s what she would need in Europe, she had an okay SAT score, a good GPA, but nothing really stand out academically. And of course, between moving and COVID, she didn’t really have any school-related extracurriculars. She did, however, relate her essays to her international experiences. So part of my work while she was doing the applications was to let her know that it was very possible that she wouldn’t get accepted because we had opted out of that game. 

Now, Ellie didn’t apply to the most selective schools; that wasn’t part of her criteria. Her first choice school was NC State. They have a really strong criminology program, and they actually have a required internship, which I really like. And she was admitted, and that’s where she’s gonna attend in the fall. The schools she applied to were all around a 50% selectivity rate. She was accepted to three and waitlisted to one. Here’s what’s crazy, I happen to know for a fact that some of her friends who were either waitlisted or rejected from some of these same schools have stronger academic records, be it more APs, more extracurriculars, better GPA, better SAT or ACT scores. And what I really believe helped Ellie was her unique international experiences and her insights into the impact those experiences had on her. 

And this is one of those things we’ve heard from so many of our guests this season about employability, that having the international experience helps these kids stand out from the other applicants, particularly when they can articulate the impact of these experiences. So this is all to say that I recognize that Europe is not for everyone, as evidenced by the fact that my own daughter is going a different route. That said, there is an entirely different and transparent way to do admissions that is certainly what I prefer. We’re gonna take a quick break and come back to learn about that with the interview that was pulled from an episode that aired in 2017.

Testimonial: Hello, my name is Hannah. I’m from Indiana and I’m entering my third year study at Erasmus University Rotterdam in the Netherlands. I’ll never forget the date that I got my best fit list from Jenn. It was so exciting to read about all these really cool schools with amazing programs that were related to my academic interests, within my budget, and that I would more likely than not be accepted to. Since I was a member of Beyond the States, they had a lot of other services that we could also use. One service that I think is so cool is the On Your Mark masterclass. I didn’t know anyone else in my school or even my city here in America who’s applying to college in Europe. So the fact that students in this class get to know others around the country who are doing the same thing is great. It’s a six week course with video lessons each week that walks students through specific steps and exercises to choose their area of study and then narrowed down to 3,000 options to create a best fit list for themselves. Jenn helps answer their questions along the way in their Sunday afternoon calls and also goes over the assignments to make sure that there aren’t any programs they missed, or let them know about schools on their list she has concerns about. Not only do they get to know each other in the calls, but students are also in an Instagram group to answer each other’s questions and also get questions answered by student ambassadors like me. The class is held three times a year and always fills up. So sign up soon if you’re interested. Check the show notes for details and a link or visit the Services page at I’ll see you guys in the Instagram group.

Jenn Viemont: Hello, and thanks for joining me today. We’ll be talking to Maarten in just a bit. But let’s start by touching down on some of the problems with the admissions processes here in the States. There are a ton of books written on this topic. I’ve been reading a number of them over the last couple of years. And I’ll be referencing them throughout this episode. But just so you know, the information on all of these resources will be in our show notes.

So my two main stressors around higher education before we knew about college in Europe were cost and admissions. The increase in the number of very selective schools is something that’s changed dramatically in the last few decades, not only due to changes in birth rates, but due to the growth in the influence of the US News and World Report rankings, which actually didn’t begin until the mid 80s. So now it’s not just the elite Ivys with crazy low acceptance rates. Places I’ve never heard of like College of the Ozarks in Missouri and Alice Lloyd in Kentucky have lower acceptance rates than even Brown University, which is crazy low at 8.7%. Due to funding issues and such, state schools aren’t able to grow to keep up with the demand. So there are many like the SUNY schools or UCLA that are under 20% acceptance rates, and even Fort Valley State in Georgia, never heard of it, is at 21%. 

