The Edge Our college admission blog

Amsterdam University College

by Katie Z, Ph.D July 14, 2015


We’ve all heard of universities and colleges, but have you heard of “university colleges”? I’m particularly excited about this blog post because I spent many a year working at a university college and had a wonderful experience there. But I’m getting ahead of myself! Backing up now…

In the Netherlands there exists a relatively new concept in higher education – university colleges. These are small, selective, liberal arts and sciences colleges started in association with much larger, established research universities. The language of instruction is English and the student bodies are highly diverse, with students enrolling from a myriad of countries and coming from many different cultures and backgrounds. The faculty are just as diverse (I used to share an office with two Dutch nationals, a Belgian, an Israeli, a Venezuelan, and an Ethiopian, and just down the hall were colleagues from England, Canada, Russia, and Germany, to name just a few examples), so students truly enjoy an environment wherein they can learn as much from the people around them as from their books and assignments! Furthermore, most students attending a university college will earn their bachelor’s degree in three years (instead of four, as is the case in the United States) and the cost of attending, relatively speaking, is a great deal. For instance, at Amsterdam University College the cost of tuition per year is 4,076 euro ($4,507) for Dutch and EU students, and 11,666 euro ($12,902) for non-EU students.



Now, there are a number of university colleges in the Netherlands, and each is unique in its own way.  Here is a list for you to browse, if you’re curious to learn more about each one:

Also, starting in September 2016, there will be a new university college opening its doors – University College Tilburg. If you’re a trail blazer and interested in being a member of the college’s founding class, leave your name and e-mail address here!

All of this is to say that if you’re a motivated student, value an international environment, and think that earning your bachelor’s degree abroad could be an awesome opportunity, I’d highly recommend these university colleges to you.  Keep in mind, however, that they are highly selective, honors programs. For instance, in order to apply to Amsterdam University College you need to have a “secondary school diploma equivalent to the Dutch VWO (the highest level of high school in the Netherlands)” – coming from the United States, this translates to mean that you’ve taken a minimum of four Advanced Placement courses in high school (see this post to read more about the many good reasons to take AP courses) OR that you already have one year of college/university credit completed by the time of enrollment at the university college.

In short, if you’ve got an adventurous spirit, a strong high school record, and the desire for excellence and diversity in your undergraduate classroom, definitely check out these Dutch university colleges – they have a lot to offer and any one of them would be a wonderful place to spend your undergraduate days!

Mind the Gap

by Katie Z, Ph.D June 25, 2015


Gap.  GAP.  gap: A three letter word with a myriad of meanings and connotations!

Perhaps what comes to mind is this:

Mind the Gap

Or this:



However, the focus of today’s blog post is on the increasingly popular gap year!  Did you know that the term “gap year” even features in the Oxford English Dictionary?  It is defined as “a period of time taken by a student between leaving school and starting at university, which is typically spent working or travelling.”  However, it isn’t really surprising to find the definition in the OED, as the notion of taking a gap year first took off in the United Kingdom.  It was in 1972 that “Gap Activity Projects” (later renamed Lattitude Global Volunteering) was first established in the UK, and the concept has been gaining in popularity since then!

There are many reasons, or combination of reasons, why someone may opt to take a gap year.  For instance (in random order):

  • Broaden horizons / see more of the world
  • Explore different careers
  • Explore different study options
  • Burned out after high school
  • Learn a new language / discover other cultures
  • Study / work on college admission requirements
  • Adventure
  • Learn more about themselves and their passions / personal growth and development

Depending on one’s motivation for taking a gap year, there’s a wide spectrum of different activities in which to engage during this time.  For instance, students may enroll in classes, volunteer, work for pay, secure an internship (paid or unpaid), travel, or challenge themselves with outdoor adventures (e.g. hiking the Appalachian Trail, taking part in Outward Bound or NOLS, or enrolling at The Island School).

Many colleges and universities even have official policies in place through which accepted students are allowed to defer their admission by 12 months in order to pursue a gap year.  For information relevant to specific schools, click here.

A gap year isn’t for everyone, of course, but if reading the above post made your heart skip a beat (oh, the possibilities!) and you think that a gap year may be for you but aren’t sure where to start, I have a great resource to recommend – The American Gap Association’s list of accredited members. Simply click here!  Also of note is that there are Gap Year Fairs that are definitely worth checking out. Finally, here are a few more programs to consider:

In short, mind the gap by having a gap year in mind!

The Times They Are A-Changin’…

by Katie Z, Ph.D June 13, 2015


It was Dylan who sang:

Come gather ’round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown

Who would have guessed that those words, which date back to 1964, would still resonate so clearly today, and even in regards to college admissions?  Dylan speaks truth!  The college admissions times are a-changin’, and from both the student and college side of the fence.  Regarding the former, prospective students are, on average, applying to more schools than ever before.  This is fueled, in part, by The Common Application, which allows students to complete one application that they can then send to any of the member colleges (although keep in mind that supplements are often required for specific schools).  The data from Inside Higher Ed is revealing:

  • Since 1997, the majority of colleges have reported receiving more applications than the year before.
  • The percentage of students who apply to seven or more colleges has been steadily rising.
  • The average admissions officer was responsible for reading 359 applications in 2005 and that number had jumped up to 622 applications per average admissions officer by 2011 (imagine reading over 600 applications?!)!

What this translates to is the admissions process becoming more selective – if there are the same number of available places in a freshman class (limited supply) but more applications coming in (increasing demand), then fewer applicants will be accepted.  At the same time, the yield rate (the number of students who accept their offer and show up to move into their dorm room at the start of the academic year) is on the decline, which complicates matters for colleges as well, in terms of what their ideal admission numbers should be.  It’s a classic chicken/egg situation, and a vicious cycle – colleges are becoming more selective so students apply to more in order to improve their chances of admission and, because more students are applying, colleges are becoming more selective, so students are applying to more colleges…and around and around we go!

Furthermore, though it varies greatly by state (see The Pew Charitable Trusts report for specific state information), the number of international students studying at American colleges is currently at “an all-time high and more than double the number of foreign students 20 years ago”.  In short, Dylan hit the nail on the head – the waters around you have definitely grown, as the number of applications for coveted spots continues to flood admissions offices around the country.  We’ll certainly be keeping an eye on these admissions trends – more to come!

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