University of Amsterdam
💼 Bachelor: Business Administration
⏳ Oct 2023 — Present
✅ Student Visa
University of Amsterdam
🤓 36,000 Students
🌏 29% International
In this post, I'm sharing my experience of how I got into the Business Administration program at the University of Amsterdam with just an average high school diploma and after a year of undergraduate studies in Russia. I'll be telling you my story and providing lots of information about getting into the Netherlands. If you're interested, I hope you enjoy reading it!
Sometime in October of this academic year, I had the idea to study abroad (it was actually my mom's idea). Why? For the international experience and many other reasons. I spent a long time choosing countries and universities, but in the end, I settled on the Netherlands, which I had been considering from the very beginning.
For me, the decision to study abroad was almost spontaneous, considering that I had wanted to go to HSE since I was 13. I got in and started studying marketing and market analysis, but I felt like I wanted a change and transferred after half a year. Anyway, I want to share my experience of this journey, it might be helpful or interesting to someone.
In terms of structure, in sections 1 and 2 of this post, I share my admission story. And sections 3 and 4 are written for those who want to study in the Netherlands (or in Europe in general, as the processes are similar). There's just general information in detail.
Why the Netherlands
In this section, I'll talk about how I chose the country and what other options I had.
First of all, why Europe? In general, there are the US, Canada, UAE, and Asia. I only saw these options, at least. I immediately ruled out Asia because of the different culture and complicated languages. UAE also fell off the list because it's expensive and still too unfamiliar for me. I'd like to live and work in the US someday because I like the pace of life and culture there. But in terms of education, I ruled it out because the prices are high and it's really hard to get into good universities. I might have been able to get into Canada, but again, it's really expensive and scholarships are rare, from what I understand. However, after three years of living in Canada, you can get citizenship almost without any conditions! But $30,000 a year just for education is a lot, so Europe is the only option left!
Anyway, I love Europe to death. In general, for everything. And in my case, the undergraduate program only lasts three years (in many universities). And also because of the Schengen visa, meaning the opportunity to travel. I haven't been to the Netherlands yet, but those who have said it's great!
Advantages of Holland
Plenty of cheese 🧀🧀🧀
Affordable education compared to the rest of Europe and the world, about the same as in Russia;
Everyone speaks English, even grandmothers sitting on benches. Nevertheless, to obtain citizenship, it is still necessary to learn Dutch, but it is not necessary for students;
Beautifully designed architecture, especially in Amsterdam;
Everything is close;
The main mode of transportation is bicycles;
People from all over the world (this seems to be a plus for all of Europe);
Lots of things for young people, although there are conflicting opinions about clubs. But Oxxxymiron is performing!
The housing crisis in Amsterdam (since the city is low and there are no skyscrapers, and the population is increasing), finding housing is extremely difficult, long and expensive (people queue for apartment rentals);
The university provides dormitory only for the first year of study, but not guaranteed;
Prices are higher than in Russia, but that's almost everywhere now (salaries, on the other hand, are also higher, and there are a lot of discounts for students everywhere);
To work, a work permit is required, which the employer must prepare for 6 weeks (and usually does not want to);
A student can work a maximum of 16 hours a week;
The smell of drugs (they are legal there);
Bad weather: a lot of grayness and rain, but almost no frost! Although generally speaking, statistics show that there are more sunny days there than in Moscow. I don't know what to believe, but I'll update you when I check. But I will take a lot of Vitamin D with me.
How I was preparing for admission
This section will include my journey and stats
I'll start with my background. I studied in the Russian program at Letovo School, so I didn't take any foreign exams in school. I have a red diploma, but I don't have any significant achievements in the Olympiads, only a municipal competition in economics and a prize in the "With Your Own Words" competition from HSE. However, I have a lot of experience in volunteering, organizing, etc. Oh, and also diplomas from cheerleading competitions. I want to note that I started all this active involvement (except for cheerleading) only in 11th grade and not at the beginning. So it's never too late!