In a previous episode, I talked about how Middlebury in Vermont might be a good fit for our son Sam’s interests, if it weren’t cost prohibitive. Well, even if we won the lottery, he’d have trouble getting in with their 17% acceptance rate. I want to say right off the bat that I have no problem with hard work and busyness. I really value hard work so long as it’s meaningful. “Race to Nowhere” came out before Sam was in high school, and guys, it scared me. One thing I really love are our family dinners together, which happened most weeknights. Now, I might not enjoy it during the actual meal while Sam and Ellie are arguing about something or someone’s complaining about having salmon again. I’m also not making claims about frequent meaningful conversations that happen during this time, but it’s a time where we take a break from our other activities, and we put down our electronics, and make each other a priority for just a small amount of time. These meals together are just one of the sacrifices that would likely have to be made if we were playing the US admissions game. 

Vicki Abeles, who was the filmmaker behind “Race to Nowhere” noted that by the time many students reach high school, their daily routine will include seven or more hours of school, plus two hours of school-sponsored sports or activities, plus the inevitable third shift; three or four, or even five hours of homework at night. You guys, that stresses me out just even, even reading it, much less living it. And because the college admissions process is holistic, if you could see me right now, you’d see that I was putting air quotes around “holistic.” Kids are pushed to excel in every area to outshine the other applicants. 

The book “Beyond Measure” noted that in the US, there is a school culture, a community culture, in which there is this reverberating message “More is always better. Do more, accomplish more, achieve more.” And the book “Losing Our Minds” put it great, they said, “The only point of having more is having more than everybody else.” Nobody needed 20,000 atomic warheads until the other side had 19,000. Nobody needs 11 extracurriculars either. What purpose does having them actually serve unless the other guy has 10? So due to these, this culture and these expectations, kids are choosing activities and classes around whether they can show up on college applications. The accomplishments have to be quantifiable, measurable, and chosen based on that, as opposed to exploring interests or discovering interests. 

So take AP classes, for instance, kids are encouraged to take as many as possible for the college admissions process. There’s another applicant with a higher SAT score. Maybe your extra APs will weigh more than that and help you out. However, the learning in AP courses has been criticized lately as superficial in its content and in not allowing for intellectual exploration. What I found really interesting is a study done by Dartmouth University in which incoming freshmen who scored a 5.0 on the AP psych test took a version of the Intro to Psych final. Ninety percent of those students failed, even though they got a 5.0 on the AP psych test. Further, the students who failed and then enrolled in the class didn’t do any better than those who didn’t take AP psych in high school at all. 

There’s this great book called “Crazy You.” I highly recommend it; very, very readable. And they talked about how the typical college admissions counselor spends an average of just five minutes reading each application. And since there are so many highly qualified applicants, admissions counselors often have to look for reasons not to admit somebody, whether it’s that the applicant didn’t have enough AP classes, their class ranking isn’t high enough, their SAT/ACT scores are mediocre. They don’t have 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, where it might look like 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 with that if we had to navigate that system. It’s called a holistic process, but often has seemingly arbitrary results. Frank Bruni hit it right on the money when he said the admission game is too flawed and too rigged to be given so much credit. But like the high cost, I thought this was fairly inescapable. Also like cost, this is an area that is dramatically different in Europe. Now, I do want to note that we’re talking about an entire continent, and there are differences from country to country and school to school. Generally speaking though, schools have a set of criteria that they feel are needed in order to be successful in their program. And if you have those criteria, if you meet that criteria and apply, when there’s still space in the program, you’re in. That’s it. These are also, again, generally speaking, fairly objective in nature, and also not negotiable. If they say you need a minimum score of 29 in your ACT and you have a 28, then you know not to apply, no matter how high your GPA is. 

Now I will tell you that there are a small handful of countries that require American students applying for Bachelors programs to have a certain number of AP scores that are 3.0 or higher. The research universities in the Netherlands require four AP scores. The school Sam is interested in is one of those, so he will take exactly four AP classes. Would it help him to have seven AP scores? Nope. He just needs the four. More won’t help, but less will disqualify him. 

I want to point out though, that there are many universities in the Netherlands, and also throughout Europe, that don’t have an AP requirement. Most actually don’t have that requirement. I’m noting that because we’re about to speak to an administrator about the Netherlands, and I don’t want you to think that if you don’t have the AP requirements, then you won’t qualify anywhere in the Netherlands. 

Now let’s talk to our guest who can explain more about this. Maarten Dikhoff is the International Marketing Coordinator focusing on North, Central, and South America at Groningen University. Groningen is a top 100 university founded in 1614 in the northern Netherlands. They have over 30 English-taught bachelor’s and over 100 masters that are taught in English. Not only is this one of my own personal favorite schools and cities, every one of our members who’s visited absolutely loves it.

So Maarten, thanks for joining us today. 

Maarten Dikhoff: Thank you. 

Jenn Viemont: So I first visited Groningen — and I know I’m not saying it right — and I’ve tried to roll my G, and I can’t do it. So can you pronounce it the correct way? 

Maarten Dikhoff: Yeah, it’s pronounced “Groningen.” 

Jenn Viemont: Yeah. 

Maarten Dikhoff: It’s with a very hard G, which is almost impossible to learn when you’re a native English speaker.

Jenn Viemont: So is it okay if I call it Groningen? 

Maarten Dikhoff: Yeah, that’s fine. That’s fine. We’re not so difficult about it. 

Jenn Viemont: So I first visited Groningen a couple of years ago when I was doing research about Beyond the States. And I didn’t know a whole lot and I was trying to just learn about the differences between countries. And I’ll never forget, I was sitting with your colleague, Judith, and we were having a cup of coffee in the academy building, which is this beautiful building right in the middle of Groningen, when she told me about non-selective enrollment. And I had her explain this to me so many times, she must have just thought I was an idiot, because I could not understand it. And it’s a concept that took me a long time to wrap my brain around, and that a lot of Americans are having trouble understanding. So can you explain it to our listeners?

Maarten Dikhoff: Yeah. Well, basically, we don’t really have a word for non-selective enrollment. We just have enrollment, and we have certain programs that have a selection procedure. But most of the programs, basically, the general rule is that if you have a high school diploma with four APs and a GPA of either 3.0 or 4.0, you are admissible to our programs. And there are no further things you have to do, there are no further rules besides the apparent rules of, for example, if you want to apply for the math or mathematics bachelor program, you need to have an AP in mathematics.

Jenn Viemont: So four AP courses. I think it’s a score of 3 or higher and a 3.0 GPA, and that’s all?

Maarten Dikhoff: Yes. Of course, we are a top 100 university so our quality of education is quite high, so there is a catch. And the catch is called the Binding Study Advice. And this is a very important thing that Americans and international students should understand, is that we basically do our selection during the first year. So the philosophy is that it’s compared to American universities where it’s very hard to get into the first year because they look at your grades and your achievements and your extracurricular achievements. With us, it’s relatively easy to get into our program, but that first year is really tough. 

Maarten Dikhoff: And the way it works is that you can get 60 credits by doing exams, the year is divided in four blocks. So each block of seven weeks, you get classes, and then you get two weeks where you do your exams, and do a total of 60 credits in a year. The important thing to remember is that a student has to achieve 45 credits or more in that first year, or else, they will get a so-called negative binding study advice, which is basically legal speak for that you can’t continue the program. And then you are kicked out of that program, and then you can’t apply for that program for the next two years. 

Maarten Dikhoff: So that is the way we do it. And the reasoning behind it, or at least the way I always explain it, is that students all get a chance to study at our university, or at a university in the Netherlands. And the philosophy is that they can do that, but in the first year they have to show that they are capable of doing so. So that’s the reason why the entry requirements are different.

Jenn Viemont: So that’s really cool to me. First of all, it’s cool to me because I think of so many high school kids who don’t want to play the admission game, you know, who don’t want to join clubs that don’t matter to them. Or maybe they just struggled, they took a little bit of time, it took them until junior or senior year to figure out how to, you know, manage their time or that school mattered. I mean, junior year, you’re just 16 years old. I think that’s really cool. But I do have a couple of questions about Binding Study Advice. Do they have to have a certain grade or is it passing the test?

Maarten Dikhoff: Basically, you do exams that can either be pass or fail, or you get a grade. If you get — in general, it can depend a bit on the program and the professor. But in general, if you get a 5.5, 55% basically, then it’s a pass.