At the university, I joined the Buddy program (a support program for foreign students) and volunteered as a mentor at a case championship. And I got part-time internships. It didn't take much time, but it was very interesting. And later it was good for my CV, which turned out to be quite comprehensive: I tried to write as much as possible to increase my chances.
Initially, it was decided to work on applications with a special agency. In European universities, the application includes documents from school, a CV, proof of English level, and depending on the university, there may be letters of recommendation and motivation, and other documents. The agency was supposed to offer several program options and help with the application. But it actually didn't help, on the contrary, it confused everything and misinformed. As a result, both the program selection and all steps afterward were done by my mother and me. The only thing I did was to have a consultation on the motivational letter (not with that agency, of course). It was very useful! I spent a lot of personal time on my CV. It was especially unpleasant to translate all kinds of Russian titles into English. But I managed and it's okay.
This period was a nightmare in terms of workload: I was running around trying to get documents, I made a new international passport, wrote all letters, CV, etc. And at the same time, the university, internship, and school alumni association. Conclusion: you need to start preparing everything in advance. And don't work with poorly verified consulting agencies (I lost a lot of time because of it and almost missed the opportunity to enroll).
As for IELTS, I prepared for about a month. First, I took a sample test in Moscow. Then I studied with a tutor for about 3 weeks. I can't say that it was very productive because later on YouTube, I found a lot of new and important information about the format that the tutor didn't tell me. I took IELTS in Kazakhstan and went there for 1 night and a day. Before the exam, I was a little nervous, but in the end, I did reasonably well - 7.5. And then I had a great walk in Astana!
Eventually, I submitted the applications (right before the deadlines). I waited for confirmation, and the selection stage began. First, it was in the University of Groningen in the form of a web class, a series of lectures + assignments. And these tests were evaluated. I didn't like this selection at all, as there were a lot of ambiguous wordings, typos, and errors in the verification of the assignments. Well, then I ended up on the waitlist, which is not surprising. That basically means that I didn't get in. Although the total test result was not bad, 82.5%. My overall place in the admission ranking was 700 or something. I respect those people who understood these assignments and did them better. I also asked questions to the university several times by email, but I never got an answer.
At Amsterdam University, there was an exam in economics, mathematics, and management (3 in 1) with proctoring. A couple of weeks before the exam, the university sent out the materials for preparation. Incidentally, I really liked that the entire exam was only based on these materials, with no surprises or weird wording. The material was not too new for me, but still challenging because, first of all, there were new topics after, and secondly, even the old topics had to be studied again in English. And there were really a lot of them. But the exam was almost not scary at all. I got 8.3/10 on it and ended up 46th in the admission ranking.
So, on April 15th I received an offer from Amsterdam and a waitlist from Groningen. I'm happy! But that's not all. Now I'll have to send copies of my school and university transcripts with official translations and a diploma to Amsterdam by mail (do you know how long it takes for mail to go to Europe now? I don't, but it seems to take a long time). And the most difficult thing is to find housing because it's a real headache. If I sort this out, I'll go!
How admission process in the Netherlands looks like
This section is purely informational, it's about the admission process in detail. I don't recommend reading it if you don't plan on applying.
I want to start by saying that all universities and programs have different requirements and deadlines, so there is no general algorithm like "prepare for the exam, take the exam". First, you need to choose programs and universities and read all the requirements on the program websites. And another important thing: it's not possible to enroll in a 1st-year program in the Netherlands with a Russian high school diploma (at least in the universities I looked at), because their high schools last for 12 years. So you either need to finish the 1st year of university in Russia or attend a foundation year at the desired university.
👉 Don't be like me. If you plan on reapplying, start preparing your documents as early as August. I started in October and barely made it, even though I spent all my free time on it.