Jenn Viemont: And if you pass, that’s all you need for Binding Study Advice after the first… 

Maarten Dikhoff: Yes, because after they pass and get their 45 credits, they stay in the program. And then in the second year, the Binding Study Advice doesn’t count anymore. So it’s really that first year that is important.

Maarten Dikhoff: So let me ask you this, because some people might be listening to this thinking, Oh no, you know, does that mean that I’ll be kicked out after the first year, or my child will be kicked out after the first year? So let’s pretend that a student takes her first round of exams. That’s probably what, like around Christmas time?

Maarten Dikhoff: Yeah. Usually around the beginning of December, yeah.

Jenn Viemont: Do you have kind of study advisors or anything that are looking at these grades? How about these students who are sort of struggling after their first year?

Maarten Dikhoff: Yeah. That’s the nice thing about the system that we have, is that you don’t have exams at the end of the year where you have to do everything at once and then know if you passed or failed. Basically, with us, it’s four times per year, so four blocks. And what happens is that when students do their first exams at the beginning of December and start failing already, the study advisors will notice, because they have a system where all the grades are kept. And they will notice and they will contact the students and offer support to help them write the study plan, help them write or help them with studying, give them tips, or they can do additional courses in mathematics or statistics, if needed. So there is a very good support system for our students because it’s also important to us that our students perform well.

Maarten Dikhoff: That’s awesome. So I know you’ve said you don’t call it non-selective enrollment, but that’s what I call it, for lack of a better word. But then there’s also selective enrollment. So are these programs that you have that are selective enrollment, are they better, and that’s why they’re selective enrollment?

Maarten Dikhoff: No. All our programs are excellent. There is no difference in quality between non-selective programs or selective programs. The reason why there are — that some programs are selective is because there’s a very high demand for it and they’re very popular, and we simply don’t have enough professors to teach everybody who wants to do these programs. So in our case, the selective programs are psychology — it’s all bachelor programs. So it’s psychology, international relations and the two medicine programs.

Maarten Dikhoff: Correct me if I’m wrong, but the selective enrollment, they just add other things. It’s not like for a selective enrollment program, that you then need 10 APs. It’s that you have to have a motivation letter, correct?

Maarten Dikhoff: Well, for the medicine program, of course, it’s a different story. They might need APs in chemistry, biology, mathematics and physics. But in general, for example, for the International Relations program, there is an additional part where you have to fill out a motivation form, which you can do online, which is also not the same as you are used to in the US where it’s like a personal statement describing all your wonderful extracurricular things that you did. 

Jenn Viemont: The deepest, darkest emotions. 

Maarten Dikhoff: Yes, yes. Yeah. Exactly. 

Jenn Viemont: You don’t care about their emotion, huh?

Maarten Dikhoff: We don’t care about that, no. 

Jenn Viemont: And the master’s degree programs, they look towards more of the subjective things too, right? Like a reference letter and a motivation letter?

Maarten Dikhoff: Yeah. For the master’s programs, it’s important that you have a bachelor’s degree in — I always call it “linear master’s,” which basically means that if you want to, for example, do a bachelor’s or a master’s degree in psychology, you need to have a bachelor’s degree in psychology or related fields.

Jenn Viemont: So I can’t have a bachelor’s in like international relations, and then go for a master’s in psychology?

Maarten Dikhoff: No. That’s not possible. You could maybe do — have a bachelor’s in international relations and do a master’s program in international law, for example. 

Jenn Viemont: Right. 

Maarten Dikhoff: There’s a certain overlap. But for — let’s say you have a bachelor degree in literature, it is impossible to do a master’s degree in psychology.

Maarten Dikhoff: Let’s talk about those more subjective factors. What I love about the non-selective enrollment is that it’s completely objective; 3.0 GPA, four APS with 3 or higher. And then the selective enrollment, they do have these more subjective factors like a reference letter and a motivation letter. And I can tell you, our listeners are going to be stressed about how that’s assessed. You know, kind of what are you looking for so they can do it. How are those assessed in the admission process?