There are two types of programs in the Netherlands: regular and numerus fixus. The first one enrolls students based on "whoever passed", meaning there are no limits on program spots and you just need to impress the university. The second one is more difficult - there are limited spots, so admission is in two stages: application and selection procedure. The selection procedure can take different forms: it can be an exam, additional essays, online lessons, or anything. You can submit up to two applications for numerus fixus programs per academic year, which is important. The approximate application deadlines for these programs are January 15th. And for regular ones - April 1st. But they may differ among universities.
So, the application stage. First, you need to register on the Studielink portal. That's where you'll find the status of all your applications. You only need a passport for registration. On the website, you need to choose programs and register for admission in the Study Programmes section. In a couple of days, you will receive emails from Studielink or from the universities themselves with instructions on what to do next. The email will also include links to university portals, where you will later need to fill out applications.
Often, the required documents that need to be attached to the application are:
a scan/photo of the passport (again);
a scan/photo of the high school diploma;
scans/photos of transcripts for grades 10-11 and for the first semester in your current university;
confirmation of English level (you need to take IELTS or TOEFL in advance and get paper certificates).
Every university sets its own criteria for admission, meaning the minimum scores for English and average scores in certificates are different for everyone. As far as I know, this application system works in most European countries.
Besides these, universities may request recommendations from teachers, motivation letters, proof of knowledge in mathematics or other subjects, etc. For all these documents, make sure to carefully check the requirements, word count limitations, etc.
About motivation letters:
Motivation letters must be written separately for each program you apply to. Almost every university writes what exactly they want to see in a motivation letter. But there are general things that apply to all programs: for example, they recommend writing about motivation to make the world a better place, not just about your big ambitions (although you need to write about them too). And you always need to write about your interest in the specific program, for this you need to first carefully read everything about it on the website.
CV is usually only one for all universities. The standard volume limit is 2 pages. You need to indicate where you studied, any achievements, any volunteer experience, work, projects, etc. In general, it's interesting that, for example, in America, universities pay a lot of attention to the extracurricular activity of the applicant. In Britain, on the contrary, they mostly look at grades. I couldn't find out what they look at in Europe, so I wrote about everything.
They are the same for all universities, like CV. But it's better to get two letters from different teachers. Ideally, you need to take recommendations from teachers who taught subjects in your major and know you well. As it turned out, it's easier to write them yourself, so as not to waste someone else's time and to meet the university request exactly. But, of course, in any case, you need to consult with the teachers who will be giving the recommendations at each stage.
What should be written there? How you behave in class, how often you ask questions, about extracurricular activities, and anything else of this kind. Lifehack: if something did not fit in your CV, you can write it in recommendation letters. There are not always volume limitations for recommendations, and if there are, they are different for different universities, so you need to be careful here.
A bit about confirming English proficiency: different universities accept different exams, but IELTS is accepted everywhere I looked. It seems easier to me than TOEFL. Currently, it cannot be taken in Russia, so I traveled to Kazakhstan to take it. Some universities in Europe accept Duolingo, but I haven't seen any in the Netherlands (although I haven't looked at all of them, of course). Duolingo is taken online with proctoring and costs 5 times less than IELTS, and people say it's even easier.
Its peculiarity is that if you know English fairly well, you can prepare for it in a month without any problems. If you don't know English, you won't pass it until you learn it. In short, it's the opposite of the Russian state exam.
There are many different formats in each task, but they are all reasonable. Therefore, you cannot just memorize one template and pass the exam, but it is quite possible to review and remember the formats. I didn't prepare at all for the reading and listening parts, just solved a few sample questions a couple of times. There's always a variety of questions, so there's no point in preparing for them.
In the writing section, there are 2 tasks: one with 2 possible formats, and the other with about 6, I think. Here, you needed to get used to all of them. In the speaking section, the format is always the same, but you need to learn how to meet the criteria. YouTube can be very helpful here. There are many channels, including official IELTS channels, with recordings of the speaking section, comments, and scoring. And useful vocabulary.