Maarten Dikhoff: It’s hard to assess a motivation. So it’s basically, what we are looking for when you write a motivation letter is we are looking for the ideal student for this program. So what we are looking for is a student who knows what the program is about, who has an understanding of what the program is, and explains to us why he should be the student that should be in our program. That’s basically the motivation that we are looking for. And like…

Jenn Viemont: You’re looking for fit? Because it sounds like you’re looking for a student who’s a good fit for the program, and the program is a good fit for the student. Is that correct? 

Maarten Dikhoff: Yeah, exactly. 

Jenn Viemont: I’ve been doing rapid fires for our podcast. So I thought what we’d do for our rapid fire today is I’ll go through a list of factors that matter in the US admissions process, and you can say matters or doesn’t matter in terms of if it matters in your admissions department. Okay?

Maarten Dikhoff: Yes.

Jenn Viemont: So let’s say the applicant has a 25 on their ACT?

Maarten Dikhoff: Doesn’t matter.

Jenn Viemont: The applicant has a 35 on their ACT?

Maarten Dikhoff: Doesn’t matter. 

Jenn Viemont: The applicant was president of five clubs?

Maarten Dikhoff: We don’t care.

Jenn Viemont: The applicant was active in sports?

Maarten Dikhoff: Doesn’t matter. 

Jenn Viemont: The applicant was in no clubs and enjoys playing video games in their spare time?

Maarten Dikhoff: Doesn’t matter. 

Jenn Viemont: The applicant has 10 AP classes?

Maarten Dikhoff: We would love to have him as a student, but it doesn’t matter. 

Jenn Viemont: An applicant for a graduate program has a perfect GPA?

Maarten Dikhoff: Doesn’t matter. 

Jenn Viemont: An applicant has poor GMAT or GRE scores?

Maarten Dikhoff: Depends on the program they are applying for. We have some programs like in the Faculty of Economics, for example, where it is important to have a GMAT or a GRE score if you are not in a university that is one of our partners. So for all non-EU students who want to study a master’s at our Faculty of Economics and Business have to have a GMAT or a GRE score. For the rest of the programs, it doesn’t matter.

Jenn Viemont: This is just so crazy to me. As a top 100 school, I cannot imagine a top 100 school in the US that doesn’t matter about your ACT scores, or how many clubs you were in. It’s just so refreshing, I can’t even tell you. I think what people really need to understand is that in Europe — here, people see selectivity rates as an indicator of quality of education. If the school is hard to get into, it must be a better education. And you see that, you see selectivity rate is often — when schools are written up, you see the selectivity rate, I can’t tell you…

Maarten Dikhoff: Right. The higher the tuition fees are, the better the school. Yeah. 

Jenn Viemont: Absolutely! You pay more and it’s hard to get in, it must be better. Which isn’t the case, as we know. We’re doing some episodes about the quality of education. So it’s so great to have this that you can be a strong student and get a good education that’s also affordable. It’s just one of the greatest things I’ve ever heard.

Maarten Dikhoff: In a country where everybody basically speaks English, although with a funny accent.

Maarten Dikhoff: So I’m going to tell you a little bit about how this has played out in my own house. And I want to hear what you think on this. So you know, we’ve talked about my son Sam, he is entering his junior year. And last year, his sophomore year, he took one AP course and he got a 3. He’s going to take two his junior year, and he’s going to take one his senior year. Other than his graduation requirements, his other classes are made up of courses he’s interested in. He’s not taking the ones that he thinks that colleges will look highly on. He’s just taking the ones he’s interested in. In order to make sure his options are open, he will take the SAT or ACT. He did okay on his — whatever that pre-ACT class test is called. So we’re not going to do any of these prep courses that so many people do. I’ll probably buy him a book and he won’t crack it. But you know, that’s life. 

Jenn Viemont: But really, what I find most important is that Sam’s able to explore his interests and he can try things out without feeling like he needs to make them a hobby or a commitment for college admissions department. So last year, he did a two week kayaking trip on the Outer Banks. And this summer, he did two weeks hiking in the Blue Ridge Mountains. And I have to tell you, his laundry was so disgusting. I felt like I needed a hazmat suit for that. But anyway, other than the laundry, the growth he had on these trips was really remarkable, and there was a huge value for him not having electronics for those weeks too. It wouldn’t be so quantifiable on college applications though, but that didn’t matter. 

Jenn Viemont: He’s also pursuing Arabic on his own. Our school district only offered it for one year. So now he’s doing it himself. That’s not going to be on his transcripts, but it’s a goal that’s important to him, as opposed to one that’s being forced on him by the admissions process. So he has a life that allows him to explore his interests, spend way too much time playing video games, spend time with his friends, get a job, have family dinners, travel and get enough sleep, at least when I take his phone away at night. And that’s really what I feel like the teen years should be about. 

Jenn Viemont: So Maarten, given the description of how he’s choosing his courses and how he’s spending his time, assuming he has a 3.0 GPA, which he should and the four AP courses, would these choices we’re making reduce his chance of being admitted to your school? 

Maarten Dikhoff: No.

Jenn Viemont: No? I mean, guys, this is crazy. This could be your life too. And that’s what I think is so incredible. And again, what are your tuition ranges for non-EU students?

Maarten Dikhoff: It depends a bit on the program, but it’s somewhere between let’s say — I have to convert it to dollars. So that’s around between $8,500 per year to around $12,000 for most of the programs, except for medicine, which is more expensive.

Jenn Viemont: Certainly, certainly. 

Maarten Dikhoff: So it’s $8,000 to $13,000 I’d say per year. 

Jenn Viemont: And guys, what’s incredible further is that these are, like we talked about last week, these bachelor’s programs are three years. So let’s even go at the middle of that and say $10,000 a year, you’re looking at $30,000 for your entire degree, which is dramatically less than one year tuition at many out-of-state and private universities in the US. It’s just crazy to me. 

Jenn Viemont: So Maarten, thanks so much for being here today. We’re going to have information about the English top programs in Groningen on our show notes. We also have a number of blogs with more information about the school and the city. You can find those on our website. I really feel like you’ve given encouragement to a lot of families and students about the accessibility of these great English-taught options throughout Europe, and especially at Groningen University. Thanks so much for being here. 

Maarten Dikhoff: Thank you. 

Jenn Viemont: There are a couple of big takeaways tonight. The first is that schools in Europe don’t use admissions rates for selectivity as an indicator of well, anything. The reputation of the school is not linked to how selective it is. The other thing to remind yourself is that you have a way to opt out of this process in the US if you want it. You can have an affordable, high quality education in Europe without all the hoops to jump through that you have here. 

So future episodes on our podcast are going to cover topics like how studying in Europe helps your employment prospects, how to assess quality beyond global rankings. We’ll talk about housing, student life, global citizenship, travel opportunities. We’ll talk to American bachelor’s and master’s degree students about their experiences in Europe. We’ll talk to some non-traditional students in Europe and we will cover the upcoming college visit trip I’m taking with Sam. I’ve been visiting schools for a couple of years now on my own, but this is going to be a really different experience as the mother of a prospective student. And Sam will also be talking to us about his experience visiting these schools. 

I’m also totally open to suggestions if there’s a topic you’d like us to cover that’s either about some of the issues with higher education here or the solutions with the English top programs in Europe. Or if there’s a question you’d like us to answer on future episodes, please do just let us know. Thanks again for joining me today. 

Good news, we have put our next two sessions of the On Your Mark masterclass on the calendar. And this month’s special offers 75% off. This class is one of our most popular offerings. It’s a six week class for the students themselves where through video lessons, assignments and live group calls, they’re guided through the process of finding the schools and programs in Europe that best fit their interests, their goals, their preferences, their qualifications, their budget, all of that.

It’s especially powerful because they are the ones taking the reins of the process as opposed to the parents, and they become the experts. The other cool thing is that they’re taking this class with a group of students from around the country who are also exploring these outside of the box options. And since they probably don’t know anyone from their school or community looking outside of the US, having this community is really incredible. In fact, two of our members who took this class a few years ago are now sharing an apartment in Europe. We have a summer session in June and a fall session in October and we’ll put the full information, the link for the full information, dates, times, other logistics in our show notes, or you can go to special.