In general, you fill out everything the university requires, check it a hundred thousand times, and submit your application. Most applications are paid, and all applications for numerus fixus programs are paid. It costs approximately 100 euros per application (which is sad, of course). And then these fees are non-refundable, even if you don't get accepted. It's not possible to pay with a Russian credit card now, of course. You'll have to look for workarounds. Each university writes individually about where and how to pay and then sends a confirmation by email. In general, all stages are confirmed by email.
Then, for numerus fixus programs, there are selection procedures. All selections take place on different dates and in different ways. I don't know much about further stages for non-numerus fixus programs because I didn't apply to them, but in theory, you either receive an offer or not.
After a while, after the selection (this year it was on April 15), you receive a ranking number. This is your position in the general ranking of applicants. It is only affected by the result of the selection procedure, the initial application is not relevant. In some universities, the score for the exam itself comes earlier; in Amsterdam, for example, it came in a couple of weeks. Based on your ranking, the university either makes an offer right away, puts you on a waiting list, or immediately says that you haven't been accepted. If you are accepted, you need to confirm your desire to study in the program or decline on Studielink within 2 weeks.
After confirmation, you can't relax because Hunger Games are ahead! You need to send certified copies and translations of your diploma and transcripts to the university (including from the previous university, so you won't be able to do it before July). The problem is that you need to send it by mail (not electronic). And you also need to find housing and obtain a visa. Here, all universities have a different process, but make sure you don't miss the deadlines.
Main universities in the Netherlands
Here's a summary of the universities and information about my program. It might be uninteresting if you're not planning to apply.
University of Amsterdam (ranked 58)
University of Groningen (ranked 145)
Erasmus University Rotterdam (ranked 208; 21 in business ranking)
Vrije University (ranked 214)
Maastricht University (ranked 278)
Tilburg University (ranked 398; 17 in business ranking)
In the list, as you can see, are the largest universities in the Netherlands ranked in one of the world's major rankings (QS World University Rankings 2023). For comparison, HSE (Higher School of Economics in Russia) is ranked 308th in this ranking. Tuition fees at all universities are around €9,000-€10,000 per year. Scholarships are available, and there are quite a few grants, but it all depends on the university and the field of study.
The overall vibe of the University of Amsterdam that I picked up on is international, modern, and high-quality. Groningen's vibe is somewhat similar to Moscow State University's, I think. The business program there is very theoretical. But it's also very good, and I could have misunderstood something!
The program I applied for (Business Administration at the University of Amsterdam) lasts for three years. In the first year, basic things like economics, strategic management, and data analysis are studied. There won't be any mathematics, which is more of a plus than a minus for me: I love it, but I don't want any more exams on it. The second year focuses on business areas such as finance, marketing, and so on. Each subject in the second year lasts only a quarter, but there are many disciplines. And in the third year, there's a choice: exchange, internship, or minor. I'm still considering the exchange program, which includes a possible option of going to New York. Also, there's a very active student life at the university!
A huge advantage of the University of Amsterdam is that the university itself obtains visas for students. Moreover, they say it's quite fast and almost guaranteed. But you still need to take some documents to the embassy in Moscow, as far as I understood.
I also want to write a little about Tilburg: it's actually a very cool university if you want to apply for business programs. First, it's ranked 17th in the world for business. It's located in a college town, so mostly students live there. It's modern, has great teachers, and also a beautiful website. And there, as in Amsterdam, in the third year, you can go on an exchange or do internships. And the programs are generally similar. It's easier to apply there, as there are no internal exams and it's not at the top of the world rankings. I wanted to apply there closer to April, but decided not to do it in the end because I was almost certain of success in Amsterdam. Oh, and there's apparently a free application there, which is great.
The conclusion is that nothing is impossible. Also, it's better to prepare for admission in advance, but it's also possible to rush things.
So, that's all! I've provided a lot of information. I hope someone found it helpful. Honestly, it was important for me to write all this down to remember it. Thank you to everyone who read it.
My Telegram channel (in Russian) will hopefully have a lot about Amsterdam next year
This was totally worth reading,I'm content I'll get a scholarship too🙏🏽